Last month, the father of one of our new campers shared on our social media about his 14-year-old daughter Tina, whose mother died less than two years ago from a heart attack. To deal with her grief, Tina picked up a ukulele that her dad bought her and then taught herself how to play by watching YouTube lessons. She started to write music about her grief, her anxiety, and the middle-school experience. Flash forward to today: Tina has written 25 songs and helped herself deeply in the healing process! We were so taken with Tina’s story that we asked if we could interview her, and below is her inspiring story.
Can you tell us more about how you started singing and teaching yourself the uke?
My sister and I received ukuleles as Christmas gifts a couple of years ago. My sister had asked for one and my dad decided to get me one too. As soon as Christmas passed, my sister started learning by looking up chords, songs, and tutorials on YouTube. I would sit and watch her play, mesmerized by her newfound talent. I desperately wanted to do the same but I was so intimidated by the idea of playing an instrument that I didn’t even touch my ukulele for months. Then one day I just decided to stop fearing failure and gave it a shot. I taught myself dozens of songs. I am so grateful for that day that I simply decided to try.
Many of your songs express hope for happy times ahead, with titles like, “Lovin’ Life” and “Glass Half Full.” Do you think you were born with a hopeful way of thinking or have you had to work on this?
I wish that I could say that I was born with these optimistic views. The truth is that they are something that I had to work towards and still am working towards. For as long as I can remember I have always been a bit of a worrywart, dwelling on things that I have no control over – and that I truly have no reason to worry about. After my mother passed away, though, I began to experience extreme anxiety for the first time. The worrying that I had experienced before transformed into beastly terrors that took a toll on my mental stability. Soon after this began I started seeing a grief therapist and she talked me through all of these big and scary emotions I was feeling and turned them into positives. As I was trying to figure everything out, that was when I began to write songs.
How has writing the lyrics helped you to work through some of your feelings?
Something I discovered from going to therapy is that talking about my feelings is one great way for me personally to get out any negative emotions. When I started writing songs, though, is when I felt that I was truly coping. One thing that I swear by when dealing with any tough emotions is that you have an outlet of some sort. For some people this is something that you have to look for and find. For others, such as myself, this is something that for some odd reason naturally finds you. In writing a song, I talk to myself (and others going through similar experiences), telling myself the positive truths I needed to hear.
Is there any advice you might have for other kids who are grieving and want to be creative but worry they are not talented enough?
If you think you want to create, just give it a try. If you are worrying that you won’t be talented enough, I understand how you feel. Finding that “outlet” that I mentioned earlier will be so worth it. Every single person has an outlet; it’s just a matter of figuring out what it is. You shouldn’t worry about being talented enough to create because that’s not what creativity is all about. It’s about expression. If you feel that you are “bad” at creating that’s just because you haven’t figured out how to express yourself yet, and that’s okay! Just have fun and practice.
How are you feeling about coming to camp this summer and what do you hope to get from the experience?
Words can barely describe how excited I am to go to Experience Camps this summer. Other than my siblings I have never even met anyone who really understands what I am going through. I don’t know anyone who has experienced a significant loss of a loved one at such a young age. My mother ironically would have understood the most, since her father passed away when she was in high school. Nonetheless, I know it’s going to be such an incredible experience to be able to meet not just one person like me, but to be completely surrounded by people who truly get it.
To learn more about Tina and hear her music, visit: www.tinalarosa.com