Apr 10, 2008

When Your Dreams Fail

Adjusting to the fact that one's best simply may not be good enough has got to be one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish.

I sing. I'm not the best but I'm a good, solid choral singer. I have excellent sight reading skills and a useful range, particularly in small choirs (where I have sung everything from Alto 2 to Soprano 1). I learn my music quickly and have little patience for "note-banging". I've sung in church choirs since I was 5, in school choirs since 2nd grade, making countless all counties, in college choir, making chamber choir, and in semi-professional (but unpaid) community choirs (Eastman Rochester Chorus, Springfield Symphony Chorus). I have, for a very long time now, wanted to "make something" of my voice.

There is a paid professional chorus (we'll call it the PPC) that I've really wanted to get into. Their director runs incredibly efficient, yet not lacking in humor, rehearsals. They sing really neat music. Both my church choir director and my voice teacher sing for them and know of my goal. I overheard after church choir rehearsal today my choir director encouraging someone to audition for the PPC. And it suddenly became clear that I have been deluding myself. I'm just not at that level and I'm not going to be. And, you know what?, this is a really, really painful discovery.

I think what makes it all worse is that singing professionally was sort of my last dream that I hadn't let go of yet. I had to let go of being a flight instructor (time and money). I had to let go of being a photography professor (grad school and I didn't get alone). My graphic design business never got out of the "struggling" stage and my jewelry creation business doesn't look like it will.

Now, some would say, "well, you're a mother, that should be good enough." Well, you know, for some it may be and I respect that; for me, it ain't. I love my daughter (though she drives me nuts) but, honestly, I'm a mediocre mother. I have no patience and lose my temper easily. I find small children deadly dull. And, even more to the point, I need to be successful in my own right not viewed through the lens of someone else's success or failure.

So now, I have a night job that I'm good at but hate and at which I get no respect (not me, personally, but the task I do), a day job that I'm lousy at (and let's not even talk about the lack of respect presented by 2 year old), and no dreams left to hold onto. All that's left is a long, empty slog to the grave as a middle-of-the-road nothing.

Man, that sucks.


LauraJ said...

I want to cry because this is how I feel too. I'm younger than you and my road to the grave is even longer. Big hugs dear.

smileymamaT said...

Huh. Yep I've been told (when I once mentioned the barrettes and how it felt like an accomplishment) that I "have three children, and that should be enough of an accomplishment for me". My first reaction was F#@& you, lady...
so, I totally get this. I work in customer service at the phone company, OK, so that's fine, but it's not what I love. The crafts are more of a creative outlet and hobby that I DO love, but don't bring in much. I'd love to stay home and paint, and make and sell more jewelry in my fantasy life, but fantasy dollars don't pay the grocery bill. So anyway... yah that sucks.
And because I know you probably don't want any pep-talk, I'm going to leave you some. ;P
"You can still sing for the beauty of it..." (that's really why I make jewelry).
Hope your day is better.

Greta Adams said...

{{{{big hugs}}}}}
you will achieve your dreams just might take a minute
love ya girl

Brightdreamer said...

So... you graduated college, you've started at least two businesses on your own, you've pitched your own creations to total strangers and convinced them to fork over cash for them, you've learned how to fly, you can design and run your own website, you can do photography, you can sing well enough that people don't threaten you with bodily harm when you open your mouth, and you didn't throw in the towel when marriage and mothering proved not to be Hallmark greeting cards 100% of the time. And this makes you a failure... how?

We all feel like failures now and again. (Or more often than now and again, says the 32-year-old cowardly loser who only has a part-time job and has never left home.) Just stop and take a breath, and never forget to keep some hope of something, somewhere, alive. You deserve your own happiness and your own dreams; no good can come of expecting others (spouses, friends, family, or offspring) to provide your only meaning in life, because if you think you're short-tempered and irritable with them now, just imagine how nasty you'll get if you were counting on them and them alone to make you happy... and they fail (as, being humans, they are bound to do more often than not.) And that's what will happen if you abandon everything that you enjoy just because you may not gain global recognition or because others tell you you ought to settle for less. So keep singing, and keep making jewelry, and keep your "you" space. Maybe you won't hit escape velocity, maybe you will, but the only sure thing in this life is that you cannot succeed if you quit.

