Believe it or not, I’m a rather private person. I don’t like people being privy to the details of my personal life, so I try to hide them and tell very few people. I’m currently going through a rather difficult ordeal and I’ve kept it under wraps until now. However, I feel that I must write this post about my struggles because I wish I’d had something like this to read. Maybe it can help another singer, another artist, another person in the future. And that, to me, justifies going against my private nature and sharing this.
To make a long story short, I’ve been unable to sing for 9 weeks now. On September 11, I couldn’t sleep because my heart was beating loudly and strangely in my chest. I had trouble breathing. I wasn’t sure what to do. After 5 days of harrowing uncertainty, accompanied by doctor visits, hospitals, and too many EKGs, they discovered that I had costochondritis. Basically, the cartilage between the ribs and sternum becomes inflamed, pressing on the heart and lungs. This condition can be caused by trauma, but mine was caused by a virus. (Thankfully, no one else had it/got it!)
I was bedridden for a week and then I returned to school, hoping to press through and continue my schooling during my recovery. The doctors thought that it would only last a few weeks. I made a valiant effort to participate in school and my teachers were extremely supportive, but my condition worsened and I had to return home. The doctors say now that I have the worst kind of costochondritis and I might not be healthy until January. So I’m officially on medical leave and missing a semester of grad school, which I will have to make up next year.
This is, of course, a huge blow to me. Not only did I miss out on two productions of Hansel and Gretel, but I also had to withdraw from a group benefit concert that I’d been planning. I’d poured a lot of myself and my time into the project and I wish that I could sing on it.
But wishes are useless, because I’ve been physically unable to sing. I’ve never gone this long, in my whole life, without singing and that threatens to emotionally drain me. It can be scary to not have that one thing that brings you the most joy and fulfillment, that makes up a part of your identity and purpose in life. But my mentors and teachers have been extremely giving and kind throughout this process, giving me the perspective and help that I need to get through this. My family and friends have also been supportive, comforting me and caring for me.
That aside, it’s also trying to see all my plans float down the river without me. Everything had to be put on hold and I had to rethink all of my decisions. The next step in my education has been set back a year and all of my technical training is on hold until I’m back on my feet. I won’t graduate with my class or meet the goals that I’d set for myself.
But it’s okay. We can make plans and have goals, and that’s wonderful and important, but sometimes things are out of our control and they don’t turn out the way we expect. So I’ve learned the true necessity of flexibility. I can mourn the things I’ve lost, but it’s not over. I will sing again soon and I will have plenty of opportunities in the future.
Also, this new timeline has opened up a few unexpected bonuses. For one, I was able to meet and interview a mezzo hero of mine, Jamie Barton. I’ve also had the time to write a libretto for an oratorio that a graduate student at Queen’s College is composing. And, most exciting of all, I’ll be part of an opera production team in January 2015, working alongside and learning from one of my favorite opera directors. In addition, I’ll have more time to prepare my auditions for the next stage of my education and I might end up somewhere that I didn’t expect.
So what I’m trying to say is this: in life, you’re going to hit some speedbumps. They can be upsetting and discouraging and sometimes they make no sense at all. But they do happen. The question is: how are you going to deal with them? My advice is to let yourself feel all the justified emotions that come with it, but then push past it. Stay positive every day. Gather encouraging and nurturing people around you. Ask favors, look for opportunities, and take care of yourself. Indulge in your other interests or just let yourself rest for a while. I don’t like asking for help, but I’ve learned that sometimes, it’s essential. It’s okay to have someone help you out once in a while, because when you’re better, you can be there for them and return the gesture.
Speedbumps are okay. This one has taught me how to do a backflip.