All posts by Laura Wilde

The Myth of Perfection: Redefining Success.

I’ve been having lots of conversations recently about what constitutes life success. Within some circles, not finding a husband and raising a family is failing. In others, home-making and not pursuing a lucrative career is failing. Success can be defined by finances, relationships, good achieved, or acquiring a desired image. Each individual has their own definition, which is a great thing, but can also cause judgments of those who don’t share your definition and also an internal struggle when the things going well in your life are not the things that, in your mind, constitute success. The concept itself is massively relative, but universally important.

Personally, I think I’m a little odd. I’ve never been one with concrete life goals. I never dreamed of the details of my wedding day, thought through the number of kids I want to have, pictured the house or location of my dreams, fantasized about “things” I wanted to acquire, or even dreamed of places to visit. Even with finances, my goal is to be comfortable enough with my financial status to allow me to not be worried about paying bills and to be regularly and unconcernedly generous. I don’t need fancy things, just things that function well. And I LOVE saving. Even in my dreams, when I dream about winning large amounts of money, Dream-Laura first gets excited about the amount of money she can then put away in retirement and savings (which is usually 95% of whatever the amount is… like I said… I LOVE saving).

IMG_2784I think my lack of detailed life goals is a combination of the moment I decided to make a conscious effort to limit the amount of “expectation” I place of my life and my natural tendency to be a present-focused person (both topics of entire blog posts in themselves). I take what is given to me and work hard with what I have at that moment in time, while being logically aware that my choices will have positive or negative consequences on the future. I am highly aware that there are very few factors in my life that I have control over, and my tendency is to fight tooth and nail to maintain control in the areas I can and to limit the variables in the others. Take my career: all I can really control is my ability to do my job well and to be proactive about putting myself out there. I can’t make someone like my singing. I can’t make someone hire me over another singer. I can’t pick and choose the houses I sing at. I can’t even fully decide the roles I will get hired for. All I can do, is work with the voice I have, to understand how it functions, and to set myself free to make vocal and dramatic choices that express the character I am playing genuinely. And while I have places I would love to sing and roles I would love to perform, they aren’t the measure of my success.

I’ve been spending alot of time toying with the idea of redefining situational success. While it’s easy for me to let go of life expectations (since I really have very few), I massively struggle with letting go of my expectations for performing. Since, in my brain, the function of my voice is a variable I should be able to control, the idea of not meeting my expectations (which, yes, are basically vocal perfection), is unacceptable to me. When Judgy-Laura is present with me on stage, I CAN’T sing as well as I want, since I then try to micromanage every tone escaping from my mouth. It’s a bit like trying to throw a baseball and stiffly t
rying to manipulate your arm into the perfect position during the motion. It simply doesn’t work. The ball won’t fly as far when you can’t let go and let the motion take over.FullSizeRender

A while ago, after a couple of less-than-perfect performances and dealing with the feeling of failure, I talked with one of my trusted coaches about my need to redefine failure, to which he replied, “No, you need to redefine success”. If I take myself away from my own performance, I know that what touches me and excites me as a listener is not strict, mechanic vocal perfection. That may be great for about 5 minutes, but then that, on its own, gets boring. I LOVE voices with heart, risk, and a little blood in the sound. It’s a balancing act. You can’t give those characteristics to your singing unless you have command over the instrument. That’s where the life in the practice room and the life on the stage start to define their roles. The practice room is to explore, solidify, repeat, stretch, and understand your singing. I’ve made the decision to not “make” my voice, but to discover it. The practice room is where most of that happens.

IMG_2098But performance is where risk and reward comes in. I recently spent 2 1/2 weeks rehearsing The Merry Widow, in the place of the great Renée Fleming. She arrived last week to finish the rehearsal process and do the performances. But each day of rehearsal was like a little performance for me. I was able to play off of my amazing colleagues, make choices, take vocal and dramatic risks, and I found my voice being set free. Once you are a character, singing becomes a means to an end. The singing is there to express what the character wants to say or is feeling. When you are just practicing, it is a mechanism to be controlled. Success is the two combined. When you understand your instrument and how it wants to function, it gives you the vocal and musical vocabulary to express the extreme emotions in opera. I’ve decided, for me, performance success is letting my voice express genuinely. Will every note be perfect? No. (BLARGH…. It took me about 5 minutes before being able to type “no”…. I still HATE the idea of lack of perfection, even though I also recognize it is the reality of singing and… well… life). But I am on the journey to accepting that success can’t and shouldn’t be linked exclusively to the concept of perfection. AND perfection is also a relative term, at least in the area of aesthetics and the arts.

As I look forward to moving away from my young artist days of mostly understudying and finally enter the world of performing entire roles on a regular basis, I find myself excited to have these rehearsal periods of discovery and the terrifying and wonderful risk of taking the stage and offering the audience all that I have to give. I will continue on the journey to redefine success with each new role and stage of life. I will keep the conversation open with my colleagues and those with more experience to share their wisdom in this area.

If anyone has thoughts to share on this subject, I would love to hear them. How do you define “success”? Has it changed over the years? How do you performers gage your performances? Do you even think in terms of success or failure?

As I walk down this path of discovery, I will also continue to strive to, in the words of Elsa, “Let it Go“.

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Fabulous Friday: When He Sees Me….

