A young(ish) opera singer's random thoughts and observations.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Shrug, smile and keep going

There are some lucky singers out there who just seem to float through life from successful audition to rave review. I think it's worth appreciating the fact that that is not the case for most of us, and anyone who reads opera periodicals will know that some of today's greatest stars went through periods of serial rejections.

Still, that does not serve as much of a comfort to those just going through the experience. Statistics are not kind to us singers. Many of us will not get to work at the level we dream of, and those rejections are like splashes of cold water in our faces, reminders that perhaps now is the time to reavaluate where we think our place is in the grand scheme of things.

We react in what I'm sure is the least healthy way: by resenting those who made the cut, those who are living our dream, especially that immediate one. We question why these peers of ours are better? We convince ourselves that they aren't, that the system is broken, that they have connections, that they don't deserve what they have, and the world would be a fairer place if it was us there instead of them... Now hang on, even if some of that were true, it's not their fault. And if it was us there, would we want that resentment being directed at us by others? Besides, how do these feelings get us closer to achieving our goals?

They don't, but at the same time they are unavoidable. It's a horrible world we singers live in, because most of us deal with these feelings every couple of weeks. Of course, they aren't always as overpowering as when we fail to get something we were banking our lives on, or at least gearing up to for months. You'd think it would get easier with time, that we'd have so much practice of getting rejected that it'd just wash over us and we could shrug it off. And some people do, or pretend to.

I am not one of them. I don't even think I want to be. I think these lows are what makes the highs in this calling all the more special. And we can get highs at every level of the 'profession', so we should learn to appreciate them, rather than let the feelings of resentment and entitlement convince us that we can't be happy until we achieve great things. B*llocks! If you can't be happy singing where you are now, chances are you never will be. If things don't go your way, all you can do is feel bad, vent, shrug, smile and keep going. We aren't in this to follow a plan and do it the one right way. Sometimes getting lost because of all the big avenues to success are blocked to us means discovering narrower, more obscure paths that are great fun and very rewarding. Who knows, maybe more so than the standard factory-belt that we all somehow want to be on because we think it offers guaranteed results.

So did writing this make me feel better? Not yet, but I just think back to what Barbara Houseman told us in the last Opera Works weekend: what is needed is a healthy dollop of f*ck it. Shrug, smile, and carry on doing what you love.

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