Thursday night, as soon as midnight struck on the east coast, I was listening to Billie Eilish’s newest album, Happier Than Ever.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be staying up late anxiously awaiting music from Billie Eilish, I probably would’ve laughed. I never thought I would like her or her music, largely because I had veered away from mainstream pop music and held judgments towards myself for liking that music for so many reasons that I won’t get into here. I didn’t realize Billie’s music would relate to me. Thank god I stumbled upon her documentary and fell deeply in love with who she is, what she represents, and the music she creates.
This album definitely lived up the hype…I love when artists are excited about the work they’ve created. It makes me more excited to listen to it, to know it was a really personal project that they’re proud of and held a lot of meaning for them. This is what I held onto as I began listening.
Listening to the titular song—the second to last track on the album—I had a very strong emotional reaction. As the music transformed and built in power, I realized that my body was covered in goosebumps and started crying and laughing at the same time. I was so happy to be having that reaction, honestly…I haven’t had such a visceral reaction to art, especially music, in quite a while.
I have been conditioned to feel ashamed of my high sensitivity. Highly sensitive people make up 20% of the population, and in Western culture (especially in the US), we are taught to stuff our feelings down, to “stop being so sensitive”, to multitask, push ourselves through discomfort, and ignore or numb ourselves to challenging emotions. Growing up, I didn’t feel validated for the intense emotional experiences I had, especially when it came to art in any form. When I experienced art that impacted me, I just couldn’t multitask, or move on to the next thing once it was over. I had to bathe in the experience, to let the inspiration wash over me, to figure out how I could make others feel the ways I was feeling. It took me a long time to meet others who experienced that feeling, too.
When I noticed my reaction to “Happier Than Ever”, my shame remembered what it was like to feel alone in those powerful emotions, and wanted me to stuff them down, to stay quiet about them, to not share the feelings with anyone. But listening to the song felt so good to be so moved by a single piece of music. I immediately thought Fuck the shame! I am so tired of twisting myself into a more socially acceptable being…this music changed me, and that matters!!
I am allowed to be moved by art. I am worthy of experiencing profound feelings and sharing them with the world. I matter.
Sometimes I feel sorry for those who don’t feel what us sensitive folks feel when we listen to powerful music, watch a moving film, see exquisite art…My sensitivity allows me to transcend myself. To see what others see. To feel what others feel. To feel the weight of why an artist creates what they create. To see myself in others’ stories. To process my own feelings.
Thank you, Billie Eilish, for reminding me how beautiful my high sensitivity is. Thank you for creating an album that holds so much raw, emotional truth. Thank you for helping me process my own trauma. Thank you for your vulnerability. Above all, thank you for inspiring me to be brave, authentic, and free.