|"Your career, ma'am - careful, it's piping hot"|
As the years rolled by, I lost some of my high hopes and naïveté. I saw how competitive it was in the music world. I learned that it took most people several years to build a career, and that even the most talented singer might struggle just to make a living. And yet, in my heart of hearts, I still hoped that I would be different. I would be special.
I think that deep down inside, I believed the world was a fair and logical place. If you put in enough work, you reap the rewards - simple. And so as I began my year at the opera studio, I didn't worry too much about the future. I would audition for as many things as possible, and surely at one point someone would give me an obvious answer. Someone would offer me an opportunity, and my future would be all mapped out.
|"Follow me - your career goes that way!"|
It was around springtime this year when I realised that no one was going to offer me any easy answers. I hadn't won a place in any young artist programmes, and no agents or opera companies had signed me on. The future was a big blank. I was all by myself.
My immediate reaction was panic and despair. I couldn't believe that after all my hard work this year, all the progress I had made on my voice and my acting, nobody was going to scoop me up and take care of me. How was I going to make a living? Where was I going to live? What was the next step? How would I know if I was doing the right thing?
|I'm not so good at making decisions.|
I have been thinking about moving to Germany for a long time. And yet I've always been afraid to take the leap. Perhaps because the prospect of a foreign language daunted me. Perhaps because it seemed unoriginal - so many other young singers had done it before me. Or perhaps because I had heard horror stories of singers arriving in Germany full of hopes and dreams, only to leave a few months later with an empty wallet and their tails between their legs.
But I had a few advantages over those singers in the horror stories. First of all, I already knew some German. Secondly - miraculously - one of my auditions this year had actually paid off, and I had some choir work lined up in Stuttgart. It wasn't much, but it would pay the rent, which was a good start.
After ordering a refresher audio course online (I hadn't studied any German since undergrad, which was - *cringe* - almost 10 years ago) I started thinking about where exactly in Germany I would live. Eventually I settled on Cologne.
Why Cologne? It wasn't exactly a scientifically calculated choice. I could have easily decided to move to any German city. But I did consider a few factors in my decision: cost of living, accessibility, and proximity to Stuttgart. Cologne is close to 3 major airports, and is only a few hours away from Stuttgart by train. It's also pretty close to Gent, meaning it would be easy to come back to Belgium for work or visiting friends. Compared to most major German cities, it's not an expensive place to live. And, most helpful of all, I already had a couple of friends living there. In other words, I wouldn't be completely alone when I arrived.
|"Hello?..... Anybody there???"|
And yet, there's something thrilling about this question mark. It's a blank canvas which I have the power to fill however I like. I don't have to follow someone else's path. I can make a new one. I'm my own boss, in control of my own destiny.
I know these next few months will be scary, difficult, confusing, and often lonely. But they are also an opportunity to make my own career, in my own way, tailored to a shape and size that suits me.
|"Yep, this career will fit my voice perfectly."|
I have many friends whose career paths don't fit into the preconceived notion of a budding young opera star. They are successful freelance singers, and so much more. They are educators, directors, administrators, writers, conductors, coaches, and founders of brand new ensembles and opera companies. Are they living the life they envisioned for themselves? No. They are living something far more interesting than they ever could have imagined.
Life after graduation is hard. Whatever our dreams are, however hard we work for them, most of us don't transfer seamlessly into our ideal career. But what we do achieve can be so much more exciting. With creativity, determination, resourcefulness and vision, we forge ahead. We find our own path, and we're often delighted to discover where it leads.
Here I am, foot poised, about to start out on my own path. And I can't wait to find out what comes next.