It’s been ten months.
Ten months since we came together, agreeing to become a single unit. I was happy, at first. Sometimes, I still am. But most days turning up at our meetings, or else talking to you, feels like I’m working another job (as a waitress, maybe, since I usually take orders), only this time I don’t get paid.
Submitting to authority is not a problem for me. Just ask my actual boss, at work–she’ll tell you that I’ve never not followed her orders unless I’ve scrambled them in my head or forgotten in a deluge of things-to-do. She knows I will obey without question, with very nearly no argument. She also knows–I hope she knows, anyway–why: because she’s bothered to get to know me. To know my side-comments are not acts of rebellion but merely my version of “small talk.” I like jokes. I like banter. I like laughter. They make me feel like I’ve connected with someone, like I’m l less alone, less lonely.
There are many days when, singing in that padded room, I feel so so lonely. Remember that one day when I was screwing up almost every song and kept ducking out with my phone? I was making phone calls, desperate to hear one voice that sounded like they cared about me.
Remember that night after the show, when I sat with a face like stone, silent and strumming a guitar I still don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to play? You asked me if I was okay. I haven’t been okay for a while.
I’ve been lonely.
Do you know how many people have told me to leave? Told me to walk, that I have enough skills to make it on my own and what skills I don’t have can be compensated for by people who are willing to–more than assist me–listen to what I have to say? I’ve blocked them all out, because I still believe in what you set out to do. But believing in you is harder, because many times I don’t feel like you believe in me at all. That the split-second instances when you are reassuring or kind are, well, just that: instances. Split-seconds. An act you put on out of rote and routine because you’ve learned that this is maybe necessary to keep a neurotic teammate happy. Not out of any genuine sympathy. You want the job done and you want it done now.
For ten months–for nearly a year–you’ve pretty much made all the choices, put the songs into my mouth, told me what to say and how to say it. And I’ve ignored the niggling sense of maybe I deserve better and swallowed it all and jumped through the hoops. I’m your puppet, poppet, and I haven’t minded. But now I do. And it’s not because I don’t have a say, don’t have control, don’t have a voice. All those are secondary.
…I mind because after ten months of being together in padded rooms and smoky cafés and strobe-lit stages, I still feel incredibly alone.
I asked one of our teammates–the only one who maybe comes closest to being a friend–if we’d still be friends if I chose to walk. He said yes, but he also told me that if I walked it would be devastating, because I was the “heart” of our little unit. His words convinced me to stay in that moment, because I believed for a second that maybe you all saw my value beyond lyrics and melodies–saw that it was heart I could give in an industry frequently accused of being soulless. You can’t make people feel things if you don’t feel. If you can’t empathize. If what you create doesn’t mean something to you beyond technical prowess and “attitude.”
I chose to stay. I choose to stay, every day, with every Facebook message you send and every doubt and opinion and complaint I continue to swallow. I’ve tried to have faith that eventually, once we’re off the ground, what I say will matter. Who I am will matter. But now I’m scared that the months will only mean more of the same. More moments, in the chill of rehearsal rooms, where I wonder how I got here and why, despite the hope of imminent success, the thrill of blasting off, I feel smaller than when I started.
I act like your puppet, poppet. I do what you say. I dance how you ask me to dance. I always have. But I’m not your puppet, because puppets are wood and string and I’m muscle and bone and a heart that, even when lit by floodlights, feels incredibly invisible, un-valuable, alone.