I found music in a very typical way: I was searching for something, anything, to hold onto for dear life. A traumatic early childhood left me silenced by fear and unable to find any words to communicate what happened to me even if I had wanted to tell someone. I cried the first time I listened to Seether’s “Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces” at 11 years old. Shaun Morgan’s lyrics hit me in a place that I had buried so deeply I didn’t expect anything ever to find it. I was hooked on the way that bands used lyrics to tell stories from that moment forward. I was so enthralled in the stories, emotions, and words that I based my entire adult life on finding audiences for the people whose stories I believe need to be heard.
I started managing bands in high school because I am by nature a connector. It is such a satisfying feeling to make an introduction and watch a professional relationship start to grow. Being a manager allows me to utilize all my skills and abilities: research, networking, writing, and marketing to name a few. However, it challenges me every time I interact with someone new.
I was bullied all through elementary school; the lasting effect that has had on my psyche has been incredibly difficult to manage, let alone overcome. I internalized every negative word anyone had ever said about me growing up and nearly immediately labeled any kind word as insincere. After all, if I was as good and excellent as someone might say, how could I be such a hideous disaster to someone else?
All that cognitive dissonance came to a head in February 2017. Depression had been a part of my life since I was nine years old, I was starting to try to predict how the cyclical nature of my Seasonal Affective Disorder was playing out. I was desperately trying to push through the low of this cycle, l couldn’t wait for the upswing, so I could start to feel normal again. Only everyone at Yeg Music noticed that the improvement wasn’t coming. I was given two months off to take care of myself since it was evident to everyone but me that I was three bad days away from completely losing it. Before I left, one of the owners looked me in the eyes and said, “Anyone who has ever bullied you is not here. The only people still here are the people who love you.”
I developed his words into a mantra, an armor against my negative self-talk. In those two months, I went to therapy, started antidepressants, worked with a personal trainer, and read as much self-help as I could stand. It felt like I hit “pause” on my whole life, and while that had thrown me off kilter, it gave me a chance to get real with myself. What I discovered is that I co-opted the voice of my worse critic as my main thought processor. This view leads to a rabbit hole of self-doubt, self-loathing, and depression. Nothing good was ever going to come my way with this headspace as a guide.
I had an epiphany when I met with my bosses to talk about coming back to work. My realization was that this whole ordeal was the price of my self-loathing. My deeply seeded beliefs about my self-worth being next to nothing, the downward spiral of negativity that kept me in a headlock every night: these are the things that made me feel alienated from my work family, bad at my job, and unworthy of love and respect. The people who caused me to feel awful were not the ones holding me back, the power I was giving their words was the actual culprit.
Now, every interaction, every email, every introduction is a reminder. The people who bullied me are no longer here. The only ones left are those who love me. I cannot project my insecurities onto others, or I will never be able to get anything done for the bands who are relying on me. I owe them, and myself, the best me I can be.
Sabrina Kuhn is an artist manager from Edmonton, Canada. When she’s not working with bands she works with youth in her community and plays basketball. If there were a way to do all three at once, her life purpose would be fulfilled.
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