Our diva had been renewed with hope. Change was bubbling up inside her like champagne after the cork had been popped. She had the flutes ready to be topped off, fireworks on stand-by, and noisemakers within all ready and raring to go. She felt ready to welcome a new age. Goodbye life before this moment. Hello, new-and-improved-diva!
Practically skipping, she wound her way through the back halls of the theatre for rehearsal. This newfound energy was propelling her toward backstage so she could start to release this feeling through her performance. The routines and motions that felt so drab just a week and a half ago, felt newly released in technicolor. She heard the orchestra members in the pit getting warmed up. She loved that sound; string players noodling around while the horns buzz into their mouthpieces. She even had to smile at the shrillness of the piccolo’s regular assault on her eardrums.
The Day 5 challenge on your journey is to ask “what is holding me back from enjoying this career?”
Once she changed into costume, it was time to wait for the assemblage before the downbeat. She milled about the stage with her Germont. “I had the most amazing realization last week,” she couldn’t contain herself.
“Oh?” he said while fiddling with his mustache. “What happened?”
“Well, it’s hard to explain. But, I feel inspired again.”
“Hm,” he somewhat laughed but she couldn’t really tell what he meant. His intonation barely changed, or if it did, she couldn’t tell which direction it went.
“Places, everyone. Let’s go. Places,” hollered the stage manager and he was off. She took her spot feeling a little confused but ready to go.
Ready to land a big fish
After the first portion of rehearsal wrapped, she met up with her Germont again in the back of the hall; far enough that they could chat while the dancers worked on a scene but close enough that they could hustle back onstage for their next section.
“Alright, dear, you’re positively beaming. Tell me what you’ve been discovering again.” he said to our diva.
“Well, it’s just that I’ve been thinking that there’s gotta be more to this career than this.” she said somewhat gesturing to the painstaking work being directed on the stage. “I did some contemplating and I think I’m ready to go after some bigger stuff.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Like, I’m ready to have a point of view with what I sing. I’m ready to tell other stories than the same five operas over and over. I’m ready to audition for the big fish. You know? It takes just as much energy to lure and land a big fish as it does to land a mediocre one.”
“Who told you that?”
“Well, I dunno. I’m sure I read it somewhere. But, don’t you know what I mean? We could really do this!!” she started to let more of her excitement show.
A surplus society
“Dear, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but we’re a ‘surplus society.'”
“What do you mean by that?” she balked.
“Just what it sounds like. Wanting to do more is all well and good but this is what it is. Don’t let me stop you from going after those auditions you’re talking about. But, this is what it’s like. If you’re not anointed coming out of grad school and lauded to high heaven in your YAPs then this is what your future looks like when it comes to classical singing. You’ll be doing these productions to keep filling that part of your soul while teaching other people how to have the dream you so desperately wanted to have.”
She stared back at him in reply. Her gaze was fixed but slowly softening.
“That surplus society thing comes from a book,” he prattled on. “These guys, Nordstrom and ummm Ridderstrale, wrote it. Actually, I think you might like it. I’ll try to dig it up for you. But, their quote goes, ‘The ‘surplus society’ has a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, working in similar jobs, coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices and similar quality.’
Pareto’s law of classical singing
“Furthermore, the top twenty percent of classical singers in the world are generating eighty percent of the income of classical singing. I don’t mean generating eighty percent of their income from classical singing,” he corrected, “though that might also likely be true. But, twenty percent of the people are earning eighty percent of all income in the classical singing field. The Pareto’s law of classical singing, I suppose.”
“It’s a principle…” she added reflexively.
“Nevermind. Oh, look, we gotta get back on stage…”
They hopped back on stage and he forgot entirely about their conversation as they picked it up from Di Provenza. Our diva couldn’t let it go though. That energy that she came into the rehearsal with had dissipated so quickly when she heard him say “… similar companies, employing similar people, with similar educational backgrounds…” That couldn’t really be the case, right?
The lily pad
She stopped at the grocery store on the way home from rehearsal. Gathering up the items she needed, she headed to the register and sighed heavily when she saw the line. “It’s 10:30PM, is there really a line? What is happening here? Why are there so many other people and only one cashier in this store?” She tried to take her mind off of her mounting impatience by grabbing one of those little booklets in the racks next to the candy bars. “I could house an entire box of those Snickers right now. But, I won’t…” She flipped through the pages to realize it was a little publication full of riddles. One called The Lily Pad caught her eye.
“On day one, a large lake contains just one tiny lily pad. But every day the number of lily pads doubles, until on the thirtieth day the lake is completely clogged with lilies. On what day was the lake half full?”
She turned the page to read the answer.
“Answer: Day 29”
She thought about it some more and realized that the common response, relying on intuition, would be that half the pond would be covered in half the time. However, that response ignores the exponential growth of the lily pads. She started trying to work it out backwards, if the pond is covered after 30 days, and they double in size every day, then day 29 would be half covered. The correct answer is 29 days.
Is this day 29?
She thought to herself, “Is that it? Is the whole singing lake just totally clogged with lilies? Do I even have a chance? Is it only day 29 or are we well past day 30 when it comes to my singing career?” Our diva felt a little betrayed. She felt like she had spent all of this time trying to do it the ‘right way’ only to have the realization that the lake was choked with lilies just when she started to live her dream. She wondered how she could have deluded herself for so long and let those lilies pile up one on top of the other until there wasn’t any space left for her. She took what her Germont friend said to heart, maybe if she had been one of the golden ones in her grad school studio she would have had a chance. Or, maybe if she’d known how to manage her YAP experience better then she wouldn’t be in this predicament. Were these her real obstacles? Did she create all of her own obstacles? Our diva was struggling, “What is really holding me back from this career?”
Maybe her career had passed her by without her even knowing it. Or worse, her career had completely passed her by while she thought she had been planning it. Suddenly she felt like she might be one of those lilies clogging up the lake.
29 Days to Diva: The Worksheets
Want some help completing your Day 5 challenge? 29 Days to Diva is all about tackling the big issues of our careers through micro-actions. What can you do today to move yourself closer to unlocking your artistic integrity or achieving your biggest goals and dreams? Today’s worksheet is devoted to discovering your hang-ups. What is holding you back personally and professionally?
Try it out! If you like it, I hope you’ll sign up for the email list in the box below and share this post on your favorite social media channels. You can find me @mezzoihnen or feel free to use the hashtag #29DTD or #29DaystoDiva.