This post is by musician Alva Leigh, our Pilgrim in Residence for the month of September. Read the other posts in this series here and learn more about Alva Leigh (and find out where you can buy her fantastic new album) here. -Lacy
Once I landed in London, it was like I finally gave myself permission to sing.
Some of this permission came from leaving Nashville. Sure, I had tried to get my music career going, but I felt so alone and disheartened that I didn’t really know if it was worth it. So I decided that maybe it wasn’t, and I filled my life with other things. But right after we decided to move to London, I had a small success that freed me up to take some time off work. And I decided to take advantage of my fresh start and see if I could find my voice again.
After the initial 8 weeks, I had relocated but I hadn’t really settled in. I was browsing job listings, listless on the phone with my best friend. I told her I was overwhelmed; I finally had the opportunity to commit all of my time to this, but I had no idea where to begin.
She gave me the most perfect advice; she described this time as the “residency” of my career. She said if I was training to be a doctor, I would work on every floor in the hospital for years before I earned the ability to choose what I wanted to specialise in. Some days I would be exhausted, overwhelmed, bored, frustrated, but eventually, I would be trained to do it all so that I could choose the parts I actually love.
So in October 2012, I began my residency.
I stumbled into a community of songwriters in London by chance and joined a part-time songwriting course at the last minute. Over the next year, I found a network of unrivaled encouragement and support. I wrote more songs in the next ten months than I had in my entire life. I started asking other songwriters about process and inspiration. I shuffled around the different floors of the hospital: production, performance, songwriting, business, marketing. I started to learn how to put my head down and get to work.
I don’t know if my residency will ever end, or if in a field like music, it should ever end. But, as cheesy as this sounds, I do feel very blessed to have found my dream, my voice, my calling.
Moving to London allowed me to reclaim the space in my life for my passion and I am so surprised by how much joy I have found there. Sometimes I regret the years I wasted feeling unsure, unable, uninspired. But if I had never left, never emptied my life out, I don’t know what I would’ve filled it with later.
Are you in the “residency” of your career right now? Do you feel like there’s something you need to give yourself permission to do? What’s keeping you from making that space? Leave your response to the questions or the post in the comments.