It's been a crazy few weeks.
With my graduate program starting in exactly seven days, and my gaggle of siblings starting their own academic programs, I've barely had time to breathe between practicing, studying for placement exams, and generally trying to be everything for everyone while managing my own life.
Sometimes, it really feels like there is just no room left in my life for me. Opera is a wildly demanding career, and it's all too easy to overextend yourself. Truly, I am only a fierce advocate for self-care and balance and naps because I struggle so much with all three. Since I touched down in Chicago, I have barely had a second to breathe. It feels like you're pushing yourself to sprint to the finish line, and then someone moves the damn thing.
Last night, I had one precious moment to myself. One solitary meal, cooking on my ancient stove in my tiny studio, blissfully and deliciously alone. I was singing quietly with Ella Fitgerald, and it occurred to me how lucky we are to live this life.
If you're like me, singing is your safe space. Through every heartbreak, every hardship, and every moment of paralyzing fear, you have turned to this thing. When I was little, I used to sing whenever I went into my parent's garage alone. It was always too dark and too scary and too big, but somehow if I was singing, it didn't feel so bad. It's the one thing I turn to when I have nothing left, you know? It's the one outlet of expression I can use to convey the depth of what I feel, of what always seems to be lurking beneath the surface.
To decide to make a career out of that is literally insane. I mean really, it's no wonder singers and creatives are so "emotional." It's no wonder we burn out so quickly. Opera is all-consuming. At times, opera is your best friend, your enemy, your significant other, and your teacher.
And yet, I feel extraordinarily lucky to be able to do this every day. I think being a singer, loving this art form, has truly made me a better person. Through all of the sacrifice, all of the long hours, all of the missed connections and canceled dates, I have learned so much more about myself than I ever thought I could.
A very wise and much-loved friend once told me that singing is essentially the practice of being vulnerable. The muscle training, the language building and acting skills almost always fall by the wayside when your nerves kick in. We are truly out here every day staring fear in the face, and that is no small thing.
So, I don't have a whole lot to say this week, but I just wanted to let you all know that even if your life has been insane lately, I am insanely proud of you. Truly. Getting up every day and facing that fear, facing the crazy, facing the (occasional) full sprint to the finish line is something you should all be so proud of. Or, if it's not pride you want to cultivate, I want you to know that I am grateful for all of you. To know that I am part of a community of people that are out there in the industry, putting in the work and enjoying the art is more than I could dream of, and I feel so lucky. I am lucky and in love with my work and this art, and my greatest wish is that you are, too.
Tell me what you're grateful for in the comments below. I want to read all of it, even the messy stuff (or not, whichever. No pressure).
- Camden McLean