The other day, during the daily ritual of pointless procrastination on Facebook, I came across this posted on a now-forgotten someone’s page:
Amongst all the “inspirational” quotes, clickbait headlines and 50s memes that are plastered all over Facebook, this struck a chord, precisely because I’d been having a conversation earlier with The Guru about how my new life goal was to become a functional adult.
There are some people that manage to come out of the most awkward situation unscathed. They are the blessed few that possess such high degrees of charm, self-assurance and charisma that they always leave a good impression behind.
Then there are others. Like me.
Two days a week, I have to wake up at stupid o’clock and clean an office building before the staff arrive at 8am. Usually a couple of over-enthusiastic ladies arrive around 7 or 7.30, but they tend to wear hiking boots with their office clothes, so I usually have no qualms about going to work in my gym clothes with bed hair and bleary eyes.
So, the other day I was discussing exam results with a friend, and we were remarking upon a common but confusing occurrence, whereby the jury says:
We feel you’ve made a lot of progress this year. We hear many different things happening in your music making now, and we feel that you have really developed yourself as a musician and performer. With this in mind, we have decided to award you exactly the same mark we gave you last year.
It can be somewhat disheartening to us poor, downtrodden music students to be given the same result year after year, especially when that is somehow supposed to reflect the improvement and development that we have (hopefully) achieved.
This is when my friend and I came to a very simple, but life-changing realisation.
As previously mentioned, the Early Music singers had their exams here a few weeks ago, yours truly included. After such a turbulent year, my end of year recital was always going to feel different from what I had come to expect from performing. There are many perspectives I could muse upon, including the discrepancy between how a performer and the audience experience the same performance.
But there’s one thing that keeps coming up and every time I think of it, it irks me. It’s not even the usual over-analysis of my own performance and disappointment from that note that was out of tune, or that dynamic effect that didn’t quite work. Rather, it’s one of the comments from the examination committee.
In less than a week, the Early Music singers at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague head onstage and expose their musical and artistic souls for the judgement and criticism of a panel of examiners.
In the interests of full disclosure, I am writing this blog post instead of writing my program notes.
It is a well known fact that even if one has just sung a universally acclaimed solo recital in Carnegie Hall, the prospect of singing an exam in school will reduce you to a nervous, stressed-out mess. And not the hot kind of mess.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have not just sung a universally acclaimed solo recital at Carnegie Hall. Neither am I a hot mess.
For about a year now, I’ve had the creepy feeling that I’m being followed. Out of the corner of my eye, in the most unexpected places, I see the same face.
At first, it only happened in very public places, and was easy enough to dismiss it as coincidence. After all, when you have a lifestyle that is condensed in a very small geographical space, it’s not that strange to see the same person at the supermarket and at the gym. After a while, you just accept this person as a normal part of the background of everyday life.
But then I started noticing that they had infiltrated my computer. Every now and then, on incredibly diverse websites, that same face, disguised in a thousand different ways, would be brashly staring back at me.
At the age of sixteen, my best friend and I made an almost daily pilgrimage on foot from school to our dance classes on the other side of town. She was far more diligent and organised than I, and so duly got her licence long before me. Nonetheless, I was able to share in the luxurious upgrade of the transport method.
One particularly memorable afternoon, we were waiting at a traffic light and my friend regaled me with the story of how, when still learning to drive a manual, she couldn’t quite manage the coordination one night and ended up bunny hopping through the drive-through video return. As she was enthusiastically giving an impression of the car, the light turned green, she panicked and we ended up bunny hopping halfway up the following block, squealing with equal parts laughter and shame.
The first month back in The Hague felt about as smooth as that car trip.