I have been studying opera for more than 50% of the time I have been alive. Granny always said I could sing before I could talk (yes, just like the ABBA song) and I still have the "ABC" pillow she used to show for proof of my genius. I can't remember a time when singing was not a part of my life in some fashion. I grew up in a less than culturally dense town, and hadn't even attended my first opera until I was 18. Due to a relatively quirky and sheltered childhood, I really am a textbook "late bloomer" in a lot of ways and I have learned many things the hard - or more affectionately known as - dumb way. With that in consideration, it has taken me longer to find a sense of direction in this business. I have some friends in the opera world that continue to encourage, support and give me advice. They believe in the beauty of my instrument, the resilience of my persona and the tenacity I bring to the obstacles I face. There are others (some friends even) I've come across who feel the contrary and I admit that not having their approval really bothered me for quite some time. Perhaps, I was just allowing them to feed my own fear of failure until all of a sudden my goals became too large to digest. Due to a fairly sensitive skin, I had developed some serious complexes about my singing and faith in my own abilities. Mostly these were all lies told to me by a subconscious low self-esteem, which lately appears to be growing a pair and is trying to take over the helm of the ship. I suppose "knowing is half the battle," right G.I. Jane? The point being that there have been few things in my life where I have felt able to stand in full confidence.
Until recently I had never considered anything other than what I've been doing for the last however many years, but at my tender age I've started opening up to the possibilities. Writing is always something I have done to take the pressure off the head. I was telling a friend of mine how I went through a terrible wanna-be-Emily-Dickinson-poet phase in my journals as a young girl (aww, so cute...maybe I'll find one and post it). I used to write every term paper the night before with very little editing and a ton of joy. I write when I feel inspired by the moment, when something funny comes to mind and I want to remember it, or to cure the evils of uber-deep thinking. I almost always use my first draft even though I'm a total freak about spelling, grammar and punctuation which causes me to re-read everything until my eyes bleed (obviously run-on sentences don't keep me up at night and I love the use of parenthesis). I am more terrified of a poorly edited document than to the likability of its content. The faith I have in this ability completely juxtaposes how I feel about everything else in my life. Maybe because I've never really tried to make a career out of it (other than a couple of fluke columns in the New York Press) or maybe because it allows me to hide out in my pajamas with a cold cup of coffee that I'm too lazy to reheat on the stove (no microwave in Paris). What it really has given me lately is another form of expressing myself that seems to take the pressure off the singing. I had to do something before I set up camp inside The Bell Jar. The permission to fail at something I've worked toward for what seems a lifetime, is a totally fun feeling. I once had a judge say to me, "you will be free when you stop caring about it so much." Damn, I hate it when old people are right.
And now, to show you why I gave up poetry at 16 (Julia, this is for you):
By Emily Dickinson-wan. A. B. and her lover,
E. E. Cummins'
To hear softness of Breath
In rhythmic patterns.
Know the sound
Feeling; flow through my Body.
Life brings all cause
For trouble in humanity.
Take part in generosity
Let me drink truth and knowledge.
More is never enough!*