Weltschmerz v. Wanderlust

There are so many things I could write about, but I have such little motivation.

Well, that’s a lie. I am motivated to begin and end this blog post. I am motivated to one day finish sorting the hundreds of pages of music and class notes scattered about my room. I am motivated to do all of my Lieder translations today, and look at the music for Russian diction. I am motivated to sing through Joan’s Aria, and I am motivated to restrain myself to only two cups of coffee today.

But after that I may switch to beer.

These have been the longest two weeks of my life. Professionally, emotionally, and mentally, I’ve been completely drained. My energy is at an all time low– all I “want to do” is sit quietly by myself. I don’t even really want to listen to music. That’s another all time low for me. I could at least sit with something on in the background, usually. But today and yesterday I’ve put on the last-resort playlist of the Avett Brothers’– the soundtrack of my adolescence and the only music I can listen to with a combination of compliance, satisfaction, happiness-in-remembering-home and abject misery. It’s very strange. I guess I would compare it to the musical equivalent of the concept of “Heimat.” The Avetts are my musical Heimat– especially their older songs denote my experiences both at home and at Eastman. They were the soundtrack to both homes and can comfort just as readily (and often at the same time) as they bring heartsickness.

Anyway, what was I saying?

All time low. That’s right.

But overall the past two weeks have been successful? I sang as one of eight finalists for the Friends of Eastman Opera competition. Didn’t win, but I’m not complaining, as I had my senior recital a short two days later. Both my family from home and my musical family here were mostly present, in person or over the internet. It flew by in half of an eye-blink and then this week occurred. Long opera rehearsal combined with work, schoolwork and classes… and then thoughts about the summer and how I am supposed to afford it… My brain is just frazzled. And this is without considering the natural human element. The drama here is just suffocating.

But, I’ve read a little poetry and kept to myself as much as possible. This is not to say that I’m antisocial… but sometimes (okay, more often than not) it’s refreshing to get away from others. I can’t distract myself with a dog, so no escape there… I’d go for a walk, but it’s cold outside: plus, it’s not as if Rochester is necessarily picturesque. The escape occurs when I can leave Eastman. Mostly figuratively, you understand, but when I picture myself in Philly this summer my spirit gets just slightly lighter.

And Germany. Let’s talk about that for a moment.

I have wanted to go for nearly six years now. That’s over a quarter of my life. I’m of the opinion, if you’ve wanted something for a quarter of your life and haven’t achieved it yet, it’s time.

The question is, really, how? How to afford it, how to get there? How to convince my mother? And again, how to afford it? There are so many other things that need to be paid for, the least of which being rent, and the greatest of which being the summer program in June I’ve already committed to. How to make another pocket of money, in order to travel alone, halfway across the world, just because I want to?

There really aren’t any acceptable excuses for wasting money (or even debating wasting money) in this way. I must just be selfish. Why can’t I wait for life experiences to find me? I keep telling myself, if it’s meant to happen, it will. I need to be patient.

The funny thing is, while typing “happen” just now, I made the mistake of writing “happy” instead. Twice, I did this.

Now, that should tell me something.

There are some things– like Eastman, like this Russian Opera Workshop– that happen almost on their own. Yes, I’ve worked hard, but that doesn’t always mean success. These things have occurred by a stroke of blessed, cosmic luck, and I am supremely grateful.

But other things in my life (my senior recital, which received six “brava”s from the six present faculty members, or the Mahler solo in October) have taken place and been highly successful because I’ve worked. And loved the work, and worked with love. That has to count for something, too. The work, and love, and cosmic power have to come together at some point, for some people, sometimes– otherwise no one would ever accomplish anything they set out to do.

So there’s that tangent. I want to travel and experience things (and, you know, maybe actually learn this language I’m obsessed with). I just have no idea how it’s going to happen. The sad part is, if I hadn’t signed on to do Russian Opera Workshop again, I might have been able to scrounge up the funds to do Goethe-Institut in July. Now, there’s almost no way, because I owe Ghena money and of course I’m thrilled to be singing Joan; it’s going to be another incredible June. But it is expensive.

