The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down

Ah, high school... How can you forget that oh, so special period of your life? It’s clique-y. It’s petty. It’s often so confusing that it defies all logic… and everything feels like it’s “life or death.”I’m not gonna sugar coat it. It was a really, really hard time for me. As a kid who was artistic and extremely sensitive, I was an easy target and I took everything very personally. Always training for and taking part in singing competitions had left me a bit isolated to begin with and skipping 8th grade didn’t help… I mean it really didn’t help.But yes, I allowed myself to stick out and growing up in Key West, Florida, where all the kids are tan and dress (and sometimes behave) fairly interchangeably, that wasn’t always the best thing. I’ve spent my entire life marching to the beat of my own drummer and have always (I’ll freely admit it) had no problem making myself the center of attention.Let me set the scene for you... It’s a humid August day in Miami Beach at the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel. You’ve probably seen it in movies. It’s luxurious and it’s sprawling.In sharp contrast to the rest of this relaxed resort environment, a Mother is frantically searching for her lost child. One second, the 2-year-old girl was in her stroller, as her Mom navigated her way through the crowded reception area. After briefly averting her gaze, she was greeted only by the sight of an empty stroller. The Mother is terrified. She holds her breath in panic. The hotel is massive and full of thousands of people. She could be anywhere.All of a sudden, the piercing feedback of the PA system cuts through and everyone is silent. A Master of Ceremonies begins to speak.“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a young lady here, who tells us that she’s a singer...”The Mother immediately breathes a sigh of relief. She already knows what’s about to happen.Yup. That little girl was me. Shocker, right?I don’t remember any of this, but I’ve heard the story recounted to me by my Mom thousands of times, with an equal mix of bemusement and glee. I didn’t care that it was an August day at the Fontainebleau Hotel. In my heart it was Christmas time and lil' ole Liza Jane felt like getting up on stage and belting out some “Jingle Bells.”Ten years later, how did this ham of a smiling kid end up so angsty? So isolated? So sad? So scared?For starters, while I was in high school with kids that I’d grown up with, who had been my “friends” my whole life…all of a sudden they no longer were. People fell into cliques and I never understood that mentality. That usually left me by myself and in their minds that meant I was an “outcast.”I can’t tell you how many Friday nights I sat alone in my room, listening to all the other kids partying across the canal. I was never once invited. I would just crank up “Bring Me The Horizon” or Marilyn Manson a bit louder to drown out the sound of their laughter, while I buried my head in my pillow.I felt so anxious literally all of the time. My brain was constantly racing a mile a minute. Other than when I was performing, the only time I felt any sense of relaxation was when I was asleep… when my poor brain could just shut down and take a break.I don’t know what I would have done without music in my life. While my Mom was annoyed by me wriggling out of my stroller to “share my gift with the world,” she did see I had an undeniable love of and commitment to performing and she invested in vocal lessons. Coaches and teachers apparently saw something in me, as I started performing in pageants and competitions regularly. This eventually isolated me from other kids and also got me picked on, but I ultimately wouldn’t change a thing. It not only gave me an outlet for my emotions, it also gave me a strong sense of individuality. However, that certainly came at a price.You ever heard the old saying “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”? Someone said it to me recently and it really spoke to me. I’ve never fit into a box. I wasn’t one of those “cookie cutter” pageant girls, with the giant pearls and elaborate braids. I’d come out dressed in black, wearing a choker, with neon lipstick and pink streaks in my hair. This cost me some wins in singing competitions and it got me teased a lot in school, but despite all my anxiety and loneliness, I knew who I was and I was secure in it... And it took me some time to realize that a lot of those other kids didn’t know who they were and weren’t so secure with themselves. And that, at least partially, was why they were so mean and cold.In the meantime, I dreamed of the day when I could “fly away and spread my wings,” so to speak. I was going to concentrate on my music and work with other like minded artists. One day I would give other angsty pink haired teenage girls - who were alone in their room on Friday nights - someone to look up to. I kept writing and recording songs and performing any chance I could get. This gave me something to look forward to after school, and made life bearable.I eventually escaped (or “graduated.” Whatever.) and set out to Belmont University in Nashville. Everything changed for me in the best way possible. I met people who I related to and connected with. People of integrity, who were artistic and kind and were usually outcasts in high school, themselves. The people I’d always dreamed of encountering. I had found “my tribe” and I was encouraged and nurtured, not only as a performer, but also as a songwriter. I became more and more confident and eventually reached the point where I finally had enough perspective and distance to really put my feelings to music and fearlessly address this very traumatic period in my life.A lot of the reason why I write the songs that I write, as well as blog posts like this one, is to bring comfort and solace to anyone who might be going through a tough time of their own.If you related to any of this, and feel compelled to share a time when you were struggling, I encourage you to do so below. Remember that you’re never alone.Oh, And don’t be afraid to sing Christmas songs in August, if that’s what you want to do!<3Liza Jane

Andrew AndraosComment