The past couple of months have brought about a fair bit of revelation about life, what I’m doing with it, what I need in it, and about the people I choose to keep in my life. There’s a lot I don’t say because I’m frightened people will judge me, which is pretty funny because I’ve always had a “f*ck ’em if they don’t like me” personality.
Opera has, for some time, been a bone of contention. I spent the better part of the past fifteen years pursuing a dream that I didn’t really want. It was never really my life or something I loved, but I did a damn good job pretending it was. And I did so because I gave up on the dream that actually made me happy.
Growing up, the thing that made me happiest was musical theatre. My dad grew up in New York going to Broadway plays and, as a piano player, introduced me to the musical theatre classics at a very young age. When my friends were watching MTV, I was humming along to Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe. My Fair Lady. The King and I. The Sound of Music. I knew those a lot better than I knew any rock band. Some of my fondest memories are standing at the piano with my dad singing “If I Loved You” and “Mister Snow” and a whole slew of others my friends knew nothing of.
The first musical theatre piece I ever auditioned for was Peter Pan, and – if you could believe it – I was cast as Wendy. For a 12 year old kid that was pretty spectacular. The whole process enchanted me: I loved rehearsing, memorizing lines, and staging blocking. Being under the stagelights was intoxicating. It only whetted my appetite for more.
Sadly, that first experience was not typical of the rest of my pre-teen and early teen auditions and theatrical experience. At that age, I hadn’t grown into my adult cynicism nor did I know enough to realize that Children’s Theatre is extremely political and based an awful lot on how much who’s parent is contributing to the company. Entering high school, I had no doubt of the fact that I was talented; I skipped into the Intermediate Acting class in my freshman year, but the theatre director never gave me a solo in the musical theatre variety show, nor did he ever cast me in a “leading” part.
It was brought to my attention at that young age (by another student – surprise!) that yes, I was talented, but I wasn’t “thin”. It was a pretty crushing blow to my ego. (It’s funny – I was at my adult height, and weighed maybe 150 – I’d kill to weigh 150 again.) It felt like no matter what I did, I’d never be enough of the right thing.
My youthful enthusiasm was quickly replaced by bitter apathy, and by fifteen years old, I pretended musical theatre was passe and below me. Truth be told, I gave up on musical theatre because I gave up on myself and believing I could ever find it in myself to be a “normal” size.
How I long to have those fifteen years back! I’d love to smack my fifteen year old self upside the head, tell her to keep on going, that high school was not the end all, be all of musical theatre. And I mourn the past fifteen years because I missed so much happiness by trying to force myself into a mold I didn’t fit.
We never mean to give up on hopes or aspirations, but it’s a sad reality that our self perception can negatively effect what choices we make in life. There have been several major upheavals in my life recently which forced me to sit down and ask myself what do I really want. Being happy is obviously near the top of that list, and if that means never singing a stitch of opera again, so be it. I’m okay with that.