Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Embracing the Unknown

As graduation robes flood the city, I have become aware that I am upon commencement season.  I was caught off guard by this annual event, as New Yorkers seemed to have missed the arrival of spring and instead will be thrust from winter to summer with a rainy period to mark some semblance of a season in between. Apparently, school’s out for summer, which means for me, “school’s” almost in.  I will be a young artist at the Castleton Festival starting in just over two weeks, running through June and July.  I will be away from my day job for two months, studying and singing, and I have reached the point where I am beyond terrified of the unknown that lies ahead.  I have the back to school jitters over summer camp.
For as long as I can remember, the first day of school has caused a great deal of anxiety.  My mom would find pleasant distractions the week before, such as a trip to the San Diego Zoo or my personal favorite mother/daughter activity, shopping.  Fortune happened to bless me with a singing gig in Southern California next week so I can have some maternal distraction to calm my nerves, and possibly add to my shoe collection, before I head to Virginia.  Thank you, Universe (and Ann Baltz). But I’ve decided at the age of twenty-seven that I will no longer hide behind my mommy when I worry about an approaching unknown.  Especially when that unknown is an opportunity to which I’ve looked forward ever since I received word of my acceptance back in December. 
It’s amazing how I can turn a wonderful opportunity into something about which to worry.   Perhaps I should dilute my lunacy a bit for my reading audience but I suspect my frequent readers probably have a touch of the crazy, too, if they are still keeping up with me after all of these rants.  I would love to hear back from singers, though, if anyone experiences similar fears.  My go-to, glass-half-empty negative thought is “Ohmygosh, what if I’m the worst one there?” Well, let’s address that.  What if I AM the worst one there?  Well, first of all, I don’t even know what that really means.  We’re not walking in with a rating of 1-10 listed over our heads.  Everyone must have something to offer, and I may just have to challenge myself to bring my unique something to the table.  So, there’s that crazy voice tackled.  Then there’s the question of “What if I can’t learn the roles I’m covering in time?” The answer to that is “I will.” I have to.  Not an option on that one, so quit worrying and plunk out those pitches.  When I rationally tackle such issues, my mind works furiously to find more issues over which to obsess.  I am currently sweating the subject of my weight (pun intended).  After maintaining a sixty pound weight loss for six years, I am starting to worry about relinquishing control of my food, eating habits, and availability of a scale to a cook with an unknown menu and no Weight Watchers center in sight.  A lot can happen in two months.  I find I have to trust my ability to make wise choices and maintain a healthy lifestyle without my dietary crutches, just as I will have to trust my technique without my New York “team” of coaches to keep me in shape vocally.  Then I ask the same question I’ve asked since I was a painfully shy grade-schooler, “What if nobody there likes me?” Well, I just need to shove that fret into the 1992 trapper keeper where it belongs.  Either that, or I’ll resort to sharing the equivalent of a Lunchable with the person sitting next to me.
To combat my overwhelming insecurities, I find myself longing to do a lot of shopping. (Cue Alicia Silverstone in Clueless…as if) In my mind, it is an all-purpose solution.  First of all, it involves physical activity, so it helps me calm my body image and weight issues.  Then, I start to justify that if I have the appropriate outfits for any situation, I won’t seem as off-guard and unaware as I feel.  I also combat my fear of not being able to make friends quickly by asking, “who wouldn’t want to be friends with the girl with the fierce espadrilles?” Really, Laura?!  And if my rationales could not get any crazier, here’s the umbrella statement that calms me like retail lithium: “If I LOOK really good, maybe no one will hear the flaws in my SINGING.” How much time has been wasted on this insanity that could have been spent practicing L’Enfant et les Sortil├Ęges?  How appropriate, since infantile could not be a more perfect word to describe my way of dealing with such insecurities.  Dealing with the credit card bill I will have to face after my retail therapy…that’s another story.
So, now you are all aware of my paralyzing fear of the unknown.  However, I am going to tackle it Saturday with the best shock therapy I know: unbridled musical spontaneity!  I will be joining Ann Baltz and two very gifted performers in Los Angeles in an afternoon of musical improvisation for the Classical Singer Convention.  I’ll still need to plan an outfit (shopping, anyone?), but I am relinquishing control of all of the other elements, and I know I will have a blast.  And when I return to NYC, I’ll tackle the very real beasts of preparing my apartment for the summer sublet, fitting all of my insecurity impulse buys into one suitcase, and nailing those tricky Ravel pitches.  I plan to continue celebrating all of my neuroses and new experiences during my summer, so I hope you will come along with me, blog-ically speaking. 

Greatness is a road leading towards the unknown. -Charles de Gaulle