I've spent almost all of my adult life trying to be a professional singer, until this year. A frenzied audition season is just heating up for the singer types - by this time last year I'd done five or six (of the 40 or so I ended up doing in November and December). This year? I haven't done one audition, nor have I even looked at the listings to apply for any. I have had a single voice lesson in the past four months, even though I love my teacher. I kept waiting for the guilt to set in that I have been so lax in something I am so passionate about, and then, recently, it hit me.
I'm not passionate about singing.
Do I like it? Of course. Am I good at it? I like to think I can hold my own. But passion? It just isn't there. This surprised me until I thought about a few things.
One. I've already mentioned the travel aspect on my About page. So, ok...I don't want to travel. That by itself doesn't mean there's no career there, or passion even. There are plenty of ways to have a career in singing without quite so much travel - I have plenty of singer friends who do exactly that. But the passion for the career I thought I wanted requires it - I have had to do some rethinking of what kind of career it was.
Two. I never practice. I never feel like practicing. I don't get excited by learning new music. I'd almost always rather do some other kind of work instead, and that's what I'd do to procrastinate.
Three. Singing has been wholly unreliable as a source of income, and I've always had to have jobs I hate to support my singing. Hard for me to be passionate about something that makes me worry about how to buy groceries, which leads me directly to...
Four. Being a singer is insanely expensive. I went into debt every year. I spent thousands of dollars just last year on lessons, classes, travel, coaching. accompanist fees, and application fees. Most non-singers don't know that you usually have to give the auditioning company money just to consider you. Often, they don't give you an audition, but they keep your $30-$50 fee anyway (though I've paid $100 several times, and there are many auditions you can do that are much more). It's true that they have to pay the pianist and they have administrative fees, etc.; however, I've always felt that unless one is independently wealthy, a healthy opera-singing career is relatively unlikely. There are exceptions to this of course, I'm just not one of those.
All of this is to say, the most that singing has brought me in the last 12 years or so is frustration. Soul-sucking, heart melting frustration. I'd continued on for the past few years because it's just what I'd always done. I never considered that I could be happier without a singing career. All the other singers I knew wanted that, so shouldn't I?
Then two things happened that made me start thinking differently. A group program run by my super awesome cousin, and yoga teacher training. Both programs had me spending a lot of time with my own thoughts, and forced me to really consider what it is that makes me happy. Who was saying I HAD to be a singer? No one but me. Once I realized this (it took a while, maybe eight months or so), there was no guilt about missing auditions. I could be happy with life again. I could just do whatever the hell I wanted, career be damned. For the longest time, I had put my life on hold so I could reach for some goal, no matter the cost to my happiness.
Now, I nanny (which I love) and don't worry so much about getting sick from all the kids. I can take whole weekends to do yoga retreats. I can pursue a career which allows me to wear my pjs to work (man, I love yoga). I can go on vacation to Mexico in the middle of audition season and completely enjoy myself. Once I decide to do some, I can be picky about which auditions actually DO sound like fun, instead of feeling the need to do every audition on the list. For the first time in many years, I enjoy singing again. Scratch that, I enjoy life again.
Do I regret all the time and effort I spent on a career I don't want anymore? No. I feel lucky that I learned eventually how to be happy, and that's career enough for me.