Friday, 31 August 2012

On chasing your dreams...

I’m going to get a little bit corny here.  Bear with me.

I’d like to talk about the importance of chasing your dreams.
I’m about to embark on a new adventure, and I’d like to use this first post to write about how I got to this point.  It was a strange and twisted path, full of unexpected turns…

Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down, and I'd like to take a moment, just sit right there...
Two years ago I finished a postgraduate singing course in Glasgow, and emerged squinting and blinking into the harsh light of the real world.  I was chock-full of hubris, naivety, and pure bald-faced hope.  Sure, I’d seen other graduates struggling when they got out of school, but somehow I thought it would be different for me.  Of course, having spent the last seven years in music college I had only a vague and fuzzy idea of how the music industry worked.  But people told me I was a promising young singer with a great career ahead of me, so I (stupidly) believed them, and I kind of expected that this great career would just, like… happen.  (I know this must sound totally ridiculous, but I think that if we’re being perfectly honest here, deep down inside, a lot of music college graduates feel this way).

Of course I didn’t think this career was going to land magically in my lap!  I had to go out there and do auditions.  So I started sending out CVs and doing audition after audition after audition.  And getting rejection after rejection after… well, you get the picture.  Sure, some people were nice about it (“The competition was REALLY tough this year” … “We’ll call you if anything changes”) but when it came down to it, they were all saying no.  It was like a big slap in the face.  This whole real world thing really sucked. 
Life is just so hard when you're tenderhearted and full of dreams...
Then my boyfriend broke up with me.

And what followed was – I’m not exaggerating here – possibly the worst week of my life.  Having just been dumped, I went to London for an intensive week of auditions.  The first audition went badly, and I lost some confidence, which made the next audition go worse, which made me lose more confidence, and so on and so on.  It was a horrible downward spiral of insecurity and terror.  Again, not exaggerating.  You know when you sweep the floor, and you get this ugly little ball of hair and dust and gunk, and you flush it down the toilet?  Well that was kind of what this looked like.

-She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time
-The eel doesn't get her. I'm explaining to you because you look nervous
I was pretty much crushed to a pulp at this point, and I was ready to pack up and go home and vow never to sing again, when I got a phone-call that changed my life.

No, it wasn’t a singing job, and it wasn’t my boyfriend asking me to take him back.  Come on people, this is not a fairytale or a romantic comedy, it’s my life!

But it was the next best thing that could have happened to me at this point.  It was an offer for a job in arts administration.

It’s a sign, I thought!  I was never meant to be a singer, I was meant to have a career in arts administration!  This is my destiny calling!  So, after going home for Christmas and spending a couple of weeks crying into my pillow about the breakup (it had to be done) I started my new job with new-found hope for the future.

Me on my first day of work.
At first I loved it.  After all, arts administration is a challenging, rewarding, and often exciting field to work in.  Unlike all the hours I spent in the practice room, the hours I spent in the office had real, tangible results.  And for once it was actually a GOOD thing to be a detail-oriented perfectionist (trust me, this is not a good thing when you’re a singer – if anything it’s a handicap).

But after a while, a funny thing happened.  I started to get singing work.  Nothing earth-shattering of course, but the work started to pick up, and I began to make a modest name in the concert circuit.  And I started to remember how much I loved singing.

Then another funny thing happened.  I started to get restless.

See, everyone tells you that you should chase your dreams.  What they don’t tell you is that sometimes, when you ignore them, your dreams start to chase you.  I liked my job, and some days I even loved it, but it was not what I had been dreaming of ever since I was a little girl.  And I could only spend so long denying what I really wanted to do.  Over the next few months I gradually transitioned from being an arts administrator who did some singing on the side, to being a singer who worked in arts administration to pay the bills.

I wanted mooooooore....

I decided that I had to give this singing lark another go.  I would really go for it this time – practise super-hard and audition for as many things as possible – and if after all that I still hadn’t got anywhere, well then I would be able to give up properly, because I would know that I had really tried my best and it just wasn’t meant to be.
I worked very hard over the next few months.  I practised on my lunch hours and on weekends, and scheduled coachings and rehearsals after work.  I had another unsuccessful audition, but this time I reacted differently.  So what, I thought.  So a couple of guys happen not to like my singing?  Someone else will.  Somewhere out there, I am what they’re looking for.  I went for more auditions, this time in Europe.  These auditions had some more encouraging results.  For one opera course I made it through to the second round with 12 other singers, but wasn’t offered one of the 5 available places.  For another course I was put on the reserve list.

So I had a choice at this point.  I could give up, or I could decide this meant I was getting closer and try again.
Actually, to be perfectly honest, I did neither.  I moped.  I despaired and cried, and told anyone who would listen about how Life Is Just Not Fair.  But somewhere amidst the haze of my self-pity I started formulating a plan B.  I would go to Germany.  I would stay with my relatives in Berlin and do more auditions.  I would apply for jobs with professional choirs, and find a teacher, and just keep trying.

And just as I started to look at job advertisements in Das Orchester, I got another life-changing phone-call.  Remember that reserve list?  Well, a place had opened up in the course.

So here I am now, about to move to Belgium to join an opera studio in Ghent.  And you know what?  I’m really glad things have happened this way.  I wouldn’t trade in a single moment of all that agonising and self-doubt.  Because in the end, it convinced me exactly how much I want this.  There were a lot of times when I almost gave up, and there will probably be a lot more times like that – but the important thing is that I didn’t.  And I won’t.  Because some dreams can’t be ignored.  Some dreams need to be chased all the way.

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