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  • Jena Nahnsen

Emotional Intelligence Improved my Musical Pursuit and Life Pt. 4

“I am grateful for the good (and not-so-good) experiences in my life”

This is the meat and potatoes of how I became so intrigued by the concept of Emotional Intelligence. So buckle in, it’s about to get personal.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with Anorexia- Nervosa. This is a mental illness that effects about 9% of the world population. This disease is not just simply not eating. It’s so much more complicated than that. It is perfectionism to the point of melt downs. It is an obsession with numbers. It is numbness to a point where life seems pointless. It is anxiety and depression at the same time. It is a feeling of hopelessness I will never forget. Yet, I am so grateful for it. In 2013, I told someone close to me I had an eating disorder. In 2014, I truly gained control of it. But it wasn’t until 2020 that I can say I truly embraced this part of my past and am comfortable talking openly about it. So what changed?

First, I think it’s important to mention that music helped me through this part of my life. I would practice clarinet all the time. After school I would be in the band room like clockwork just practicing. I got the reputation of being determined and dedicated. Which was great, but reality is music is my safe space. Music makes me feel whole. It gives me purpose. It was something I could be good at while expressing emotions I didn’t even know I had. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his struggle lead me to my deepest passion.

In 2018, I went to Bayview Summer Music Festival for chamber music. There, a presentation was given by composer Tony Manfredonia. For those of you familiar with his work, he is very open about him and his wife’s journey with mental health. This was so inspiring to me, so I reached out to him and said I have similar experiences and thanked him for inspiring me. HE EMAILED BACK and asked if he could tell my story through music. Long story short, I commissioned and premiered a piece by Tony called “Where There is Darkness, Light” based around my experiences with mental health.

I believe there is always something good that comes out of a not-so-good situation. Sometimes those hard experiences lead us to the most meaningful things in life. My current passion that I discovered through quarantine is how I can use music to enhance people’s thinking. This can be through mental health focus, emotional intelligence focus, or even learning about different meditations. I’ve been reading books on psychiatry, brain health, emotional intelligence, meditation practices, yoga, etc… and seeing how my knowledge of music can fit in to those areas of focus. I’ve been composing short multiphonic meditations that I hope to be published as a music and mindfulness book someday.

Long story short, I cannot be more grateful for the good and not-so-good experiences in my life. They’ve lead me to my purposes, passions, and goals. I even credit them with leading me to the love of my life. I’ve never experienced happiness like I have with him. In music, you need to have dissonance to truly appreciate the resolutions. That’s the same in life.

"Sometimes it takes sadness to know happiness, noise to appreciate silence and absence to value presence." -unknown

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