I lean against the steering wheel, pulling my jangling key from the ignition. Pursing my lips, I summon the confident, 23-year-old diva at the height of her vocal training. I smile, catching a glimpse of her in the rearview mirror, and then sigh as I take hold of the reality that it has been a long time since I was her.
A lot has changed.
I step gingerly from the car, acutely aware of the ache in my hips from delivering three children. The dark green, fitted shift with a maroon floral pattern I chose for the occasion feels appropriate, but I wonder if I appear too matronly. Even kitten heels feel like they might be too high. I remember auditioning in red, patent leather stilettos not long ago.
I sling my leather tote over my shoulder, full of music that in recent years has mostly known the darkness of moving boxes and dusty shelves. Of course, I have been practicing since scheduling the audition, but still…
Reaching the top of the stairwell at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, I sit, waiting my turn to audition. Lungs that had never borne the crushing weight of a baby churned out silvery-toned Mozart arias with ease. Young women, whose abdominal sheaths had not known the cold edge of a surgeon’s blade intervening on behalf of 30-week-old twin preemies, gestured to and fro. Youthful bodies that had not yet been a living sacrifice to the ebb and flow of plenty and lack, surviving catastrophic storms on the fragile cusp of hope, glowed as they hit their high notes.
Since college my vocal cords have patinaed with a richness of tone and intrigue of imperfection no amount of seamless scales can achieve. The “silver” may have languished in the china cabinet for years, but with a solid polish, it can still be perfect for the table setting. It doesn’t have to be new to shine.
When the door opens, I enter the audition room clothed in a security I have never felt before in an operatic audition. My instrument feels different because it is different. I feel more vulnerable than ever, but also more confident too. I have survived some moments that make me feel invincible. I have achieved some incredible things that the results of this audition cannot take away from me. Rather than feeling inferior, I feel storied.
The changes in my body, the seeming imperfections, have actually become great gifts.
I choose an ambitious aria to lead with, not because I feel so capable, but because I trust my body inside of the music. My cells remember each groove of melody, each melisma, each turn of phrase like the wrinkled maps folded in the door of my van—my voice the car, my score the direction. I live each breath of music like it might be my last, pouring every ounce of story into the notes.
I finish with a smile. I have persevered through mountains of doubt that my voice is still good enough and fear that a wife and mother of three is a has-been. While I felt anxious that the panel would see through the sham and know that most of my days are unglamorous—changing diapers, cooking meals, losing sleep, managing tempers, sickness, messes, and cross-country moves—I now feel triumphant in the personal courage it took to show up.
But, if life has taught me anything, it is this: never be my own obstacle. Go after the dreams in my heart because it is good work. My dreams are in there for a reason. They are a roadmap to the flourishing of my spirit-woman. God didn’t create me and then say, “good luck!” I am to journey with delight, no matter the terrain.
Shaking hands with the panel, I beam, thinking about Psalm 126 when the captives are returned to their homeland. They are described as “those who dream,” whose “mouths are filled with laughter,” and whose “tongues with songs of joy.” Even as inner and outer turmoil collide, I experience a beautiful return to an art form that has healed so many parts of my soul. I am reintroduced to a dream, and I am filled with joy.
Kelsi Folsom holds a B.M. in Voice Performance and has traveled all over the world participating in operas, musicals, jazz bands, and choirs. Now a mom to “three under three”, she currently resides in San Antonio, Texas. When she is not putting on her best Cherubino while changing dirty diapers, you can find her perfecting gluten-free recipes, *gasp* reading, enjoying a nap, or trying to make sense of her life over french press. Kelsi writes here.