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Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

Last week my friend asked me why I didn’t write more about singing on this blog. I told her I didn’t think anyone would be interested, and I wasn’t sure what I’d even say. She suggested I write about what singing means to me. She is one of my blog muses and I tend to listen to them, so I agreed, and I’ve spent the last week thinking about it.

But as it turns out, music and singing and musical theater all mean so much to me, it’s hard to write a short essay on the topic. I devoted over fifteen years of my life to focusing primarily on music. It wouldn’t be accurate to say it was everything to me during that period, but it was a huge part of what I cared about, how I spent my time, and ultimately, who I was. I will always be a musician.

Summing that up in a snappy list doesn’t feel right. So instead I’ll tell you a story.

It was the autumn of my freshman year of high school. I was fourteen. I didn’t like high school so much. Most of my classes were boring. The social scene was boring. I was still very shy and kept myself somewhat isolated.

My mom saw an ad in the paper for a local production of the musical Peter Pan, and she encouraged me to join. It was a new company in town, and they didn’t require auditions. At first I dismissed the idea, but at the last minute I changed my mind, and my mom and I hopped into the car to attend the informational meeting.

That night changed my life.

Fast forward several months to March of the next year, when the show was opening. We were performing in the big Civic Center auditorium. Through hard work and persistence, I had won two performances, including the gala opening, as Wendy, in spite of originally being completely overlooked for the part. I got to FLY. I got to arrive at the gala opening performance in a LIMOUSINE. I was a part of something bigger than myself.

A local news station came down during a dress rehearsal to do a segment on the show, and they asked to interview me. They chose my clip to end their segment, when I said, “It’s like a dream come true.” It was cheesy but also the truth. Musical theater gave me a dream.

That's a teenaged me on the left.

That’s a teenaged me on the left.

To this day, I have this photo on the top of my piano: me at age 14, wearing a blue nightdress and a blue hair ribbon, holding hands with a little boy in footie pajamas (Michael) and an older boy in a nightshirt (John). All three of us are flying. I kept this photo displayed throughout my years of teaching because I never wanted to lose sight of how I’d gotten started and how much of a difference singing and musical theater had made, and continued to make, in my life.

I have learned so much about myself through singing. And I have gained an incalculable amount of joy, both from singing myself and from sharing that gift with others.

When I sing, the good parts of the world draw closer, even as the bad parts of the world fall away.

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I’ve been going through a bunch of my boxes of old memorabilia, trying to consolidate and store stuff in boxes that aren’t collapsing from age. It has proven to be a fascinating experience–albeit an allergy-inducing one–punctuated by shrieks whenever I come across an unexpected bug. Good times, good times.

In the excavation process, I found something I thought was lost in the mists of time forever: my first book. Written when I was seven years old, it is called “The Princess and the Cave” and reflects my undying love for fairy tales, and also probably for The Princess and the Goblin, which I believe I’d read shortly before writing my own story. Here is the cover:

The Princess and the Cave

 And here is a taste of the artwork inside:

Amy's cave drawing

We can see two things from these photos: first, that I was fascinated with the idea of caves, and second, that it’s not surprising I didn’t go on to have a career in the visual arts.

I loved writing “The Princess and the Cave” so much that I promptly sat down and wrote a second book:

Too Much CandyI find these books to be noteworthy because it was when I was writing them for a classroom assignment that I understood that the books I loved to read were actually, really truly written by other people. And I decided that when I grew up, I wanted to be an author.

I never changed my mind. I decided I wanted to be a musician too, and I devoted many years of my life to primarily focusing on music. But even then, I was writing bad poetry or memoirs or short stories or lyrics or the book of a musical. And I always held onto the idea in the back of the mind that one thing I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime was to write a novel. I thought I might not do it until I was fifty (I’m glad I was wrong about that), but it was always a part of my vision for my life.

Having a vision for our lives can be so powerful, whether the vision was formed when we were seven or it’s brand new. A vision can give us purpose and direction, something to aim towards as we make the decisions that shape our lives. And in times of change, it’s the powerful vision of what we’re striving for that carries us through. I’m not talking so much about visualizing what we want, which some research shows actually makes us less effective at carrying out our plans. Rather, I’m talking about knowing what we want (or learning what we want if we don’t already know) and believing it could become a reality.

