5 Life Lessons With Megan Washington
Musician and one of Australia’s premier singer/songwriters, Megan Washington took to the stage at Westpac and Junkee Media’s O-Weekender event to round out a day of seriously inspiring talks, reflecting on what she’s learned since her uni days.
Megan Washington remembers that special feeling you get as you start tertiary education: “You’re finally free of school, you’ve been accepted into your course, you’re about to embark on the life-long journey of becoming who you truly are.”
Here are five life lessons Megan learned as she travelled the road to becoming who she truly is:
#1 Don’t always fake it ’til you make it
“I spent that first year [of uni] feeling like I was watching myself in a movie. Like I wasn’t really there. It felt like acting, somehow. A lot of my life has felt like acting. That ‘fake it til you make it’ approach has been my primary methodology for as long as I can remember,” she says.
“Being too afraid to try is what’s really scary”
But it can be dangerous if left unchecked. Are you ‘faking it’ because what you’re doing actually doesn’t feel right? When faking gives you Kanye-levels of confidence, that’s one thing, but it’s time to take notice if you know it’s masking something deeper.
#2 Don’t let fear stop you, it’s like a bad boyfriend
Megan sums up fear as “like a bad boyfriend that I know I shouldn’t be with but I keep coming back to. We have been in an on again, off again relationship ever since I started university.”
But unlike a bad boyfriend, she acknowledges it’s incredibly important to use fear as a positive yard stick: “I’m dependant on fear, I need it to make me do things, otherwise I would literally be in my bedroom watching Netflix right now. But this, giving this speech to you all, this is scary. I feel fear. I love it.”
However, Megan warns of the implications when you use fear as a directive instead of a guide, because you can find yourself missing out.
“It was fear that kept me from doing what I wanted at university in that first year. I really wanted to be at the Conservatorium of Music, studying jazz. Being a full blown art school nerd. That’s where I really wanted to be. But instead, I took a general arts place so that I wouldn’t have to audition for the Con. I couldn’t bear the idea of being rejected, so I chose not to try at all. It took me a full year of fake university to work up the guts to audition for the real one.”
#3 Show up
The best way to bypass missing out because fear has gotten the better of you, is by ignoring your head and just showing up. Most of the time, our expectations of how things will turn out are never how they actually turn out. “I learned in that moment that showing up is most of the battle… show up, even if it’s scary… It’s not going to be even half as bad as you imagine.”
“The things that make you different are your best assets… I’m telling you – hand on heart – it’s true.”
#4 Trust your impulses
After a year of “fake university” Megan finally auditioned for the Conservatorium, and got in. But she soon realised her definition of ‘good jazz’ was different to everybody else’s – “nobody really shared my tastes and influences, and so for the first two years I tried really hard to mimic and internalise what everyone else was doing.”
She listened to Bebop, “even though [she] kind of hated it”, and went along to free-jazz jams and tapped her foot in time, yelling ‘yeah!’ after people soloed, despite not really knowing what was going on. “I tried really hard to ‘get it’.”
But in her third year, Megan decided it was time to trust her feelings, and what felt good for her was “to write my own songs, and tell my own story.” It felt so right, in fact, that she would skip class to tinker away at an upright piano for hours in a practice room.
Trusting these impulses and feelings led Megan to the path she’s on today, even if she didn’t have an outlet or audience to perform to at the time. “I had honestly no idea what I was doing, and nobody really liked what I was doing, but it felt right to me,” Megan says. “Trust your impulses. Even if they don’t make sense, things will connect later.”
#5 Embrace your weird
Being unapologetically yourself is something we all wish we internalised earlier in our lives – including Megan. “Embrace your weird… The things that make you different are your best assets. We have all heard this since we were kids: you are the only you, you are a magical snowflake, but I’m telling you – hand on heart – it’s true.”
Megan remembers the fear she felt before giving her TEDxSydney talk – she stutters, which is something she tried to disguise her whole life. Megan wrote her speech and tried to memorise and recite it like lines, and the night before the speech, ran it by a friend.
“She told me that it was much more interesting that I am a singer with a stutter, and that I should stop trying to be like everyone else and just do a talk about not really wanting to do the talk. Just to be myself.”
That’s exactly what Megan did, “and it went really well” – almost 1.5 million views well. “That experience taught me that it is so much more powerful to be authentic. Embrace your weird, your weird is what makes you awesome.”
TL;DR? You can watch part of her keynote speech at O-weekender, here: