"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable." - Christopher Reeve
AKA Freaking Superman. SUPERMAN SAID THAT. That should be enough to make you want to dream enormous dreams that make other people look at you like you're insane!
I have noticed throughout my 26 years on this interesting (to say the least) planet that people who dream big are often the most criticized and challenged. I fully believe that this happens simply because they haven't given up yet - or never give up - so they open the door to jealousy and hate from those who gave up on their big dreams - or never had big dreams - a long time ago. The bigger the dream and the longer you pursue it, in short, the more bull you have to put up with. And that's okay. Because at least you have your dream, and you didn't quit. Don't ever quit.
I used to draw ALL the time in class. I remember drawing imaginary creatures from mythology and my mind as early as kindergarten. I would make up stories, which for a little kid was about two to three sentences long, and draw a picture with crayons to accompany it, and they were often animal in nature and also not real (surprise). As I got older, my drawing habit continued and only got better. It was one of the only things I did. I read, drew, and played outside with the farm animals back at our house in Texas. I loved it so much, and I miss the simple mindset I had as a kid. Anyway, I continued to draw well into elementary, middle, and high school. Middle school was where I started noticing the majority of my peers weren't really creative or had stopped whatever their craft had been. The goals had shifted. Now, everyone was caught up in being popular, kissing the cutest boy/girl, and holding hands and even partying. I didn't even know what beer was. I sat in the corner and continued to draw.
I moved around a lot and was always the new kid, so I didn't exactly have friends. I always came off as the "weird" kid for some reason. I knew I was different. I didn't care and still don't care about sleeping around, partying, and whatever else they did. Kids around me in middle and high school were experimenting with drugs and sexuality, and I honestly never had the drive to be like any of them. Mostly because they picked on me for my doodles and, when I started singing, they picked on me for that, too. Sometimes I cried and felt bad, because I was exhausted from getting bullied, but there were ample times I just spat it back at them and told them, "I'm going to be famous one day. You'll see."
In college - surprise - I doodled throughout all of my classes. I made straight As and had around a 3.6 or 3.7 GPA, so it's not like I was blowing off school work. I learned better when I was in my happy place and could doodle while taking my notes and listening on the side. My mind needed to be focused on something, and it was and still is too hard for me to focus on sitting for over an hour at a time, listening to someone read a book at me. I'm just that type of person. Sometimes, I can't retain information if I'm just being talked at. I took a culture and psychology class when I was at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and I loved it...EXCEPT...the teacher used to get onto me for doodling and she'd threaten to take off of my participation grade if I didn't stop. I didn't understand this, though, because I had ~98 in the class. She made me mad, so when we had our final report, I chose the 89-page one and made her read it all. I kept doodling anyway, but I'd put my hoodie or bag on top of the desk to block my paper so she couldn't see that I was drawing.
People knew I was a singer, and this was the time frame when I had just started playing out at venues in town and practicing on the green in-between and after classes. I had dreams. Big ones. And all I wanted to do was practice every chance I got and write as many songs as I could whenever I had time in my dorm - so that's exactly what I did. First, people kept calling the cops on me. I just rolled my eyes. The cops were nice, though. One guy actually said, "You sound great, but I'm really sorry - there's been a noise complaint and you need to move somewhere else." I moved about 100 feet away, and I started playing again when the cops left. It wasn't like I played at ungodly hours or anything. I had respect for the residents, and I limited my time playing. It actually grew to where there was a small group of students and outsiders who would join in and we'd just rock out, sing, and play. Another time, someone actually opened their window and screamed, "Jess Meuse sucks!" I counted the windows to see what floor they were on, and I went up to their room. They cracked the door open, but they had the hinge-lock thing on so it was still locked from the inside. There were choice words exchanged, but I reminded them that they were the boys in their dorm so afraid of a girl that they had to hide behind a locked door and could only muster the courage to yell from a window eight floors up. Over time, these little things got really discouraging, but I kept going. I had to. There was nothing else I could do.
I moved to Oregon with my mom for a while back around 2010 or so. I had just turned 19 when we left, I think. This was a very trying time for me. I had my first serious relationship, and he was psycho abusive and had multiple personalities - and I mean clinical. He didn't start out that way, of course, but it slowly revealed itself over time, which oftentimes leaves the "victim" wondering if things could ever go back to the way they were when things were good, and that keeps the "victim" around, trying. It was one-sided though. He told me he loved the devil and had demons for friends. Not kidding. He was a loser, and I actually found out his mama had been into cocaine while she was pregnant with him, and his dad was into the porn industry in Las Vegas. If you've ever heard my older songs, "Jacksonville" is written about him, and it's about how I feel bad for him. I had a lot of time alone in Oregon, and I used to escape my boyfriend while my mom was at work and go down to a park in Ashland called Lithia Park. I played my guitar in the square, and I'd get tips and go buy food with it and then walk up the side of the mountain in the woods and disappear. One man, dressed in all black, wrote me a poem and handed it directly to me after I finished playing a song. I remember, word for word, what it said:
It is one thing to be beautiful, and another to be beautiful. You are both.