Hey, if you'd told me even a year ago that I'd have sold stuff I created - and not to relatives, but to total strangers, for cold hard cash - I'd have killed myself laughing. But I have. It ain't exactly a multimillion dollar industry, and I strongly expect it never will be, but I'm looking at it as proof that, yes, I can accomplish something if I sit down, shut up, and just try already. So maybe eventually I will get my footing and start writing publishable stories. And maybe I will get good enough at my art to do my own illos. So, you've sold some of your jewelry, right? And people take you seriously as an artist, right? Maybe your standards aren't as low as mine, but from my POV, that's Something, and that's a better place to start than Nothing.

Oh, and if anyone else tells you being a mother ought to be enough, sic Drax on their tails... then beat them with a 2 x 4 for good measure.

gina said...

Damn, son! What can i say after your post and dreamers response? I totally get you and think that the exact SAME thoughts run through my head several times a day. Middle age ain't lookin as prosperous as I thought it would be. There is massive discrimination against the middle agers here in Swe. The general attitude is that there is some one younger, smarter and cheaper that they can hire. My goal was to only work parttime when I get to be 50, but I did not reach the 6 figure retirement egg I wanted so that has to be extended I am sure...

I would audition for the PPC ANYWAY so that I would never spend a minute thinking " what if " The fact that you can kick major ass musically and have a solid reading background puts you in the line, where as I only learned to read enough music to play trumpet to sit next to Gary...the finest guy in the high school. :)
MAN-UP and do it!

Jade said...

"There's no such thing as a failure who keeps trying, coasting to the bottom is the only disgrace." -

Blues Traveler, Just Wait.

smileymamaT said...

Hey, you ok? Just checking...

peppypilotgirl said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. It's nice to know I'm not alone in my frustrations.

(And thanks for checking in, T! - See my newest post for why I've been gone!)

sooj said...

Your blog touched my heart. My singing is intensly personal. I am terrified of auditions and of my voice being rejected. However,I would echo the respondent who said go ahead and audition for the ppc. If you don't make it, ask them why. If it's something you can fix, fix it and try again. 'What might have been' are some of the saddest words I know.

Have you read The Zanders' "The Art of Possibility"? There are some nuggets in there.

Knock 'em dead, kid!

Erin said...

Echoing the words of everyone else here, I think we all feel like this. At least 75% of the time.

And singing cuts to the heart of these emotions like none other-- with no instrument to stand as a protective shield, criticism of our voices feels like a criticism of who we are, in a way that runs deeper than anything else I've experienced.

I guess in response to this vulnerability I've only found 2 real 'comforts' myself thus far:

1. Everyone feels this way. No matter how good they are, or how bad. We all have a certain point at which we hit a wall and our artistic 'voice' is not appreciated or encouraged by those around us. I got into the professional choir I had dreamed of this year, and though it's been wonderful in every way, now my wall is that when I sang for a church service recently and nobody went out of their way to congratulate me afterwards, I spent the rest of the day in tears that I would never be the amazing soloist that I had dreamed of (notice that my previous dream was just to sing with this choir...). When I look carefully, my friends who sing at the Met, or who won American Bach soloist competitions, or etc. have days as well where they realize that their artistic gifts are also limited, and the scariest thing that can happen in these instances is that they sometimes become deceptive, subversive, territorial, or just downright bitchy because of these insecurities. But it sounds like your healthy recognition of limitations has prevented you from verging into this territory. Don't let it go there. Ever.

2. Being upset about this all really shows you more than anything how much you loved singing in the first place. How it lets you bare your soul, even if it's going to be crushed a time or two, or twelve. And that vulnerability, more than anything else, is what attracts us in another person's art. So if you find through this all that you really do love this, by all means, keep doing it, whether in PPC or even just for your children!

PeppyPilotGirl said...

UPDATE: 6/15/2010
I'll be auditioning for the PPC in the next couple of weeks.