Rarely do we notice the trajectory of our lives change in an instant except in retrospect. I had one of those moments in 2022, but it took me months to internalize it. Staring out into Lake Mantasoa with a cup of Malagasy coffee in my right hand, I listened passively as two creative colleagues discussed future projects and grant applications, only half listening. After all, I planned to keep studying with my teacher for a few months until I was magically the desire of every young artist program and agent in the country. As I zipped up my pink raincoat to brace myself against the morning breeze, their attention turned toward me.
“Victoria, if you could design any artistic project for yourself, what would it be?”
Flustered, I said, “I’m not really a creative person. I just want to have a traditional career.” I will never forget my reply.
Years ago, I should’ve figured out that a “traditional” music career would never happen for me. 2022 is the year I finally started to embrace that.
By the end of the trip, I had resolved to apply for two prestigious grants and felt like a genuine performing artist for the first time in over two years. Everyone there viewed me as a colleague–not a technically deficient student, but a fellow musician. I lost that feeling somewhere in the endless rejection and criticism. Sometimes, you just have to go to a different continent to gain perspective, I guess.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m nervously retooling my definition of being a working artist. I have a pesky tendency to plow through my life full speed ahead without acknowledging my growth and setbacks, never satisfied with my progress or trajectory. What better time to look at myself than the end of an especially precarious year?
I’d be lying to you if I said this year was easy. I was able to hide my failures behind the walls of the pandemic, but after two years of a career-imploding tornado, this was the year I finally had to clean up the mess left behind. I’m still picking up what’s left and figuring out what I can do with them. I sort of feel like a puzzle missing a few essential pieces.
When I look back on this year, I will remember sleepless nights with a new puppy that my old voice teacher told me not to get because she would “be a distraction.” I’ll remember almost backing out of the Madagascar contract, which was professionally and personally life-changing. I’ll remember mourning the end of a toxic relationship and healing other connections that had endured damage for one reason or another. I’ll recall running my voice into the ground and planting the seeds for vocal rebirth. Either I’ll look back and think this year was when I was able to shift my singing career in a way that would change my life for the better or was the beginning of the end of my musical goals. I don’t know that part yet.
Looking forward to 2023, I’m uncertain but optimistic. Singing is taking me abroad at least twice next year. I’ve developed new goals and project ideas with mentors and collaborators, so stay tuned there, too.
I came as close as I ever have to quitting singing in 2022, which caused me to think deeply about the things I like about being a musician. I like being challenged, problem-solving, working with others, self-motivation, attention to detail, being in front of people, and having a flexible schedule. There are careers outside of singing where I could have those things. Unfortunately for me, the things I love most are music, singing, and the arts. So, here I am– not quitting a career that seems to want to abandon me consistently and figuring out where I can meaningfully and realistically fit into this incredibly cutthroat industry. I’m open to widening what that means.
The last thing I want to say this year is thank you. Writing this blog kept me focused when I was at one of the lowest points of my life. I have a paid freelancing gig that I’m starting in the new year because you all empowered me to keep writing– I finally felt good at something. Every time you reached out to me to say you enjoyed a post, that my honesty spoke to you or that I made you laugh kept me going and allowed me to open up my interests and skills to another medium outside of music. I honestly can’t thank you all enough for reading my selfish ramblings twice per week. You give me hope.
Happy New Year, everybody.