Great Expectations

“I expect great things from you” is a statement I hear with equal parts joy and trepidation. This is something I’ve heard all my life and continue to hear, both in my teaching, my performing, and my life. While that is a blessing, it comes with its own set of difficulties. They say with great power comes great responsibility, but I’ll venture to take that one degree further and add that with great expectation comes great pressure, guilt, and hardship. 

Today is a holiday for many. The freeways and beaches are packed with families and friends celebrating a day of freedom. Those who have days jobs which they can leave at the office are enjoying a short work week and a long weekend. I, on the other hand, am spending this day tainted with guilt for not studying the hours of music I need to have memorized in the next month. I want to practice. I wanted to spend the day studying, but last week’s laryngitis is still wrecking havoc with my vocal cords and my body is asking for rest while my mind throws a temper tantrum in protest. “How can you rest when you haven’t had a successful practice session in almost 2 months?” my mind asks. “Because I am still working on healing from the myriad of ailments these past months have brought. I’m trying to make you better” my body answers. “But NOOOOOOO you must be better by now. You’ve slept so much. You’ve rested. You haven’t sung. Just get over it already and get back to work” my mind argues. Then my body drops down on the couch, releasing a dejected sigh, as my mind continues its angry diatribe of guilt, fear, and anxiety. 

My mind reeling from the simple act of not practicing today,sometimes I wonder if life would be simpler if I stopped challenging myself as a performing singer. I could drink caffeine and alcohol without paying for it vocally the next day. I could recover from an illness without the dread and stress of getting my voice back to full health in a hurry. I could focus my attention more fully on my teaching career. I wouldn’t have to cram practice time into my already packed daily schedule. I could enjoy weekends for rest rather than using them to catch up on my own vocal work. I wouldn’t have to drive 8 hours in a day to take voice lessons in Los Angeles, and I would be able to take a real vacation rather than saving all of my vacation time for training programs. 

But then once my mind has had a chance to create this list, a tiny voice whispers, “but then what would be left to strive for?” Yes, my vocal aspirations  bring the bulk of my stress, guilt, and fear, but it also brings me the greatest level of fullfillment and joy. I learn who I am through my vocal practice. I find my strength and beauty each time I sing. I am who I am because I strive for that perfection, because I expect great things of myself. If I stopped singing, I would lose the very heart of my being and my reason for pushing myself and progressing mentally, spiritually, and phyisically. Sure, it would be easier to give up. But that’s not what the world expects of me and it’s certainly not what I expect of myself.

So, today, I’ll give myself this day to heal and recharge, knowing full well that once I return to vocal health, I’ll have the drive and strength to be prepared for next month’s Napa Music Festival. Until then, I’ll try to keep my expectations to a minimum and just heal. Not all expectations have to be great. 

#MayIBeginYoga2015 challenge day 25 : crescent lunge. Studying, memorizing, and singing music is such a meditative practice. I find myself lost in my score for hours on end as I absorb every nuance and detail of the poetic texts and melodic lines. Sometimes I need a little yoga break after a particularly long practice session, but I still can’t pull myself out of my score.  

 

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