In a kind effort to break me out of my shell a bit and thrust me into something "of my own" in unfamiliar Pittsburgh, my husband signed me up for a semester of voice lessons with a former opera singer.
I was pleased initially, but this morning hid under the covers as I watched the dreaded hour-of-singing approach. I tried explaining my new reluctance to Brett. "I just...don't know where the campus is." I moaned.
"Yes you do." He returned.
"Do you think I am a bad singer? What if I am a really, really bad singer?"
He shot me a look of warning. "You know you can sing."
I nodded somberly. "I'm awfully good at drunk karaoke. But, you always tip the D.J's a lot of money, so that makes me question my abilities."
"If you don't want to go, you don't need to go." He reasoned. "But, I think you should. Like any musician you should practice, and I actually think you need to get out of the house for a little while."
I knew he was right. I was dangerously close to stretching my little pity party into a week long blow out. Kegs and all. This pity party was threatening to soon be off the hook, man.
So. I went.
I dragged my feet the entire walk to campus, and soon found myself in a very cold, white room with nothing in it except a gloriously romantic-looking baby grand piano. I didn't know what to expect. I tried imagining my instructor. I was pretty close to getting up and pretending to play the piano when She walked in.
There was something about her. I don't even know how to describe it. She was a flurry of cowboy boots, a colorful, swirly fabric of a dress that danced around her bare, tan legs- clutching a huge colorful cookie between her teeth, her colorful self just colorfully bouncing off the color-less walls.
So, she was pretty colorful.
I immediately felt that mixture of complete ease and horrified unease. My posture was calm, but my palms were sweating. My face broke out into an automatic smile at her entrance, but my foot tapped nervously and I adjusted my glasses too many times.
She stooped short when she saw me.
"How old are you?" She demanded.
"You look 22." She said, cocking her head to the side, biting into her cookie. "So. You moved here for a man?"
"Well. No. My husband goes to school here, so I...uh. I moved here..."
"Is your husband a man, sweetheart?"
"He is. A man." I mumbled.
She smiled then. Quick and beautiful and I found myself giggling.
"Holy shit. I moved for a man!" I laughed. "That sounds bad. It's not like that."
"It's only bad if you don't do something for yourself too. You work?"
"I do not work at this moment, no."
"You need to. I can see it all over you. You know what I thought about you when I first walked in this door?" She asked, dumping her bag of piano music on the bench and brushing crumbs of cookie off of her jacket. "I thought: this girl. Her glasses. I get her. She needs to be doing something spectacular, and she is going to fade in this city if she doesn't get on it soon."
She looked at me impatiently. "Have you seen your glasses? Have you looked around this town? You know what your glasses tell me? You don't give a shi- uh- crap about being cookie cutter 'perfect.'. Sure- a million hipsters have those glasses. You're no hipster, don't get me wrong- but you are an artist. You are a non-working artist. I can see it all over your body. And, the worst part is I think you have given up on yourself a little bit, but you are not beyond saving."
I sat there, opening and closing my mouth and trying not to stress-sweat. Who was this woman? Where had she been my whole life?
"We're not going to sing today." She said, closing the piano. "You need to talk. I need to listen. We'll do that today. I'll unlock your inner artist. But, for today, I want to talk to you. So- where were you born?"
"Concord, New Hampshire." I whispered. And we were off.
One time Brett and I were laughing over a story I was elaborately acting out about my day, and he stopped me, his eyes glittering. "The craziest stuff happens to you." He said. "I've never known anyone where stuff...just happens to them, falls in their lap, all of the time. It's amazing."
I brushed it off then, but I am sitting down now at our table and thinking about it. Last night I cried into my dinner about how my life wasn't making sense. How I moved here and felt like my drive and my dreams were all dropping away and it was my fault. Brett's loving answer to my pathetic little pity party was the gift of voice lessons.
He was trying to give me back my voice. (Not that I ever truly lost it. I mean, let's be real here. Expressing myself is not usually a...problem. To a fault.) But, here I was in this cold little room with a woman I trusted implicitly who seemed to love learning every inch of the miles that brought me here. This stranger believed in me, and saw something that I had stopped looking for in myself. What a crazy thing to happen.
She walked me out after my "singing" time was through, and we lingered in the doorway like new lovers. "I'm giving you 4 days to get a job."
"4?!" I returned, laughing. "Listen. You obviously don't know me as much as I thought you did. Maybe we need another "voice" lesson."
She smiled. "There you go! I like it! Ok. A week. That's it, New Hampshire. You got this."
"Ok. A week. And I'll see YOU next week. Same time?"
"Same time." She answered, and then stopped me as I walked out the door. "I don't want you to find a job because I think you are lazy. I want you to really start in the arts- your passion- because I know your very soul depends on it. I don't want you to look back on your life in 15 years and be unhappy. I don't want you to give up. I think you are about to, and I cannot let that happen. Got me?"
"I've got you."
"And New Hampshire? Next week we sing. We sing the shit out of something. You're ready."