I’ve been entirely remiss in posting here about the opportunity that had me so excited and apprehensive all at once. For a while I didn’t even want to allow myself to be excited because I didn’t truly know what to expect, and the past few years have led me to protect myself in some ways while flinging myself headfirst off the cliff in others.
I also didn’t necessarily want to post after a single adrenaline-fueled week in which I was sure I’d found a new place to belong. It was instantaneous; my first epiphany was that I needed to throw myself at the dance portion of the program that I’d initially planned to sit out; a move that, upon beginning my third week, I don’t have cause to regret. Twelve hours of dance per week will make anyone stronger. I never knew my body was capable of dancing every day from 1.5-3 hours. Now I do.
My second epiphany came when I didn’t feel even the smallest flicker of nerves while performing for several different groups of strangers. Those nerves haven’t resurfaced, even singing songs that weren’t as prepared as I was accustomed to — songs that were still works in progress. I don’t know why my nerves went away so suddenly, as though they’d never been. Why, after three years of studying music and a lifetime of being terrified of my own voice, the nerves went away now. All I know is that I can barely even remember how they felt or what I was ever nervous about.
My first week was truly, truly amazing. I can’t remember a time in the past few years that I’ve been happier, but I do tend to get enchanted by new environments. Now, three full weeks in, my initial flurry of excitement has died down, but my appreciation hasn’t. I won’t say I haven’t felt minor annoyances, and I definitely won’t say that my body isn’t questioning my judgment when it comes to the dance classes. I won’t claim that I’ve felt confident every second, surrounded by people who are, for the most part, a lot younger, thinner, and more highly trained, if not more innately talented, than me. But for the first time in a long time I’ve felt like I can do this.
I just wish I knew what “this” is, for me.
What I love: immersing myself in the material. Working with people who are willing to throw themselves completely into this training, to leave all the bullshit outside the room and do the work. People who are willing to give and receive constructive criticism. The idea that this can be a career, that it’s not impossible, that I’m good enough to pursue it seriously even if I’m not exactly where I want to be yet.
What I don’t love: the idea of “selling” yourself. Being asked “what are you selling?” when I’m performing a song. Trying to find pieces that fit my “type” and being told that straying from type will get you rejected. Why? Why isn’t the story I am telling with a song more important than who sang it before me, or its context inside a show that I’m not auditioning for? I don’t understand that. I don’t understand why casting directors want to be spoon-fed material. I understand that it’s a business, but this is the one that keeps stopping me.
I’m not a type. I mean that both literally and in principle: I’m difficult to type, physically and vocally. I’m working on improving myself in both of those areas, but all this type business does is make me feel the same way everything else in my life does: adrift and constantly seeking answers that aren’t forthcoming. What type am I? I’ve been trying to figure that out for my whole life. I don’t want to stand up and let a roomful of people tell me who they think I am: that kind of thing has only ever been useful for making me decide what I’m not. I’ve always been better at defining myself in opposition.
It’s a small cloud over the rest of the experience, which has been amazing in so many ways. I’m just physically exhausted and hitting that point where I need a recharge. I need to talk to one of my Voices of Reason, most of which I fear are just people who provide a confirmation bias: I seek out those with similar opinions so they can affirm the decision I was going to make, anyway. I think my own choices are terrible until someone else tells me they’re brilliant. And that’s bullshit, too: sometimes I think my own choices are brilliant, and think 90% of people are too stupid to notice.
I’m in a mood tonight, readers. I’m happy. I’m tired. I’m cranky. I’m not looking forward to Monday’s ballet class. I’m not looking forward to the program ending. I am looking forward to working my scene tomorrow evening. I am looking forward to immersing myself more fully in this literature for the rest of the summer, even after the program ends. I don’t know what I am. I just know I have to keep going.