Time to Walk Away...
by Mara Jennings
“Never worry what others say when you walk away from all the drama. Be grateful you had the strength and courage to stay out of the conflict and be at peace with your choices.”
― Elle Sommer
I was a music education major at a local college and was required to take vocal lessons with the adjunct vocal coach. Our first lesson together was all of thirty minutes with her throwing out arbitrary, absurd musical terms, putting down any style of singing that wasn't classical, and making it a point to mention that she had a Doctorate's in vocal performance every opening sentence. I knew immediately that this was going to end poorly and in a hurry. I wasn't sure how I was going to survive this twice a week, in a tiny practice room, with one door as means of escape... and she sat right in front of it. The more time we spent together the less sunny her disposition... the more time we spent together, the more passive aggressive and toxic her comments became. It was a struggle to listen to crazy and biting remarks for thirty minutes a day.
After weeks of torture, I stood outside the door of that room trying to gather up the strength to walk in once more with the teacher who had developed a sincere distaste for me. Finally, I turned the door knob and forced a smile. We began. I honestly cannot remember what piece we were working on, or what note I was struggling with, but I do recall what she said. Just as serious as possible, looked at me from behind the dated piano and asked, "Can you pretend that you have a hole.. right between your eyebrows, and you are blowing air through it?" I was dumbfounded.... after a brief silence with me trying to wrap my head around what in the blue blazes was happening, I told her, "No. I can't...Because, I don't have a hole there. Can you?"
Unfazed, she soldiered on with a new analogy to explain the absurdity that she had just expelled. "You have to pretend that you are a unicorn. You are going to pretend that your air is traveling through your horn and traveling quickly to the corner of the room. That is how you should sing." I didn't push her for more explanation after that... What was I supposed to say? I just nodded my head and bit my tongue.... Hard. I knew that questioning her would only bring pain for me. She would state, as she had before, that she knew what she was talking about and imply that there was something wrong with me for not understanding... Because she had a Doctorate's.... in vocal performance... in case I had forgotten.
Immediately upon exiting the building, I called Crystal and my Mom. Two strong women who I am sure would have helped me load a body into the trunk of my car, although they may not admit it out loud. In complete honesty, there was definitely some "flavorful" language being used that day. I was livid. How was it that I was being held hostage by this loon? What had I done to deserve this? Would I be suspected if she just disappeared? Most frustrating was the fact that I was constantly being bombarded with her negative opinion of me and it was beginning to adversely affect not only my performance but my personal well being.... It was hard not to allow the crazy and often hurtful things said in that room to become a part of my self image. Both Mom and Crystal encouraged me; reminding me that I was loved and adamantly stating that this woman was not a voice that should be allowed in my life... it was hurting me, and they knew it.
Eventually, I decided to remove myself from the toxicity.... It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I say all of that to say this... Not everyone knows what they are talking about. Not everyone should have a voice into your life, not matter how much life experience or how many doctorate's they might own. Your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well being should be your top priority... and only you know what you need to maintain that health. Don't stay in a toxic place just because you "feel" that you are obligated to it somehow. It's okay to say, "Enough is enough." In fact, it is encouraged.
As a singer, our bodies are our instruments. If we are constantly subjecting ourselves to stress then we are running the risk of damaging our instrument. Stress causes tension, stress causes us to lose focus, stress causes us to lose energy. So, why subject yourself to that kind of torture if it is only going to make realizing your dream that much harder? You... your dream... is worth making the decision to walk away from anything or anyone that will be detrimental to your instrument and your ultimate goals.
Instead, take the time to determine what you need for success... Seriously consider who is allowed to speak into your life... And continuously revisit yourself. Be emotionally and bodily aware, knowing what you need and when.... and be patient with you. Always be patient with you.
Stress happens. It's a part of life, and not always avoided. But, that doesn't mean that we have to dwell in that stress. We determine when enough is enough. Courage isn't always taking the beating... sometimes it is knowing when to quietly make your exit.