Reclaiming, revisiting, replanting: excavating

I know I’ve used this photo before, so to my loyal readers from the beginning, forgive me. This is the beginning of the academic year, and it’s the time where we meet new people, think about new ways of doing things, and perhaps reclaim things that we forgot we knew and loved. Excavation time. The photo seemed apt.

Something I’ve been working with in my opera class this year that’s new (and yet also familiar to me in other forms and contexts) is “Orienting to Self”. We have been investigating what it feels like to truly be in our bodies, and what our bodies hold. We’ve been looking at all the “selves” that we are–for myself: mother, daughter, teacher, singer, artist, partner, friend, musician, neighbour, cyclist, activist–and attempting to feel, to locate, where those selves are within us. One student reflected to me this week that they had found profound meaning in this exercise, particularly when invited to locate their inner child; they said that they became very emotional when accessing this, and recognized such a feeling of accomplishment through it as well. By acknowledging all they had learned to this point, the encounter with this inner self meant a recognition of how far they had come, so much farther than that child could ever have dreamed. So beautiful!

And yet–often this time of beginnings is fraught with fears, especially when we have to perform in the FACULTY SHOWCASE CONCERT for our students! I’ve been talking with several colleagues about how readily such moments can bring up imposter syndrome, when we have to show up and actually Walk the Talk. Additionally, for some of my colleagues who don’t necessarily identify anymore with the moniker “performer”, it’s a reminder of something deeply buried that they once loved and have turned away from to pursue other passions. And still, it remains there as a deep youthful desire. A desire to connect to others through music, to revel in the vibrations of their instrument and their body, of the performing space. We shut down this desire sometimes because we fear judgment and criticism, we fear shame and humiliation. And that’s because we’ve experienced it. We have learned to armour ourselves with knowledge, expertise and outward shows of confidence (and parchments on our walls) in order to forget the pain that this love for music making has sometimes caused us. And yet there is such longing within us for a simpler time when we didn’t know that discomfort could be involved in it, a time before we disowned that self that simply let loose and sang and played. So I’m here to say: let’s dig underneath the armour and rediscover what treasures lie beneath. As I’ve referenced before: “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” (Yoda via Joseph Campbell).