I went in for my yearly mammogram last week. As you know, it’s not exactly a painful procedure, but it’s uncomfortable, and as I was being manipulated into the unwieldy machine I got to thinking about what a peculiar job it must be to jam women into awkward positions, over and over, every fifteen minutes all day.
So after we were done I asked the technician about that, and she LIT UP, the way people do when they FINALLY get to talk about the thing they are passionate about, and she talked about the advances in the technology since she was starting out, and the things this machine was capable of. She talked about the women it has saved, from dying of cancer, of course, but also from unnecessary surgical disfigurement. It was completely inspiring listening to this lady love her weird job, and I left feeling fantastic about the whole ordeal. It’s great to see someone who is doing what they are supposed to be doing!
Two weeks before, I had my first Mendelssohn rehearsal with the Lake Shore Symphony. It was a random Wednesday night, in the middle of a VERY busy month, and it was a full month before our performance (on April 15. Come out and see us!)
That evening was not ideal for me. I was in the middle of a TERRIBLY hard two weeks of work. EVERY NIGHT was a late night, EVERY MORNING was an early one, Steve had gotten into an accident the night before and wrecked one of our cars, I had had to find myself a rental at 8am in order to get to my gigs that day. All of the other repertoire I was playing that week was difficult, this concerto rehearsal followed two three-hour services of physically taxing music, and I did not feel prepared for Mendelssohn. I knew that I was on track to be ready by mid-April but this was a full four weeks out. I was very stressed about this rehearsal, and I was very much sleep deprived. When I pulled up in front of the venue I was almost ill with dread and my brain was foggy. As I walked in I felt the grayness of fatigue closing in all around the edges of my mind. This is not a good way to feel.
The orchestra was still rehearsing other music when I got in. I assembled my oboe, slapped on a reed, and hoped it would work. I had of course already played for six hours that day, so I imagined that it would be fine. Although the reed you need to play a minimalist opera is not necessarily the same one you need to solo on a difficult and technical concerto… The orchestra went on break. My dread increased. I visited with the conductor and concertmaster, digging deep to give the impression of good cheer. The group reassembled. They tuned. We had the requisite jokes about whether I needed a tuning note (I didn’t) and the requisite standard excuses from both sides – we’re sight-reading tonight, I just came from two opera rehearsals, we’re all a month out from performance – and then we started.
And it took me ZERO time – maybe three beats of the introduction – to LIGHT UP and turn into Jennet Ingle, Oboist again. Gone was the exhaustion, the fatigue, the dread. Gone was the disquiet about my preparation. Gone was the certain knowledge that I would make mistakes and reveal myself to be inadequate.
This thing – playing real music with an orchestra, showing off my hard work, being the star – this is what I do. This is what I was born to do. It is the way I feel the most alive. This is a thing I can rise out of any funk for.
And it’s good to remember. It had been maybe a year since the last time I was in front of a group – my Mozart Concerto with Northwest Indiana Symphony was the last time – but when it’s really your thing you never forget how!
Just as my mammogram lady reminded me, everybody’s got a thing. I love my thing. I can’t wait for April 15!