I’m going to break the unwritten rule of the internet in this post. You know, the rule that says we only admit to and promote the aspects of our lives that make it seem like we’re living in a Coca Cola ad. The rule that has us spending a ridiculous amount of time adjusting light sources, doing hair and make-up, taking twenty three different versions of the same photo, adding filters and cropping out anything remotely unflattering, then claiming #Iwokeuplikethis.
If you’re looking to buy into the idea of a flawless, rainbow coloured existence where living overseas is a dream filled with magical sparkles and prancing unicorns, quit reading now because this post is not for you.
The last few months have been hard. Really hard.
The break-up with Tiger seems to have sparked a much larger crisis, beyond the usual scope of hurt, rejection and disappointment that comes with the end of any relationship. I find myself questioning my dedication to singing and music, and lack the motivation and curiosity that usually drives my study and practice. I wonder if it’s worth the stress and difficulty of trying to create a sustainable career in this industry. I wonder whether I enjoy it enough to want to.
These questions make me feel so guilty. If I give up on this passion now, how ungrateful am I being for all the sacrifices my family has made for me to be here studying in The Hague? Will I have wasted all their support, emotional and financial? Will I have wasted six years of my life on a musical education I won’t use? And if I quit, what else will I do? What else can I do?
At the same time that I am asking myself these questions, I know what the answer is. I know that I want to continue with this. I know I want to keep singing. But as my psychologist points out, the arts force you to confront yourself. As a musician, and particularly as a singer, you are the subject. Even while you explore the music, the style, the language, the character, you are studying yourself. And while this can be incredibly rewarding and interesting, it also runs the risk of being challenging and distressing. Going into this discipline is like asking for trouble. How do you close the textbook and give yourself a break when you are the textbook?
Somewhere along the line, I decided that honest interactions unburdened by expectations were too scary and too difficult, and that embracing the vulnerability of admitting to myself and to others what I wanted from them was too much of a risk. I have become extremely good at turning myself into an object, at guessing what people value from me and in turn trying to ensure that I give them what they want. Which keeps me from expressing my own desires and needs, and indeed keeps me sometimes from admitting them to myself. If you never want anything, you can never be disappointed, right?
While this of course has rather significant implications for my personal relationships, it also has huge consequences for my performing. I try to do everything that every teacher wants from me. But that blocks me from achieving the one thing they truly want for me, and that I want for myself: to stop being a student and start becoming an artist. I also turn the audience into an object, thinking “I have to make them enjoy this” or “I have to prove how impressive my voice can be”. Which goes completely against the reason I decided to become a singer in the first place: to be able to communicate and express what I felt unable to say in normal life.
Facing these issues has prompted a change in my performing. Last night, I sang my first ever Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen. It is a difficult piece, it had been a challenging week of rehearsals due to illness, yet I gave a performance I am proud of. I was able to go out into the church knowing I wanted to connect with the audience, knowing I wanted to communicate with everyone there, but also sure that my priority was to sing the music in a way I felt was true and enjoyable to me. I was able to trust that if the people in the audience wanted to join me in the experience, they would, and accept the vulnerability that my performance of the piece might not be one they connected with.
I enjoyed the singing, and I enjoyed the approach to performing. Yet I went home afterward and cried as if my heart would break. Having a moment of openness that I actually enjoyed made coming back to a reality where I feel so lonely and desolate so difficult. I have never admitted to myself how much I value the idea of having someone who cares about me and who I care about in return. And admitting that desire also requires acknowledging the fact that that desire has not yet been fulfilled in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had incredible support from family and friends, both here and back home, that I am incredibly grateful for. I know I am in many regards lucky to have so many friends that unconditionally offer their support and care over a drawn out period of time. Yet somehow negative factors have a much stronger pull on my mind and focus than positive ones do. It would be logical to think that the staunch care and concern about my wellbeing from many people around me would counteract the feelings of rejection, loneliness and doubts of value and self-worth that come after a break-up, but somehow they don’t. You would think that the presence of so many wonderful friends would overcome the disappointment that stems from seeing one friend so caught up in her own happiness that she has ceased to care about or even be aware of other friends, even the ones that need her. But it doesn’t. Rather, the two frames of mind coexist in a charmingly contradictive reality. I have often felt in the last few months that my life is an exercise in doublethink.
If I had to take one of those Buzzfeed quizzes which matches your personality to a drink, I’m pretty sure the current result would be Molotov cocktail. Volatile, with fragile stability.
Merry Christmas peeps.