For my Fabulous Friday post this week, I want to share the song that proved to me that Sara Barielles, apparently, either has my brain or has a special view into it. This song, especially the first section, IS my relationship with “feelings”.

I stick with real things,
Usually facts and figures.
When information’s in its place,
I minimize the guessing game.
Guess what?
I don’t like guessing games.
Or when I feel things,
Before I know the feelings.
How am I supposed to operate,
If I’m just tossed around by fate?

Yep. That’s me. Feelings must make sense, I must be able to identify them, and I must be able to turn them on and off. While sometimes I think this makes me an emotional robot, I also think it makes me highly rational and… of course… I like that. 🙂 Enjoy!

Great Roommates Make Life Better

This week’s post is brought to you by my epically wonderful, hilarious, crazy, and lovable roommates Gretchen and Renee.

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Before we moved in together, I had decided that I would never have roommates again. I’ve had some wonderful ones, but between grad school, summer sublets, and summer opera programs, I had 11 different roommates in 4 years. I needed a break from having to learn how to communicate with people of varied relational closeness about dishes, bills, overnight guests, noise, etc. Similar to my sister, I am also generally an introvert, although I do stratal the two types depending on my level of emotional health. Since so much of my work is interactive, especially when you are in a program with the Ryan Opera Center, I need a chance to hide away and decompress after long days of rehearsals.

My first year in Chicago was spent in a cute little one bedroom apartment a bit south of where I live now. I LOVED living alone. IIMG_4108 also became “Hotel Wilde” that first year as basically EVERYONE special in my life stopped by to stay with me for a night or two. After living in Arizona for 2 years, it was nice to be back in the midwest, near so many high school, college, and grad school friends. But when I didn’t have guests, I reveled in the quiet and have never really been one to struggle with loneliness. I also have some seriously awesome friends from all stages of life who stay in touch via Skype. Pretty awesome. Pictured is just a couple of the visitors I had that year.

When I had issues with my landlady who wouldn’t fix a safety issue in the building, I was suddenly put in the position of having to find a new apartment. This all hit at the busiest time of my season and I was stressed already. Out of desperation and a moment of not wanting to do yet another big move by myself, I reached out to two girls from my bible study. I had heard that they were wanting to move from their tiny two bedroom apartment and asked if they would be willing to get a three bedroom place instead. I had only started to get to know the two of them, but because of the craziness with my old landlady and apartment and the stress that resulted, I made a SUDDEN shift to being excited to live with people again.

IMG_2774Thanks to Gretchen’s best friend Becca, who insisted on finding us an apartment near her, we ended up finding a PERFECT three bedroom apartment, near all of our friends, with the best landlords in the world. Amazingly, this exact apartment was lived in by two former Ryan Opera Center singers eight or nine years ago! Crazy!

It turns out, moving in with these ladies has been the BIGGEST blessing in so many ways. We are very different from each other, but we are also a perfect combo. Gretchen is artistic, fiery, emotional, relatively introverted, wise, and intensely loyal. Renee is fun-loving, caring, very social, driven, and sweet. Both invest deeply in their careers and the people in their lives, constantly strive to grow in their Faith, and are always up for theological/intellectual debates and discussions. I’ve discovered when adults like this live together, the conversations about living logistics are not complicated. If the dishes need to be done, we say it. If cleaning needs to happen, we clean one area and ask the others to pick and clean another part of the house. I pay the bills and tell them what they owe me. We take turns buying TP and paper towels. Nothing is dramatic and communication is always happening. It has made life simpler, because I’m not doing it ALL alone.

Beyond that, we have spent the past year and a half taking turns dealing with some pretty intense life issues. One after the other would go through work frustrations, questions of faith, the joy and confusion in dating, the heartache of breakups, family issues, a household unification in the delight of being single women, and the inevitable struggle with singleness. We’ve walked through life with openness and vulnerability, (even though Gretchen will roll her eyes at the idea that I am EVER vulnerable…) allowing the others to speak truth, dispel lies, and to, what I call, “process with adult supervision.” We pray together when someone is walking through something particularly challenging or just had a really terrible day. It’s been wonderful to come home every night and enjoy the people around me. I still have to hide away to decompress, but it is understood, never taken as a slight, and I find myself having to do it less and less, which has always been a sign that I’m in a healthy emotional place.IMG_2725

We also laugh. A lot. We laugh at each other quirks, like Gretchen’s quiet, but INTENSE frustrated yell, Renee’s purse that is dropped wherever she first stops when she walks in the apartment (I cant even describe the number of strange places I have almost tripped over it), or my sudden and aggressive strip-off challenges that are yet to go matched (don’t ask). We watch great and terrible TV together. We make pancakes after church every Sunday. We made delicious drinks and unashamedly indulge in pajama-wearing binge watching. We send each other sermons and podcasts to listen to and them discuss them. And we dance.

I’ve also discovered the joys of not having to do everything yourself. I will blog on that topic soon. I’m still learning how to ask for help, but this experience has been a MASSIVE step in that direction.

IMG_1133To conclude, living with roommates who love, accept, challenge, and support you is life-changing. The city becomes a completely different place and everything in life is do-able. As Renee prepares to move from the apartment to start a new life adventure, I find myself feeling like the past year and a half has been a pure gift.

Thank you, Renee and Gretchen, for being YOU, allowing your beautiful hearts and lives to be shared, and for loving and accepting me.