When I was 10 years old I knew I wanted to play the drums. My parents didn’t take me seriously, because, back then, it just wasn’t something girls “did”. But I also didn’t take myself seriously, so I never pursued it.
But the desire to play drums never left.
I was 38 when I bought my first set of drumsticks – just the sticks – I suppose it was a way of dipping my toe in the water.
I was 41 when I bought my first full drum kit. The kid working at the music store asked if the kit was for me, and helped me pick out a set, but I remember I was so afraid of being judged that I kept my head down and couldn’t even make contact with him (even though he was very nice!).
I had no idea how to play, but I set up the drum kit in my garage. I played along to rock songs on my iPod. I had no idea how to read music, but I could play by ear, and actually hold a beat pretty well.
I played on stage for the first time when I was about 45. My wonderful brother-in-law challenged me to sign up for a program at a local music store that put musicians together into groups, gave them practice space, and then put them on stage at a legit nightclub downtown. I had never even played in front of anyone at the time, not even my family, but I accepted the challenge anyway (if there’s one thing I CAN’T do, is turn down a direct challenge).
The day I went to sign up for the program the room was filled with mostly men around my age. I didn’t know a soul.
When I wrote my name onto the sing-up list I was terrified. My mouth was as dry as the desert, I couldn’t even swallow. My hand was shaking so badly I didn’t even recognize my own signature.
Everything within me told me to run away, go back home.
Instead, I sat in a corner and waited for my turn to play.
When my turn came I walked over to the band area and sat down at the drum kit. Now, I’m 4’11 and the kit I used was set up for a grown man, but I somehow made it work. I did hit the rim instead of the drum head a couple of times, but I had rhythm, I knew the song, and I wasn’t half bad!
It was the first time in my life that I played drums in front of other people, and it was more exhilarating than I could have imagined!
After playing one song we were all assigned into separate bands. Over the next 4 weeks, each band would practice together 4 times, and then we would get to play live, on an actual stage, in front of an actual audience.
As scared as I was to sign up that first day, I imagined that the fear of playing on a stage in front of 100+ people would be debilitating.
The day of the show came, and I was definitely nervous, but it was one of the few times in my life where I felt like I was LIVING. It was a high I will never forget. I knew I was exactly where I belonged.
Our band sounded really good! We played 5 songs and I savored every second. I was in my element and there was nowhere else I would have rather been.
I was 45 when I first got paid to play a gig at an actual venue. It was the first time I felt like I could truly believe I was a drummer.
Our band stayed together for a few years, playing fairly regularly at bars around town. I stopped playing for a while when my husband started to become really sick. It was too difficult for him to be alone so I focused on that and ended up selling m,y drum kit. I knew I could always buy another one, but for the time my focus had to change.
I’m 54 now. I recently bought an electronic kit after moving into an apartment. I signed up again for the same music program as before, and we got to play on stage again a few weeks ago.
Playing drums is my happy place, and I have no intention of stopping.
When I was 10 I gave up on my dream before I even gave it a chance, and I hate to think about what would have happened if I gave it up a second time, simply out of fear?
My fear was that people, strangers, would think I looked stupid. Not only for being a female drummer but for being one at my age.
I was afraid they would think I sucked.
I was afraid they would think I didn’t belong.
The truth is I was already thinking all of those things about myself.
My real fear was that those thoughts would be echoed by other people, and, thereby, validated.
If we didn’t believe other people’s thoughts about us, we wouldn’t feel pain from them.
If someone told me “I don’t like you, because you have blue hair”, I would think they’re crazy. I know I don’t have blue hair. And just because someone tells me I have blue hair, that doesn’t make it true.
If someone told me “You suck at playing the drums”, my pain would come from my own thought “maybe they’re right?”. If I’m already doubting myself, then their words would only validate my self-judgment.
But just because someone says I don’t know how to play the drums, doesn’t make it any more true than saying I had blue hair.
Maybe they don’t know what to listen for? I can play songs, I can play along in a band, I can pick up sticks and move around a drum kit to a song.
Maybe someone else truly believes that I know how to play the drums? That still just makes it their opinion, not a fact. And why would I let one person’s opinion invalidate what I believe to be true?
Their opinion can only be true if I ALSO choose to believe it.
Fear is just a feeling, it’s a vibration in our body. And feelings can’t harm us. Not if we process them…feel them, allow them, then let them go.
What are you choosing to believe? What are you letting fear hold you back from?
Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you. ☺️