Going Creative. Kira’s Story Part One.
Posted on February 1, 2013 by admin
KIRA KENLEY: A lot of people have offered their opinion about my recent ‘decision’ to quit my day job and pursue what I love to do in the hope that I can make a living from it. During these conversations, my response is always the same. I tell them that for me it did not feel like I had a choice and so there was no decision.
My ‘money-making’ career has been very good to me in the ‘money-making’ department but unfortunately it has been in a field devoid of passion for me. The only way I could function was to become creatively dormant. What I’d shut down was a very necessary part of me and I’ve come to see that I ignore it at my peril.
What I love to do has been clear to me since I was a very little person living in an old house that was blessed with high ceilings and a hallway, where the acoustics were as good as the best concert hall. At least, that was how it sounded to my little ears. I would sit at the top step of the stairs and sing into the vastness pretending there was an audience out there somewhere listening. And there usually was an audience of one.
My father was the first person who ever took the time to listen and his comment that I had a ‘good’ voice meant everything to me. That was the only validation I needed.
Unfortunately, as I hit puberty my relationship with my voice deteriorated around about the same time I decided that my father was public enemy number one. The connection between the events is obvious to me now but at the time I was completely unaware. I stopped singing and life continued in the usual erratic way it does for teenagers but then the unthinkable happened and I lost both my parents. A period of silence followed in which my voice was unable to express itself. I did not have the words nor the strength to verbalise the overwhelming emotions I now found at large in my body. It was easier to forget myself.
Depression was a word I had heard but never fully understood so when I began to have difficulty leaving the house, sleeping, eating and doing all of the things that I had done so easily before, I thought I was going mad. My despair grew until I was so totally lost inside of it that I could only see one way out.
I attempted suicide, crossed a line which I had never dreamed I would cross, but thankfully failed. What relief when my illness was explained to me and I found what I was experiencing was common, and most importantly, that I could recover.
My recovery has largely been about me rediscovering my voice. First on paper, then in the spoken word, and finally, at last, through the magic medium of song.
I began singing and somehow I sang myself all the way back to health. Singing was helping me to heal on so many levels and finding its rightful place back in my life. However, there was still an internal division. I was earning my living by doing something that felt very alien, almost as if I needed to become something other than myself to function, which made no sense.
I would express this to other people who confided that they could relate but that was ‘just how it is for most people’. It seemed that the privilege of doing what one loves for a living is only for the select few and I wondered if that, in fact, was true.
So, I bit the bullet and left my job to spend time on my creative path.
Happy ending? Not yet. I have left several jobs but have always found it necessary to go back to office work for financial support.
I’d read many books which said if one does what one loves then the heavens literally open and the universe will conspire to make it happen. Why had that not been so for me? Adamant that this last resignation would be my final, I was very aware of how I was in the face of this transition. Maybe I could discover what kept taking me back to the place that is clearly so wrong for me.
By watching the workings of my mind, I realised that it wasn’t only other people dismissing my ideas as far-fetched or impossible. When I looked deeper, I uncovered in myself a strong belief that it is impossible for me to make a living from singing. I believe it’s connected to a belief that making a living needs to be hard and for me singing is easy. It requires me to invest time and energy, yes, but that investment is effortless, because I so love to do it.
So where had this belief come from? I was born into a family of grafters, working class people who sacrificed their dreams to earn money and this has been my conditioning. Alongside this deep rooted belief I noticed something else, the very real existence of my safety net; the idea that I can always go back to my ‘paid’ job in the event of failure.
It was this awareness, and the determination that this time would be different, that led me to say yes to an invitation to spend some time at a school in India.
Although, my ‘money-making’ brain was telling me that this was the worst time to be investing in foreign travel when I looked deeper I realised that the truth was I was scared to go with the unfamiliar and again I was dismissing this opportunity to walk into a musical profession as far-fetched. In reality, a set of doors were opening and there was only one way I could find out what would happen if I walked through to the other side. I booked my ticket.
India is a country I have been fascinated with since I began doing yoga, another blessing that depression called into my life. I’d spoken to many people about this amazing country over the years and the message always seemed to be the same; nothing can prepare a person for this life-altering experience. I had been waiting until I was ‘ready’ to take this journey but what was I waiting for? My path was appearing before me and I would spend a month in India. It had taken me ten years but I was ready to meet India and her people.
Even though my intention was to have no expectations, of course I had many. My experience has, by far, exceeded every single one. From the moment I walked outside the airport, this beautiful place has captivated my every sense. The colours, the smells, the sounds, the feel of the warm breeze on my skin. India. Incredible India.
The taxi journey to the school was immense. For those three hours I was like a newborn being, taking everything in with such wonder. I had never seen countryside like this; vivid greens bursting into colour thanks to random flowers, temples, towns, animals, people – a mixture of the natural and the man-made. Everywhere people were aware of me and looking in a way that is perhaps lost in other parts of the world. It was as if they really saw me, really took me in and they were there with me, in the present moment. So many kind eyes and smiling faces.
And with this presence, the absence of fear. Somehow. The message so blatant everywhere. To be alive is to be vulnerable. Be vulnerable Kira.
Rishi Valley School is run by the Krishnamurti Foundation, situated in the beautiful Rishi Valley and is surrounded by rocks, which I’m told are the oldest known to man. As I walked close to these majestic structures I felt timelessness unfold. If I had a child, I would have no reservations about leaving him or her to be educated in this paradise.
There are 350 students varying from the ages of 3 to 17 and during my time there I had the opportunity to perform my own songs for all of them and also to teach a great number of them singing. Such voices, eager to share their beautiful eastern songs, and excited to learn songs from the west.
At a nearby village school, one fearless child sat beside me and begin teaching me Telugu, the local language. By the end of my lesson, which lasted a glorious twenty minutes, I had a small group around me calling out words and awaiting eagerly my inadequate and often comical response. We sang; first them to me and then I to them. As I left, the children offered me sweets and showed me their way of shaking hands which involved allowing our thumbs, index and little fingers to touch and turning until both hands were clutching each other.
During my time at the school, I met so many amazing people of all ages. I learned much about eastern music and as a songwriter I have no doubt that this will influence my future compositions. I also had the opportunity to write a song with some of the students, which was a humbling experience. I have been a singing teacher on paper for many years but at Rishi Valley I was given the opportunity to put this into practice and I discovered that not only can I teach, but I love to teach.
Each child and adult who has placed their voice in my hands has taught me so much and I am ever grateful to each one. These days, each time I sing, all are with me.
On my last day at the school, there was a musical evening and I got to see many of the students perform, the perfect ending to my musical adventure. As I was leaving the auditorium, a student ran after me and handed me a Thank You card they had made, with a picture of me. I was utterly touched and this card is now in my music room as a constant reminder of what happens when I walk through an open set of doors.
Incredibly these days I feel no fear about my decision to relinquish my secure job. Perhaps I have taken that part of India home? The card is there, should I get scared and think about going back to what is known, the ‘security’ that is only ever an illusion. Security is never found in the world of tangible things. It is something internal; I am secure when I live in harmony and harmony can only be reached by listening to the heart.
Now I am back in London and, of course, the future is uncertain but I see clearly that the possibilities are endless if I dwell in the unknown. I am done with self-sabotage. My intention is to stay here doing what I love to do.
Listening to my heart.
Ever living. Ever vulnerable.
The GoCreative! Blog will be following Kira’s adventures in song every Friday. To follow her progress sign up to receive the blog in your email box. Comments and stories from your own creative experiences welcome below.