Things rarely turn out the way we imagined, but without imagination, we hardly ever dare to think we can gain admission to the adventure that is life.
Joyce had her “star turn” as the off-stage lover in Il Tabarro with one single line. Despite her being the only young artist of her class to fail at securing management until the age of 29, and despite her evaluation sheet for the Houston Opera Studio, which simply declared her to possess “not much talent” and that despite way more rejections and easy dismissals than actual “yeses”, despite ALL of that, she has performed with many of the world's leading companies and orchestras.
Joyce DiDonato is a notable mezzo-soprano whose interpretations include the works of Handel, Mozart, and Rossini. In a memorable commencement address at The Julliard School DiDonato's shares four truths she's uncovered as an artist, so that:
you will have some devices at your disposal to return to, to help you find your center again, so that your voice, your art and your SOUL will not be derailed, but you will instead find the strength to make yourself heard, and seen, and FELT. Then you will have the power to transform yourselves, to transform others, and, indeed, to transform the world.
Four truths to shift our thinking
When we commit to the journey, rather than the immediate outcomes, we have a shot at finding out true north. The truths may seem harsh, yet they have a liberating effect once we internalize them.
1. You will never make it — the “shift” I invite you to make is to see it as fabulous, outstanding news, for I don’t believe there is actually an “it”. “It” doesn’t exist for an Artist. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life– is to decide, without apology, to commit to the JOURNEY, and not to the outcome.
There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover.
THIS is the glory and the reward of striving to master your craft and embarking on the path of curiosity and imagination, while being tireless in your pursuit of something greater than yourself.
Mastery and purpose are two of the most powerful intrinsic motivators in our lives. When we add autonomy or the desire to direct our own lives, there's no limit for better. But as Goethe said, “At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.”
Striving will help us do the work, because it never ends — we keep achieving higher levels in our craft and our own muscle memory works as the resistance to keep striving for more, and better.
2. The work will never end — when things become overwhelming – which they will, repeatedly ~ whether it’s via unexpected, rapid success or as heart-wrenching, devastating failure ~ the way back to your center is simply to RETURN TO THE WORK.
It will always be there for you — even if in some moments you lack the will to be there for it. All it asks is that you show up, fully present.
Being present is the product of our wonder and love for the craft, that's what keeps us alive and helps us let go when we need to. It's the path to freedom as an artist, but also in life. When we don't grow attached to outcomes, we gain access to a sphere bigger than the self — where we do the work without expecting medals.
3. It's not about you — You may not yet realize it, but you haven't signed up for a life of glory and adulation.
glory is always transitory and will surely disappear just as fleetingly and arbitrarily as it arrived.) The truth is, you have signed up for a life of service by going into the Arts. And the life-altering results of that service in other people’s lives will NEVER disappear as fame unquestionably will.
You are a servant to the sick one who needs healing through the beauty and peace of the symphony you will compose through blood-shot eyes and sleepless nights. You are an attendant to the lost one who needs saving through the comforting, probing words you will conjure up from the ether, as well as from your own heroic moments of strife and triumph.
You are a vessel to the angry and confused one who needs a protected place to release their rage as they watch your eyes on the screen silently weep in pain as you relive your own private hell.
And so may others — the optimistic, the naive, the young, and the old alike. It's a shift we make from serving our selves to serving the words, the music, the author, and the entire humankind who may witness the experience we contribute to creating. We're also serving our selves in our desire to create, express, and share, without forgetting to have some fun in the process.
We're desperate for solace, inspiration, and a flight of the imagination. Which is why the fourth truth is the world needs creators.
4. The world needs you — We need you to help us understand that which is bigger than ourselves, so that we can stop feeling so small, so isolated, so helpless that, in our fear, we stop contributing that which is unique to us: that distinct, rare, individual quality which the world is desperately crying out for and eagerly awaiting. We need you to remind us what unbridled, unfiltered, childlike exuberance feels like, so we remember, without apology or disclaimer, to laugh, to play, to FLY and to stop taking EVERYTHING so damn seriously.
It's the shared experience that teaches us about empathy, but also compassion, possibly one of the most difficult and prized of human qualities — the deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. That's how we make a difference.
Without holding values that are dear to us, without the commitment to master to our craft so we can be of service to those who come before us and after us we can get lost in out quest of “making it.” When in truth, we're already fully formed when we offer ourselves in service to the work.
[image Drama Queens, larger than life]