I felt like a loser, and I didn't know what I was doing. I was torn between going back to school and just not going at all. This was a very trying time in my life, but my big dreams of music held me together. Playing in that old square and exploring the woods was my happiness in that dark place, and my songwriting was my escape. Dreams are important, y'all. Don't lose them. They have the power to save you in the dark, and you never know where they may lead you. I know mine saved me, and if I had quit, I would've never gotten that simple, kind poem that helped me get through to the next day. Who knows where I'd be right now if I had given up.
In another college class, public relations, which I pretty much do on a daily basis anyway, I had the worst teacher I've ever had in my entire life. And I've had a ton of schooling, so that's a lot of teachers to compare this crazy one to. First of all, I just want to say she gave me a D because I was on American Idol and, despite my efforts, emails, and constant communications to try and complete assignments, she never told me what was needed, what tests I needed to makeup, or ANYTHING for that matter. Another tale about hindering creativity - this teacher gave the class an assignment to write a press release. I wrote one in the format from the book, but I created my own content. She called on me, and I presented mine to the class, and she told me I did it wrong because I DIDN'T COPY IT DIRECTLY OUT OF THE BOOK, WORD-FOR-WORD. By this point in my life, I had a bit of an attitude, especially with this teacher who didn't teach at all, and I remember saying, "Oh yeah, I forgot creativity isn't allowed here at *insert school name*." I walked out. That experience didn't stop me from writing and pursuing my goals, though. I knew she was wrong. If you live your life copying the textbook and what everyone else does, what can you expect other than to be just like everyone else?
A few other things I've dealt with while dreaming big:
- I failed band in high school because I taught myself the flute and I played scales by ear rather than by sheet music.
- I was rejected by a school of music in Tennessee because I wasn't "classically trained" in voice.
- I lost American Idol! Hahaha!
- When I did the blind auditions for The Voice, they told me I sang off key and had a lot to work on. Christina Aguilera told me that I "shriek." It mindf$$$$ed me for a long time, and I cried like a wimp right after it happened.
- I get told "No" to so many opportunities, regularly (I usually continue to email them and try again...and again...and again...).
- In general, I fail regularly.
- There's more, but I forgot because there's SO MANY.
In conclusion, the bigger you dream and the longer you pursue it - duh - you're going to run into walls more than someone who doesn't dream at all. You're going to hit dead ends. It's going to be hard, but it's worth it. I mean, isn't your dream worth it to you? Just keep going. The longer your timeline, the more mistakes and misfortunes you'll hit, but each one is a lesson to learn, an experience, and you can take that with you where you're going. Take the hardships for what they are and keep moving forward.
I saw this really cool picture on LinkedIn that summarized success - following dreams - pretty accurately. You have to fail in order to succeed. Don't let failure get you down. Failure means you're doing something RIGHT.
These are just a few stories from the "Life of Jess" that I feel could maybe help someone else. That's why I tell them. I have this huge, crazy, fantasy-like dream, but I've been through a few things that hit hard and made me think about quitting. I don't by any means think I have it tough or bad. I am incredibly blessed, actually, and I'm completely aware that even the negative and trying situations that broke me down and made me bleed in the past led me here - because I didn't give up. I know there are people out there who go through way worse. I'm just telling my story because, for me, these things hurt. I hurt just like you and just like any other person. It's about how you grow from it - how you react. Dreams can hurt you pretty badly, but chasing them makes you realize just how hungry you are or how far you're willing to go for what you really want to do in this life. What do you take from the situation, even when it depresses you to the point of nearly quitting? Can you actually quit, even if you wanted to? I've already been there. Tried. I can't. The one thing I can't do is quit my dream, and you shouldn't quit either. No matter what you're going through - a health issue, financial crisis, sadness and depression, a bad relationship - whatever it may be...hold fast to your dream and always, always remember your worth. Nobody lays on their death bed wishing they'd worked a job they settled for and remained content with for their entire lives. Dream bigger than the mountains and higher than the sky. Dream big and do it for the right reasons, and be open to all of the abundance waiting for you on the other side of whatever dark tunnel or valley you may encounter, because I PROMISE you it's there.