I always had a thing for the arts growing up. I would pretend I was Shirley Temple and memorize every song, tap dance, and line in each of her movies. I would “mock” her characters, but put my own flare to it. My parents caught me doing this and wanted to put me in theater. I did theater in Elementary School and it felt so free to be on that stage and doing whatever was needed to be done in that scene. My first play was the Music Man and I did not have a lead role, but I was in a lot of scenes. I loved every minute of being in that play. Even for a few hours, I got to pretend each performance and each rehearsal that I was someone else. I got to forget my small world of problems during these times. I got to make an audience of strangers smile and laugh which was the best part of being in the show. As I got older and moved onto middle school, unfortunately we did not have a drama department at my school. When I was in the 8th grade I auditioned for an acting school and got in. I was so excited to take professional acting classes and once again I got my escape back. I made so many new friends and learned so much about how to use my emotions in acting. I felt on top of the world during these classes. All the scripts I got to take home to memorize and try new different characters was my escape. I got to put myself in a whole different world and make an audience of my classmates laugh. It relieved so much stress for me growing up. The classes did come to an end and I got back into theater once I reached high school. My next production I was in was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I did not have a lead role, but even with my small one I still managed to have a lot of fun. I met my best friend of 8 years through this play. We rehearsed about 4 times every week for at least an hour until the week of show. The week of show, we rehearsed every single day for about 4-5 hours cleaning everything before opening weekend. When opening night came that Friday we were all so nervous. Before every show in order to bring good luck and calm the nerves, we had a ritual in the dressing room. It was so much fun and it felt as if I belonged there, with them. When the show ended I was pretty down, especially after I transferred schools. I did not do the theater program at my new school because I felt I had a loyalty to my last theater program. I did not participate in theater again until community college. Since I could not do and mock Shirley Temple like I did as a child, I decided to take a new path for Self-care.
Music became a part of my life starting in the third grade when I picked up and tried the violin. I loved playing the violin except when my arm would hurt from holding it up every time. I moved onto the clarinet when I got into the 4th grade. It was my mom’s clarinet when she played in as a kid. I was so excited to try it and that year I fell in love. The clarinet made some beautiful sounds and it made me happy to play it. It took me to another place where all I heard was the music it made. It just felt as if it was just my clarinet and I. No one else was in this place and it was beautiful. Performing my clarinet on stage made me happy. The school band and I filled a lot of joy in people’s hearts. That was the most rewarding experience. As time went on I kept playing. The music got challenging which always made it more fun. I was expected to play more advanced notes and I would get so happy every time I played a new note that I never knew I could do. When I got to the 8th grade I went ahead and gave Chorus a shot. I was curious to see how this new area of the music department would be. I tried it out and I liked it, however, I became very self-conscious about my voice in the beginning. As time went on in that year I started to like it more and more. When I got to high school I did not have any room in my schedule for band or Chorus. I still kept playing my clarinet when I was stressed and I would jam out to my favorite music as well. When I got to college I met a friend who would help me get back into singing and even found a new love for a new instrument. She took singing lessons with a professional and often invited me to attend. The wonderful woman who did the lessons would always have me participate even though they were not my lessons. She taught me how to use my range and be more confident with my voice. It helped a great deal too. One day while attending the lessons I caught an attraction to the piano. I loved how it sound and I got curious to try it. I started messing around a little bit on it. Some songs that I played on the clarinet popped into my head so I tried them on the piano and it worked. The woman who ran the lessons started teaching me a few songs on the piano and I was over the moon. I knew I wanted to keep learning how to play it. At school we had rehearsal rooms with pianos in them and I started to look up sheet music. I played sheet music with notes I could read which were normally the music that played on the treble cleft. Like the clarinet, playing on the piano took me to a whole new world. A place where I could focus on the music and forget about everything. That Christmas I asked for a key board so I can start learning more on how to play. Once I got it I was over the moon. I ran up to my room right away and loaded up the self-teach software. I fell in love and found my new escape. To this day I still play on my key board as much and often as I can. To this day it still brings me to that magical place where I just focus on what I’m playing and it feels serene. Music will forever be a part of me and whenever I need to take a break from reality, that piano will always be there.
How you can leverage your creative side to ease anxiety:
- Make a commitment to try something new. Often times, after our childhood passes, we get scared to try new things. We think, why learn piano, it’s not like I’m going to learn to become a famous piano player! But this is about learning for yourself. And before you can take action, you need to make a commitment to find a creative outlet that could, in fact, ease a lot of anxiety, especially if you don’t currently have any creative outlets in your life.
- Start by taking a class. Taking a class, whether it be at a local community center or college, is a great idea because you will have the professional guidance of the instructor in addition to a committed date and time to learn the new skill.
- Be mindful as you practice your art. This shouldn’t be one more task on your to do list, this is true “me time” to let loose and learn more about and enjoy yourself
- Let imperfection and learning be your goal. When we try new things, sometimes we get into the trap that if we don’t do very well at first (or even after a while), it is a good enough reason to give up. Remember, you aren’t trying to prove yourself to anyone by starting a new hobby!
- If you find healing through art, you may want to consider reaching out to a professional who is credentialed in art therapy. See American Music Therapy Association or American Art Therapy Association.
By: Nicole Rafalko, AiT Contributor