Compare/Contrast

I was a music minor in college. I majored in Political Science, but I hung out with a lot of music students. I mean no disrespect for my own, but the music majors were more interesting, and to be honest with myself I had to work a lot harder at my minor than I did at my major so I ended up spending a lot of time in the music and fine arts buildings.

I have this very vivid memory of standing in the parking lot with my friend Melissa and she was complaining about how she couldn’t quite sing this particular passage as well as the woman on the CD. She was really frustrated. She was one of the best singers at our university and she just couldn’t get the breath control or the tone that she was hearing. I looked at her CD (yeah, this was way back in the 90s when we actually bought compact discs and carried them around with us.) and I said “Well maybe the problem is that the woman on this recording is Kiri Te Kanawa. Nobody can sing like her.”

At some point we had stopped comparing ourselves to other 19 year olds and started comparing ourselves to a 45-year-old professional opera singer who had been knighted (or damed, or whatever you call it when it happens to a woman) for exceptional singing. Melissa was trying to figure out why she, at 19 years old, could not make the same music as a woman who sang at Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding.

If you ever studied vocal pedagogy you know that a woman’s voice does not hit full maturity until she is in her thirties or sometimes even her forties, and don’t even start with me about that little girl from Pittsburgh. What is her name? Jackie Evancho? Yeah, that just isn’t right. She shouldn’t be able to sing like that at 10. Something is wrong there, and I don’t mean she is a savant, I mean she needs to see a doctor because she should not medically be able to make those sounds at her age. Her vocal chords should not be able to do that yet.

Thinking about what you are actually putting yourself up against can really help put some things in perspective.

I was thinking about that because I read this and this.

It was based on the same writing prompt as I had when I buried a paragraph about hating my belly in another post.

I have been taking my 30 days of truth and writing 10th grade essays about what I need to forgive myself for and other people – my friends! – are writing stories. They are creating art.

I started to feel bad about myself and my skill or lack thereof when I remembered that day in the parking lot. Maybe it isn’t that I’m not good. Maybe it is that I have reached a new place, the level where I am holding myself to a higher standard. Maybe it is that I am finally confident enough to think that I should be able to do what I do that well.  Yes, Laurie and Christine are better writers than I am, but I can legitimately call them my peers. Five years ago I could never have done that.

Melissa couldn’t sing like Kiri then, but today she is 36 and you should hear her now. She is a professional opera singer.

And I am a writer.

Goon Squad Sarah

[photo by Laurie White]

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  1. I love this post, and you, so much.

  2. smart aleck says:

    That was exactly the perspective I needed today. And it reminds me of how my teacher mom never pitted us against each other in our skills sets. Any competition or comparisons we have ever had or made came from within, and we all found our niche.

    I love your writing because I hear the delivery of it as I read, and that is an art.

  3. Damn straight you are. And a talented one. Thank you for a huge compliment although I will tell you every day that I am not a better writer than you.

    Love you Sarah.

  4. You are perfectly, beautifully you. I just feel lucky that we are different enough to make each other better at a variety of things, but so similar in the ways that matter. That was the friend jackpot.

    Besides, you might not be quite as metal as Sid, but you are infinitely moreso than I am. I have to have something going for me.

  5. I love this. I struggle with the very idea of calling myself a writer. Hell, I went to school and learned to write and had a career as one for a very long time. Then I stopped. I stopped for so long that when I started again, on a dare, it seemed like a farce. Then I read others who pull me in with their words and then have the odd idea of asking me to try my hand at the same thing and I panic. This will always and forever be a work in progress for me.

  6. I have felt this way lately too. I mean shit, yesterday I wrote a paragraph forgiving the creators of Play-Doh. Not real exciting stuff.

    But you are a writer. I am a writer. We do it our way. Everyone else does it their way. There is enough room in this blog world for all of us.

  7. You are a kick-ass writer, and don’t you forget it, Missy.

    I’m constantly in awe of you and all that you do.

  8. Right on We ROCK!!!
    Yeah! Love you, Miss you.

  9. Did you hear who is singing the National Anthem at the Winter Classic?

  10. Lesley Asad says:

    yes l love it. i wish i could write posts like that.

  11. There are many different types of singers too, not just levels. And many different types of writers. You are one of the best at the type of writing you do. That’s a big deal. I’m definitely not always happy with the type of writer I am either, writing corporate nonsense when other people are writing novels and poems and lyrics. But it’s a type of writing I do well. And I can still strive to do those other types someday too.

    (Hey, let’s sign up for a small, out-of-the-way writer’s retreat together someday. THAT sounds fun.)

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