We can become so limited by what we believe to be impossible. Obviously we aren’t capable of every thing under the sun, and sometimes we don’t want to set the corresponding priorities or make the sacrifices necessary to make something possible, and that’s fine. That’s different than experiencing a failure of imagination, imagination being the capacity that perhaps allows us to have vision in the first place. We get to choose our vision, after all. But we can become stifled by a narrow view, or by exhaustion, or by fear.  We can forget that so many amazing dreams are worthwhile not so much because of the end result (although that can be quite nice, of course) but because of the journey we take to follow them.

Do you have a vision for your life?

 

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Observation: a lot of people who talk about “living your dream”

aren’t really doing so themselves.

Chris Guillebeau

I suppose this is a shot at self-styled lifestyle gurus who aren’t practicing what they’re preaching. But as easily as we bandy around the idea of “living your dream,” it isn’t always so straightforward, is it?

Sometimes it is straightforward. Sometimes it is just a case of doing some basic research, of putting together a budget in order to save toward a do-able goal, of deciding to take the risk and go for it.

But other times it isn’t quite so simple.

Do I live my dream? Kind of.

But parts of my dreams have been put on hold. I’ve let parts of them go. Some of them I haven’t yet discovered. And some of them are in the middle of being baked, and I’m not sure how they’re going to turn out.

Part of the inspirational speak is tell people how easy it actually is to live your dream. And then we will all feel all fired up and ready to tackle anything. But that’s simply not true. Sometimes it’s simpler than we think, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s quite difficult. And sometimes we achieve our dreams only to realize we’ve been chasing the wind, and the dream we thought we wanted isn’t actually our dream anymore.

Have you ever had that happen? It’s a real eye-opener.

Perhaps living our dreams is more of a state of mind, an acknowledgment of life’s possibilities. In accepting life’s disconcerting lack of permanence, we can see how that very lack can simultaneously be one of the best and the worst parts of being human. The worst because we have things (experiences, relationships, our own physical bodies) that we don’t want to let go of. The best because now is going to change, so even if our dreams feel far away in that now, soon it will be another now, maybe one in which those same dreams feel closer.

Or perhaps living our dreams is about living an examined life instead of a blind one. Do many dreams exist without a give and take? What are we willing to sacrifice and when do we find compromise impossible? What do we give up in pursuit of our dreams?

Or perhaps, just perhaps, living our dreams is something each one of us has to define for ourselves.

May you live the dreams you wish to live, when you wish to live them. It probably won’t be easy, but it might very well be worth it.

Or, as Theodora Goss says, “When things are difficult? That’s when you know you’re having an adventure.”

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She works for a video game company, writing in a universe she’s loved since childhood.  In return for doing this job she loves, she gets a salary, vacation days, health benefits.  This is a dream.

She discovered the story of a brave boy in New Orleans, who during Hurricane Katrina drove a busload of people to safety.  Lack of publisher interest didn’t make her lose faith in her story and the courage of this boy, and she decided to self publish to make sure his story was told.  This is a dream.

She worked on her novel for several years, joined a critique group, participated in the writers’ community, and kept trying.  Her debut novel is coming out in the spring of 2012 from a major publisher.  This is a dream.

He made his own publishing deal with a small press and has his second novel in a series (third book total) coming out in 2011.  He was nominated for a Hugo, and was invited to be Guest of Honor to a regional convention.  This is a dream.

She started her own business, which would allow her to support herself comfortably only working halftime.  She spent the rest of her time engaged in whatever creative projects struck her fancy.  This is a dream.

Her dad wants her to attend an Ivy League college she couldn’t afford.  She wants to study voice, composition, and writing and live abroad for awhile.  She’s like an echo of myself, but she’s not.  This is a dream, and it’s hersHere’s hoping she gets to live it.

Allow people to live their own dreams.  Every dream is as different as the dreamer, and each one is valid and special in its own way.  When we look down on someone else’s dream, it’s because it threatens something inside of us.

We can do better than that.

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