Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know you.
Since I was 18, I have been working to be a singer, working to be a better singer, working to learn repertoire, working to get ready for auditions, working to learn the roles I was hired to sing, working to learn the roles I would like to sing, trying to figure out how to get up to the next level of house and engagement, thinking of strategies, thinking of plans, thinking of timetables, thinking of how to get where I thought I wanted to go career-wise, thinking about how and what I would need and want to do when the call came. The dream to be on stage was a passion, an obsession. It was all I have ever wanted to do.
Now after 40 years, all that has stopped, suddenly, with a bang. No, not with a bang. Softly, quietly, unheard by the world. The judgment has come down. Somehow I have crossed over the line that says, “you are too old.” It’s my choice to accept that judgment or not, but there it is. The thing is, I also apparently have nerve damage in my face and neck that effects my ability to sing. All of this combined have come as a shock.
The thing is, in my head, I still feel like there has to be more time, that I am still learning, that there still has to be time to get this right, time to make up for all the mistakes, time to really show people what I can do. And now suddenly there is no time. I have hit the wall without seeing it coming or at least without wanting to see it come. Believing that my will and my desire were enough to break through any barrier that might come up, except perhaps the barriers in my own head that made me do all those stupid things over the years that held me back or stopped me in my tracks and kept me from being all that I knew was inside me.
It is a special pain, that pain that you feel when you look back on your life and you know that you could have done more, could have done better but that you didn’t for some ridiculous reason. A reason that at the time seemed unbelievably important, like there was no other choice. But you always have a choice and I have made mine in the past. Now I have to make another one. Let go. Or not.
I’m not sure I am ready for this but maybe you never are. It might have been different if I felt like I had made this decision for myself. Or maybe not. I never really thought about what I would do, what my life would be “after”. I was always working to keep working. My mother once asked me – at a time when I was especially struggling to find work – “What will you do if this doesn’t work out?” and I answered – ever the arrogant know-it-all that I am – “Work at McDonalds or something. What would it matter?” I don’t think that flipping burgers is what I will do. Hard to know at this point. At the moment I am just dealing with what is there.