Hopelessness is something that has followed me through my whole life, as long as I can remember. I won’t get into the messy details of my childhood (to protect the innocent), but certain circumstances and messages that I learned from a young age taught me that I should expect the worst. But it was more than that…I thought that my family was cursed. Like, actually, magically cursed. When I was little, I fully believed it always rained in Vancouver because my family lived there, and if we went on a trip, the rain would follow us. I literally believed there was a black rain cloud above our heads, threatening to flood my tent at girl guide camp and give me hypothermia, or rain out my mom’s beach scavenger hunt that she’d meticulously planned for her grade seven class. And it wasn’t just the rain. It was the curse that made sure no one showed up to my tea party in kindergarten, and the curse that made the girls in ballet class make fun of me and my frizzy hair. It was a curse that had no boundaries. It was out to get us, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.
As I got older, I realized that there are no such thing as curses, around the time I stopped believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny (which was a relief because I found both of them terrifying.) Still, every time something went wrong, something in the back of my head would nag at me. I still had a secret fear that bad things would always happen to me. That I could never be happy. Throughout school, I clung to people with higher self esteem. In my mind, as long as I was doing something with someone else, someone who wasn’t destined to be unlucky, maybe things would work out. But when those relationships would end or fade, as relationships nearly always do, I would feel that hopelessness creep back up inside me. It felt so familiar, it was almost a comfort. I remember telling my friend after my first break up, “Being happy felt like a dream that I didn’t want to wake up from. Now that I’m sad, I feel like myself again.” That sneaky, mean part of me had been there the whole time, telling me that having some one love me was too good to be true. It had just been waiting for something to confirm it.
My band, The Oh Wells, had a track record for being “unlucky”. The worst of it involved the band breaking up the first day of the Peak Performance Project (a radio competition with a prize of $100,000.) That day, I met radio hosts and music photographers and my future music peers for the first time, and I was in inconsolable tears. The best friendship that had formed the original band was over. I had never seen myself as the “front woman”, and now I had to beg to continue the competition as a solo artist. I was, once again, alone. And alone, there was no way I was good enough to even be there. I felt like a fraud throughout the competition. According to me, it was the luck and talent of my friend that got me into the competition, and without her, my bad luck would take hold and run my musical dreams into the ground. The last time I spoke to her (until recently) was in reference to a legal debate over a web domain. Her boyfriend answered the phone and said, “Sorry, but she won’t speak to you without a lawyer present.” I was twenty, and all of this felt completely unreal. I want to say I couldn’t believe it was happening, but of course I could. I expected it. It was my destiny.
Over the next few years, I became very familiar with bad contracts, shady people, and lawsuit threats. I won’t get into those messy details either (to protect myself, mostly.) All I can tell you is THANK GOD my uncle is a lawyer. I remember calling up my sister and telling her about the unbelievable legal mess I was in. “It’s like you’re cursed or something,” she said. This haunted me for a long time. I wanted to leave the curse behind, but it was following me everywhere I went. After years and years of weird mishaps and unlucky circumstances, not to mention the mental illness and ER visits, I had collected ample “evidence” to support my “cursed” theory. But here’s the thing… ask any musician about their career path, and I’m certain they’ll tell you a bunch of ridiculous and heart breaking stories. And obviously, every single person in Vancouver has a million stories about being rained out of a wedding, a beach day, or a camping trip. I only recently learned the term “confirmation bias,” (I’m a university drop out, so of course I only learn things from podcasts) and suddenly it all made sense. I was looking for the bad, and forgetting the good. When I told people about my music career, I’d tell them about the time our drummer quit two weeks before the big tour, or the time someone stole my keyboard and all my cupcake baking supplies out of my car. I would never say, “The year I was in the Peak Performance Project, I was one of the youngest musicians there. My band left me but I found a new band and survived the week long ‘boot camp’ even though I threw up for a week beforehand because I was so nervous. I’ve had songs go viral on the internet. I’ve had musicians from Norway cover my songs. And the hard, strange and even awful things that have happened to me have made me a better artist.” Because that doesn’t support my theory that only bad things happen to me. It doesn’t give any weight to my belief in some illogical curse that dooms me to failure.
I know that I’m not the only person who has had to struggle with this secret belief that a curse, or a black cloud, or really really bad luck follows them throughout their life. In fact, humans are wired to look for the negative things, because it helped us stay away from poison berries or hungry tigers or something. It’s hard to look for the things in our lives that are good. And it’s even harder to look at the things in our lives that are bad and find the good in it. So I don’t care if my new band name is too long to fit on a name tag, or too confusing to remember. If you can’t say Sarah Jickling and her Good Bad Luck ten times fast, that’s okay. I chose it to remind myself that nobody is cursed. We are flawed human beings in a world full of other flawed human beings. We all have good luck and bad luck, and we all have good bad luck