One thing that has only recently (since May) begun to rub me the wrong way is this.

When I was in my undergrad, in music school, I was known primarily as a singer. Or maybe that wasn't true, but that was what I felt. And even if it wasn't true, that was the basis for many people's concept of me. Your musician friends are friends with you because you connected in school for a certain thing. You connected on a common ground of being musicians. And even with my non-musical friends, one of the first questions you get asked is "What do you major in?" and then you have to explain to people that you're an opera singer, and it's just a big to-do.

So I started to feel like I was just a singer. Like that was my primary identity. My only identity.

Then I graduated college, and then I got a job, and had to start working full-time, and suddenly the identifiers by which I had been known for so long -- I was no longer only those things.

I was no longer a student. And y'all, I had been a student for seventeen years.

I was still a musician, but there were other things, too. I was working. I was outside of the deeply entrenched musical environment. Entrenched isn't the word -- I'm thinking steeped, like a tea bag that's been left in the water for too long, and when you take a drink of the tea, it makes you wrinkle your nose and shake your head fast, like you're a dog shaking off water, like I do when my tea is too strong. 

All that is to say that I wasn't in the environments that I had used to identify myself for so long.

And other things came along, too. And the long and short of it is that I discovered I could be happy in other ways than in being a musician.

I remembered how much I loved academia. That I couldn't live without a book in my hands.

I learned that there are ways to be happy that aren't musicality. Relationships. Simply living.

After my audition season, when I found myself tired and unwilling to practice, I thought I was just burned out. And I was. I needed to take a minute, y'all; that audition season was intense.

But when it persisted -- I wasn't worried, but in retrospect, maybe it was something to notice.

I say "in retrospect" because, to me, there's a very clear divide between April and May. In April, I made a grad school decision. I was set. I knew where I was going. And then sometime in early May, I asked myself, What if I decided I didn't want to go to graduate school in music?

And my whole world cracked open. Or at least, that's what it felt like. It felt like a rug being pulled out from under me. It felt like a pressure valve releasing. Air rushed out of me, like someone had punched me in the gut, but in the best possible way. All this tension I didn't know I had been carrying -- it unfurled and I released like a sail.

The wind caught me.

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I cried a lot that month.

Because suddenly I knew I didn't want to go to graduate school, at least, not in music. And in the middle of examining all my motives and deciding what to do next, well, the one constant that I knew, even when I was doubting it, was that single thing: I didn't want to go to music graduate school.

Y'all, I hardly knew who I was.

And to some reading this, this will feel like a betrayal.

Because how I've been known is as a singer. How are they supposed to relate to me if that foundation is rocked?

For it IS a foundation. It's the foundation of many of my relationships; we connected over music, through music, especially classical music. Who am I if not a singer?

The answer came to me in the first week after I asked myself that momentous question. Within 24 hours, actually.

Now that I do not have to be a musician, I can be myself.

Singer is not my primary identifier.

My primary identifier is my name.

My personhood.

My self-ness.

This panorama by my friend Laura, from AIMS, featuring me.

This panorama by my friend Laura, from AIMS, featuring me.

One thing I love about my job is that they don't know me as a singer or a student or someone who made the best grades or anything like that. They know Sara. And really, that's how I want to be known.

Am I a singer? Yeah, I love to sing. But I'm more than that. I'm more than the box I've put myself in.

Each of us is many things. We are never just one thing. We are many things, but mostly, we are ourselves, and our selves perform multiple roles.

We play the parts, we wear our many hats, we are Renaissance men and women -- but really --

We are ourselves. We DO other things. We ARE ourselves.

One of the most freeing things since that May day has been that I have come back to myself. I can tell when I'm putting myself in a box of being Just a Singer and Nothing Else. I can feel it. It feels like my soul has cardboard corners. It's almost painful to sense the presence of the blinders I willingly wore for five years.

Another thing when you're limiting yourself to being just one or two things: whenever you honor another part of your identity, you feel like you're betraying the part you've forced yourself to be. Any time I would write during the latter part of my music degree, I would feel like I was betraying my "primary art," singing. By the way, my primary art? What a load of crap. Why does one have to take precedence over the other? Why can't we just be true to the way we are made?

We forget that we are not just one thing. We feel like we have to be just one thing. I'm not sure why, but we do. And then we ignore the rich tapestry, the vast mosaic, the long, unfolding story that is our soul. Our life.

What a tragedy, to never live fully into who you are.

I am constantly growing and changing and becoming new as Jesus sculpts me -- but here's the deal, party people: I know what I feel like. I know what my soul feels like. I (usually) know when it feels constrained and when it's free.

And since deciding I wasn't going to go to music grad school, I've felt freer than I can remember in some time.

And I feel like me again. Because I'm not just a singer. I am Sara.

I am myself.

Amen.

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