The beginning of the end of my dreamOp-ed
I’ve got a confession to make. I am giving up my dream. This might sound like a tragic and self-pitying start to a post, but bear with me.
Since I was encouraged to pursue classical singing as a 15 year-old, my mind has been set on becoming an opera singer. I was totally convinced that a career in opera was my destiny, after taking part in a performance with both amateurs and professionals on a citadel in Norway, where I sang a whole song out of tune in a medieval costume.
I’d just auditioned for music high school, screaming my way to admission with the song “General William Booth Enters Into Heaven” by Charles Ives, as obnoxiously pretentious as only a radical high school student can (for those who don’t know the piece, neither should a 16 year-old aspiring classical singer).
By high school, I was already intensely serious about my opera ambitions, spending hours listening to every CD and watching every opera video I could find in the library, travelling to London for private lessons with a respected teacher and singing serious arias for my exam. After years of training in Berlin and London I ended up in Oslo, where I finished a masters degree.
I’ve done a countless amount of auditions; most of the auditions have resulted in nothing, some of them in minor roles and concert gigs. I’ve been in touch with a vast amount of agents who never really took me on, and been rejected by most major and mid-sized opera company I’ve ever tried out for. Hence, a lack of fabulous “I’m happy to announce” - statuses on Facebook.
I’ve spent an irretrievable amount of energy and time on feeling scared of failure, manically trying to be accepted in the opera business: get confirmation and approval from teachers, colleagues and friends, do the right thing, lick and unlick the right asses and sing, act, look or behave like they all wanted me to. I’ve spent a fortune getting my mental and vocal health challenged by opera gurus; I’ve been a treatment junkie, desperately searching through my whole body and mind to find that one flaw that could be corrected and pave my path to success.
I never understood what was wrong; I did all the right things. I worked with the right people, I was a go-getter and never let a possibility to move my development and career ahead slip by. My friends and colleagues can vouch for that. Still, I never made the progress or created the results within opera that one should expect from someone using so much time, energy and resources to achieve it.
I’ve been desperately unhappy and often thought of quitting. Yet, every time, a new hype about a singing teacher or a possible audition would show up, and I’d be there to squeeze the last drops out of my limitless span of effort. And my bank account (heavily subsidised by the State of Norway, bless you). When not receiving what I wanted I’d be devastated, feeling like I was robbed of something that I was entitled to.
I was convinced that the hard work, the huge amount of money I’ve spent - the energy and stress related to this career path - should result in a reward. I deserved it, I thought, and the shame of giving up prevented me from doing just that. What if it was the next audition that would save me from failure? The next vocal coach? And if I would give up; what would my colleagues think? And my friends, family, other supportive people in my life? And how could I live with letting my worst critics be right?
This time it is different. Now I’m truly allowing myself to give it up. It is without bitterness or resentment. I am discovering all the of possibilities I still have to be a creative and an artist, and I’ve identified the feeling in my gut that I mistook for fear to be my intuition telling me, “you can let this go now.”
I’m really grateful for allowing myself to give up my dream. I still have dreams and ambitions, even more than before, but I’m letting go of opera as the only way to release my creative skills and potential. I’m taking with me all the fantastic experiences, languages, the appreciation of different art forms, musical enthusiasm, cultures I’ve learnt to know, friends I’ve won, and my professional experience into other fields, focusing on the projects - artistic and other - that give me joy.
I believe there are many out there, both students and professionals in the creative industry who are hanging themselves on the cross of the first manifestation of their dreams, just because that was what they studied or were told to do by someone. That is why I’m writing this. Hope you’ll enjoy it!