Monday, January 24, 2011

have guitar, will travel

sometimes i forget that i lived a life before this one, that my expression has evolved many times to make me the person and artist i am today. while cleaning out my closet, i unearthed my guitars. there are three. the first, a purple electric, was a gift i begged for when i was thirteen years old. it was more the idea of being a guitarist that i wanted, and so it sat for at least two years before i ever really endeavored to play it. a dear friend taught me some chords, which turned into songs, which pushed me into playing shows with my original material. throughout high school, that was my identity, my art. i lived and breathed my music, craved the outlet. i wrote song after song, played shows to tiny packed-out coffeehouses. they were simple songs, simple expressions of the chaos of my teenage life.

moving into my early twenties, i made my first relocation. the city had a bigger and better music scene. it was more difficult to break into, and i lost my nerve. instead, i began to enjoy listening to music, attending shows rather than enduring the pressure of playing them. i tried to keep up the practice schedule and writing sessions, but my previous desperate need for it was no longer there. during college, my heart got ripped out of my chest in a multitude of ways. for catharsis, i started writing lyrics again, and found myself singing songs under my breath again. after one particularly tumultuous semester and the decision to drop out of school, i decided to enlist as a summer camp counselor. i knew i wouldn't be able to take my electric rig with me, and thus i purchased my second guitar, a black acoustic.

that guitar traveled everywhere with me. its case still has homeland security tape and airport claim tags attached to it, from my very first airplane trip. because it's the first guitar i bought for myself, it's more special to me than the third guitar (a white electric i bought while trying to revive my music mini-career for all the wrong reasons). it's that simple black acoustic that called me from its case, interrupting my organization progress. i picked up my old friend, and played a few songs. some were my own. some were songs of others i like and sing particularly well. of course, my voice is not in shape and my fingertip callouses have faded. i couldn't play for too long without it hurting in various ways, and without being reminded of old hurts, as well, the catalyst behind so many of my songs. when i sang my last note, loud and strong, it lingered in the room, bouncing off the walls of my loft.

in so many ways, i'm still that girl with the black guitar who nervously stepped onstage and could barely sing loud enough for anyone to hear. i am still self-conscious and self-critical, and i still don't believe i have the guts to follow my dreams. the echo of my own voice, so much stronger than it used to be, tells me that i am also a new sort of girl, a girl not afraid to lay her soul bare and take chances with her life. i'm still self-conscious, but i don't let it hold me back. i'm still self-critical, but i use it to make myself better. i DO have the guts to follow my dreams. they're just different dreams, now. they will always evolve, as will i. i wonder how long i will carry the black guitar with me, how many more airport claim tags it might accumulate, and from what cities. how many more songs will i write on her strings? will our next time together find me stronger or weaker? will i ever sell her? will i ever be able? after all, i am still the girl with the black guitar, only now i carry her, instead of her carrying me.

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