“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Muslin Uddin Sadi
Well, it has been about three months since singing in Germany and St. Maarten. I guess it’s time to leave New York again.
After starting 2013 with a period of intense self-doubt and an undeniable need for change, I feel like I’ve finally found some steady ground in New York. Naturally, that meant it was time to leave again. After months of running into walls with my job, relationships, and singing, I finally had a sense of direction in my life. I started a new day job after seven years, started teaching voice on the side, cauterized some personal wounds, started forming a new and hopefully thicker skin, and made some big changes in the way I sing and the way I view my path and goals as a singer. With all of the newness, I was thrilled to venture to a new and far away place, especially since it was for someone very familiar and close to my heart.
Yesterday, a dear friend of mine got married. If you don’t know me, I am OBSESSED with weddings; I had only been to one until yesterday, and while the one was amazing, it was far from a “typical” ceremony. I wanted to know what is was like to see the bride with the veil walk down the aisle with bridesmaids and a string quartet and all of the things in romantic comedies. The leading man was to be played by a best supporting actor in my life, one of the members of my New York family. He was not only starting a new life, but starting it in a new place, London. I was honored to sing at the wedding, to close the ceremony on a high note.
Leo proposed last October; the wedding was almost exactly six months later. I had been ecstatic about the event ever since he told me was ring shopping, but once I started preparing the piece he had chosen for me, I became very overwhelmed, almost to the point of dreading it. I knew I was grappling with some insecurity about my singing, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to give the performance this extraordinary couple deserved. I was worried everyone would be able to tell that the song was not easy for me and it would look and sound like a struggle Old memories of messing up on high notes back in school flooded my mind, along with the intense feeling of shame associated with performances that did not reflect my passion and dedication. I decided to add extra pressure by convincing myself the five minutes of singing needed to express how much I treasure Leo and his fiancée and that they would remember this day, this performance, for the rest of their lives. I was more nervous for this event than any audition in recent memory.
Being in a foreign country was a pleasant distraction. Whenever I travel to a new place, I feel like I get to start over and be the person I want to be. I smile at everyone, I act without judgment, and I even feel a respite from my issues with appearance and dysmorphia. Sometimes, it leads to me thinking this new person has a new metabolism (oooh, so much great food), but usually, it leads to a life of adventure, openness, and curiosity. Is it a “yes, and” approach to the suggestions of a new environment or is it playing a new character all together?
I think I’m a more desirable person when I’m in a new place. “Vacation Laura” always has more luck with men. Perhaps they are interested in me because I am new and different (never underestimate the power of fresh meat) or because I am a more enjoyable and attractive person when I am journeying with limited baggage. I was shocked when a man at the airport flirted with me and bought me dinner while we waited for our respective flights. I was surprised because I was not wearing any make-up, my hair was in a ponytail, and I was wearing an old T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. These weren’t the “Man-getting” clothes I’ve read about in women’s magazines. These were my “Weekend marathon of Ru Paul’s Drag Race and doing laundry” clothes. But I was enough with them. I was enough without cover-up on my face, so I didn’t apply to any in my personality, either. I felt amazing after we parted company, not only because I liked meeting this guy (who I will never see again), but also because I liked who I was. I lived like I was in an improv scene, rather than an audition. I didn’t prepare anything, I listened and answered with honesty (and a touch of sassy humor), and I didn’t feel there was any possibility of mistakes, only new opportunities. I couldn’t miss any notes because there was no score, I couldn’t get lost because there was no conductor to tell me where to go.
So, how did it all work out when I finally put on the make-up and did the hair, wore the jewel-toned dress, and gave a prepared performance? Well, the hot airport man ended up flying to London and showing up at the wedding, because he couldn’t bear losing me. No wait, that’s the wedding scene in the romantic comedy version of this story. In reality, I can’t tell you how I sounded. I wasn’t listening. I was so caught up in the emotion and pouring out love with my two little vocal folds, that I didn’t distract myself with inner voices or monitoring the product. My body felt exquisite. It felt a warm, vibrating, and joyous energy, and energy that lasted until the last dance of the wedding at 2:00 am. I’m sure someone could find fault, perhaps my vibrato was fast, maybe my breath wasn’t low enough, and I don’t care. I celebrated love, I gave love, and I felt it. I felt love, actually.
I am bringing this incredible memory and experience with me back to New York, along with all of my other trinkets, souvenirs, and fancy teas. I also packed away a new optimism about love. I have often worried it may never happen for me in a romantic way, but to give and receive love in any form, like yesterday, makes me believe it is possible for me to experience other forms of love in my life. More importantly, it makes me love life.
And it makes me want to re-watch the London episodes of Friends.