And I feel as though I’m going to miss something! I know it’s strange, at twenty-one, to really worry about missing life. Extrinsically, I realize that I have plenty of time and blah, blah, blah. But if I’ve learned nothing else, I know that that is really not always the case. I’m stuck here at this conservatory, garnering a fabulous musical education– and I should only be grateful. I am grateful. But I don’t leave. I don’t meet anyone. I don’t sing anywhere. I don’t even have time to learn music because I’m busy with rehearsal and classes and work. And outside of this grey, miserable, freezing, windy, sunshine-less city, the world continues spinning and others live full lives with love and happiness and other types of motivating forces that often don’t seem to exist in Rochester.

But this wasn’t really meant to be a “look at how pathetic my life is” ramble. It originally started off as an update on the life of a tired soprano, for the three souls on the planet that might actually wonder (three is being optimistic, anyhow). And I know, too, that if I want change, I have to make it. That’s just one of those things, though, that is much, much easier said (or typed) than done.

I’m reminded of a poem I recently read; it resonates with my own unwinding, stormy mood this week. Like I said, this wasn’t supposed to morph into a gloomy mess, but here we are. Might as well indulge…

Ûber die Heide 
Theodor Storm*

Über die Heide hallet mein Schritt;
Dumpf aus der Erde wandert es mit.
Herbst ist gekommen, Frühling ist weit–
Gab es denn einmal selige Zeit?
Brauende Nebel geisten umher;
Schwarz ist das Kraut und der Himmel so leer.
Wär ich hier nur nicht gegangen im Mai!
Leben und Liebe– wie flog es vorbei!

My own poetic (ish) translation follows… watch out, world… 

Over the heath echoes my footstep;
Muffled out of the earth, it roams with me.
Autumn has come, Spring is far–
Was there ever once a blissful time?
Brewing mists spirit around;
Black is the grass and the sky, so empty.
If only I had not gone here in May!
Life and Love– how they flew past!

*For posterity’s sake I feel I should mention that Theodor Storm (besides being one kick-ass name) was the author of Die Nachtigall, one of my favorite poems ever. The text was set to music by Alban Berg and features as the third song in the cycle Sieben frühe Lieder. I sang these nearly a week ago for my senior degree recital.
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Another list because I can’t seem to get off the internet

Yeah, I have about zero will power right now. Mary, EE, Ivana and I just got back from Relay for Life at U of R. I spent the rest of my money in support of cancer research. Not only has every other person in my immediate family had it, but I’m likely to, and so is my sister, unless we luck out like our father has so far. I made a luminaria for Grandpa, Aunt Ginny, my great-grandparents, and Aunt Josie. I also have a really spiffy t-shirt and pink button necklace now, but I would have spent the money anyway. It’s probably the best cause I can contribute to right now, and shit, if it means I’m without Java’s for a week, the world won’t stop turning, will it?

Anyway, I guess I said this was going to be a list in the post title, so here we go. What did I do today/think about (not that it’s relevant, or that anyone cares)… this is my own blog, after all, I don’t even have to write well, let alone justify myself. So there.

List of things I did/thought about today (in no particular order)

