A Singer's Journey: Moving Forward, Step by Step
Bonita Norris is the youngest person in the world to have both climbed Mount Everest and journeyed to the North Pole. She reached the summit of Everest on 17 May 2010, when she was 22. When she reflects, in her book, on her journey to becoming a mountaineer and her ambition to climb Everest, she says:
“When I look back, I can see that I was dealing with so much uncertainty and was so alone in my challenge, that I couldn’t tell if was on the right track or not. I often felt like the only person in the world who understood what I was going through.”
She wasn’t. She eventually found the comradeship of other mountaineers. This passage reminded me of what I, and others on the Online Singing Course, have said about learning how to sing: that it’s nice to be in the company of “people who know what it’s like”, who know what the challenges are, and who want to keep going anyway.
Norris also writes very eloquently about the structure of a learning journey, or lack of it. She refers to not knowing if she “was on the right track”. You can find many ‘tracks’ in singing and music education. The grade system, a diploma, an undergraduate music degree, a postgraduate qualification at a conservatoire, and as I understand it the profession after that can be quite hierarchical.
But if you’re not on that track, you can feel lost, and wonder where you are at all. You can feel “alone in your challenge” as Norris says.
But she goes on to describe one of the ways she deals with this uncertainty, which again I think can apply to singing: not focusing too much on any end goal but delighting in the activity itself:
“When I was frustrated, I reminded myself that it wasn’t all about the end point. Climbing just for the sake of climbing made me happy. If Everest did come to nothing, as the devil on my shoulder would tell me, I would tell it that I didn’t care. Climbing was enough.”
Excitingly, Norris’s story shows the possibilities which can open up when you find joy in the process. It doesn’t just curb your angst about an end goal but actually helps you achieve it:
“I told myself to trust that feeling. That if I kept taking those small steps, eventually an opportunity would arise. I just had to keep getting out there, and climbing as much as possible until I found the answers I was looking for.”
This reminded me of something Salwan has said: “When we follow what we love, we can’t possibly imagine the places it’ll take us,” and “If we’re committed on the journey, things open up.”