I am currently sitting in the Hamburg airport, waiting for my flight to Zurich, so I can catch my flight to Munich tomorrow to continue my audition tour. I am in the midst of three major career Firsts:
1. My first European audition tour.
2. My first non-young artist opera role as Jenufa.
3. My first international job singing said role in London.
I’ve spent the past two months preparing for my role in Jenufa at English National Opera, booking flights and hotels throughout Zurich, Hamburg, Munich, and Geneva, brushing up on my audition arias, figuring out an international phone plan, attempting to pack as light as possible for 2 1/2 months in Europe, and singing gigs around the Chicago area. It’s been a whirlwind of preparation and, essentially, limbo. In the midst of the chaos of planning and preparing, I discovered a wonderful and difficult aspect of my personality. I am extremely present focused. I am constantly living and experiencing the moment, which is one reason I tend to not live in a state of high anxiety or angst. I don’t dwell on the past and I don’t fret over the future. I am here. This is one reason I never procrastinate. If there is something particularly important in the future, my way of dealing with the possible anxiety it might cause is to bring the thing into the present. If I deal with it now, I can just take care of it. It’s one reason I almost always had my school papers done days or sometimes weeks in advance.
This trait has generally been a blessing in my life. It keeps me from living in angst, allows me to be prepared or over-prepared for my singing gigs, and is probably also why I arrive obsessively early for everything. However, preparing for this massive life change from being a young artist to a working singer has revealed a struggle with this little trait.
What do I do when I HAVE to wait and can only prepare so much?
The last week before I left for Europe was overwhelming and incredibly stress inducing. I had my planning planned out and whenever something didn’t go as planned, I flipped out. My switch to a phone company with a good international plan was suppose to be a smooth transition the Monday before my Friday flight. I had checked weeks earlier and assumed it would be an easy check off of my to-do list. It was not. Turns out my number couldn’t transfer to this particular company. I didn’t want to lose my number of 15 years, and after 2 hours in the store, decided to go with a portable wifi device. That night, around 10pm, I happened to read a review of the device which read “WARNING: DOES NOT WORK INTERNATIONALLY”. I had a mini panic attack at the thought of showing up in Europe with no cell service or google maps. I then was up for the next 3 hours googling solutions and emailing my friends in London.
The next day, I went back to the phone store and we figured out a fairly simple solution and after two more hours of setting up the solution, I left with my phone plan. It was a fairly simple fix, but since the solution came much after I wanted it to, I had lived in panic for half a day.
Before boarding my first plane to Zurich, fairly jet-lagged, I obsessively planned my train routes and took screen shots, in case I lose service. I find myself dealing with some anxiety as I do this, since all I can do is plan. As soon as I’m off the plane, DOING the traveling, I am fine. It seems so ridiculous. I am a fully capable adult, with decent enough German and in cities where they all speak English. But I also experienced this kind of anxiety about traveling to NYC the first number of times.
The irony in all of this is that the thing that SHOULD be stressful, the actual auditions, are the place where I feel the most relaxed. I feel prepared, know myself and my voice, and LOVE getting the chance to sing some of my favorite pieces on these beautiful German and Swiss stages. I guess I can still be grateful for this, even if it does baffle me that I’m not nervous at all.
I think the other thing this pre-traveling anxiety boils down to is my dislike of the idea of “Adventure.” I have NO interest in getting outside of my comfort zone and routine to explore or do something exciting…. Especially alone. If I have a companion or know the place, I’m all for it. But I would never choose to go on an adventure.
This realization, during my stressful weeks of preparation, scared me a bit. That IS my career. I will spend my life traveling to new (and old) places alone, figuring out how to get around, and getting out to see the sites. I can’t get around this. I was terrified that this trip would teach me that I will HATE the career/life path I’m on. That I would lock myself in the hotel room of whatever city I had traveled to and stay where it was safe and familiar.
This is not what is happening. I should NOT have assumed anything about myself during those weeks of preparing for 3 GIANT firsts in my life (one huge change/event is bound to bring a good amount of anxiety, much less THREE). As soon as I stepped off the plane in Zurich, I just slowly started figuring out where to go, I used my favorite German phrase: “Sprechen Sie English,” and I allowed myself to look like an idiot when I did something wrong or misunderstood. Once the adventure was in the present, I was fine and actually found joy in my surroundings and the experience. I love the German and Swiss people and the Counties are stunning. I’ve developed a deep desire to REALLY learn German; I find myself jealous of every person around me who is fluent.
I’ve had a feeling that this next career step was going to reveal a lot about myself and I’m already finding that to be true, even though I haven’t even started up the job in London yet. I can now be aware that, when anxiety hits in my travel preparation, my fear of not currently having control is to blame. I am learning that I will, not only, be okay, but will learn, adapt, enjoy, and thrive.
I know this blog has been silent for quite a while, but I hope to revive it. I will have lots to report, process, learn, and express over the next couple of months. I beg your forgiveness for ramblings… Hopefully some of it will come out cohesive and interesting.