  • Matt Grills is a wonderful artist/human being and I could have sat in his recital for another few hours… days… weeks. Whatever
  • I can’t go to Wegman’s without spending money on cheese… I’m a sucker for a certain Brie, and I don’t care who knows it
  • I’m getting old
  • I had to check and delete my full voicemail inbox today, and heard messages I’d saved from two years ago. My great-aunt Mary Jane left me a message asking for my mailing address, and I’d saved it, probably because I guess I saved basically all of my messages at that time. She passed away over winter break this year. It’s not like I’m unaware that she is pain-free now, and I hope happier and at peace, but it was a quick clench of the heart to hear her sweet voice again, so unexpectedly. Also I was in Java’s waiting for my sandwich and basically about to cry. Knowing she’s better off now and missing her are two separate things entirely.
  • You know when you’re looking for someone who’s supposed to be meeting you, and end up literally staring at someone you know, but not really looking at them (more of a looking-through?)? Did that tonight. Whoops. I blushed so hard afterward I felt like I was hot flashing.
  • My eyesight has gotten SO BAD, to the point where I’m beginning to be concerned…
  • I think I’m going to enjoy the German future tense
  • I miss Russian more than I thought I did… I wonder if Michelle found my notebook when I asked her to, three weeks ago
  • I want to go home and see my family
  • I want to go home and have a fabulous place to practice
  • I don’t know how I’m going to make any money this summer
  • How shall I obtain Professor Daigle’s signature?
  • How shall I admit that I actually have a physical list of questions to ask about performing?
  • I just yawned wide enough to crack my jaw
  • I thought about Daniel today, after I listened to the Aunt Mary Jane voicemail. I guess because his is another death that has affected my life, albeit a little differently. He was nineteen, three years ago and eleven days from now. God.
    But as I thought about him, and felt sad for a pretty good chunk of time, I swear I almost heard a voice snap– pleasantly but sarcastically– “What the hell are you doing? Go out and live,” and I probably imagined it, but it killed the morose mood I’d sunk into and spurred me into getting ready for my next class, and resolving to be a little ballsier.  I’d like to think it was Daniel, even though I know that’s nuts, and if I were him I wouldn’t waste my time. But I know he tried to live life to its fullest, so, I guess you never know.
  • In other news, Mu Phi is lame, and no, I didn’t get a damn email, or text
  • I’m tired of this list and I’m tired in general. I guess I’m not very interesting this evening. Oh well…
  • “Guten Abend, mein Schatz! Guten Abend, mein Kind…”

Little post-departmental spewing of miserable words

Why is it SO HARD for me to fail? It’s worse when no one else can see it but my teacher: that means no one else noticed how much I really have to offer, and how much more I still needed to give.

“Die Nacht” is so important to me. Not only is it a favorite of my teacher’s, it’s a favorite of mine. The story is beautiful, the setting is beautiful. It just needed so much more than I gave it today. Part of it was nerves, part of it was energy. I had been so revved up all day long for this performance: it needed to be worthy of being second-to-last on the program. It needed to be clear enough to understand, it’s message had to be there.

I had shown my professor my dress and warmed up before the recital. She thought I was going to nail it. Then I sat through six or seven other performances before going to the green room. I think that might have been my problem. I didn’t nail it. I sang it with expression but with half of my voice, it feels like now. With only half of my love. I guess it makes me feel better that my teacher said my accompanist was underplaying it and undersupporting me as well. That makes it less all my fault. But it’s still a step back for me, it feels.

These performances only come once a semester, if that, and I disappointed myself and my teacher in this one. Also, I guess I was just looking forward to rounding out the week I go home with a great performance, and that didn’t happen. Not by my standards. And my standards aren’t very high: it’s usually, if I sing well, I’m on a post-performance thrill for the rest of the evening. Now, I just feel a sense of dread and disappointment, much like the one I’ve been carrying with me since Saturday morning. Maybe I thought, if I do this well, it will take away the parts of myself I currently don’t like. Maybe it will fix me, If I can sing how I know I can sing, in front of my department.

But I couldn’t. If I had done that in an audition, and undersung it by so much, it would have been a mess and I wouldn’t have gotten hired or cast. I wanted to leave a favorable impression on the voice staff; I wouldn’t be surprised if not a one of them gave me a second thought besides “Her outfit looked good” (which, it did). It’s good that I’m not doing the opera this year because there is so much more I need to work on.

It is just so hard to fail at something I worked so hard for. And for it to turn out mediocre? When I’ve previously sung it so, so well? I just wish I could grab time, grab it hard and twist its arm and make it take me back. Make it give me a second chance to do it again. I wish that so much, and I know it’s only because I care so deeply and so ferociously about what I’m doing.

And that makes it worse. Because I do care so much, and I rarely get a chance to perform, and I love it when it goes how it should.

I can do better. And that’s the end of it.