Hi, everyone! How y'all doin'?
August has always been such a weird month for me. I become increasingly aware of my upcoming auditions and productions while celebrating the birthdays of some of my favorite people (I see you, Leos). It creates a funky kind of juxtaposition that begets an opportunity to check in with myself (if I remember to).
This season, with a cross country move and the beginning of my graduate studies, I want to make sure that no matter what happens in the unpredictable future, I am moving through life in a way that feels good. Like, really good. Not like midnight pizza or Netflix binge kind of good (although let's be real there's a time and place for it). The kind of good that happens right after you nail an audition or unlock a new part of your technique. The kind that's sustainable.
In service of this, I've come up with a list of ten questions that I've found helpful when I'm Really Going Through It. It's also a helpful list to run through if you're starting a new audition season, or feel generally out of sorts. Check it out below and let me know what you think!
1. How am I, really?
It's okay if the answer here is in the bad/abysmal range. If life sucks right now, let it suck! I'm serious! Resisting your feelings will only make them worse.
2. What have I been trying to numb out?
When you reach for your phone, your comfort Netflix show, or that snack that makes you feel some type of way, what thought are you trying to forget? What nagging sensation just won't let you go?
3. What do I do when I'm emotionally uncomfortable?
This is a fantastic question for those of us who want to get more in touch with our feelings. If you can recognize the actions you take when you're stressed, nervous, etc., you can become aware of those feelings and work towards more neutral ground. It's okay to be emotionally uncomfortable, but remember that it's not necessarily an indication that something has gone wrong in your life.
4. What activities have I been drawn towards in the last six weeks?
As human beings, we tend to gravitate towards things we think will bring us pleasure. If in this season of your life you've found yourself truly enjoying your work, then by all means lean in. The same goes for play, rest, creativity, or anything else that brings you fulfillment. I've found that leaning into your natural instincts will almost always help you be more productive.
5. What does my body need right now?
Similar to the question above, but different. As singers, we're trained to become acutely aware of our bodies. We can use this skill to our advantage to take better care of our instruments. Make sure you're feeding, watering, and exercising yourself. Remember; you are basically a tall child.
6. What worked great for me last season?
What experience did you truly enjoy? What thought processes brought you peace? Were you wicked organized in your last audition cycle, or was there room for you to plan a bit better? Knowing what brought you genuine fulfillment is a great baseline to continue that process in the future.
7. What hasn't been working for me lately?
Did you try to break in a pair of heels the day of an audition? Maybe have too much coffee right before that one killer aria? Figure out what doesn't work for you and your instrument, so that you can figure out what will.
8. What are my silly little tasks this season? Is there a way to reframe them in my mind?
If you're like me, you hate doing anything you think you could possibly (maybe, sort of) be bad at. This includes silly little tasks that you might not be so great at, but are in fact part of being a singer (this includes translating, doing your IPA work, or training your body for a new role). However, I've found that if you reframe these tasks not as impossible goals, but as an opportunity to learn one (1) new thing, it's a lot easier to get out of my head and do the thing.
9. What are my goals for this upcoming Fall season?
Be specific here, and don't be afraid to really dig in. If you can set a quantifiable goal for yourself, it's much easier to break it down. Ask yourself what a good season looks like to you and what you want to have accomplished after the fall season ends. For me, "learn this role" is not specific enough, but "spend one hour a day learning this role" helps me work towards the goal without being focused on the end result. Remember to give yourself some grace here, too. You're not going to go from zero to a hundred immediately, and you won't do it perfectly every day. You're a human, not a robot.
10. What can I celebrate going into this new season?
No but really, what are you proud of right now? And "nothing" is not an answer. I'm talking bare minimum, teeny tiny accomplishments. Did you brush your teeth today? Proud of you, bestie. The best part of being a human is that everything you do is astounding. I'm so serious - we live on a floating rock in the middle of a global pandemic. If you can reach the minimum baseline of functioning, I am astoundingly proud of you and you should be, too.
As the season begins to shift, it's easy to feel cautious or like your life is out of your control. We may not know what next season holds for us, but it's extremely helpful to be curious, to lean in and to stay in touch, above all, with how we feel. Happy almost Fall, gang! Let me know what you think in the comments below!
- Camden McLean