Another post that has been a long time coming. I am struggling to get the hang of this writing business. One delays for so long. You think, hmm, today I’m not in the right mind set. Today it will come out all wrong. Well, this day also feels like one of those days. And yet, here I am. The silent secret impulse to spill my guts has struck. And in the most inconvenient of places…
The country out the window of the train is flattening. Munich is long behind us, and at 300 kph, the smoggy, dirty, brilliant lowlands of outter Paris will soon be upon us. It’s a funny thing about train travel. Unless you know the way extremely well, it’s almost impossible to tell from the view out of the window when you are approaching your destination. Each town comes up to suddenly, like a wonderful surprise. The train carves its way through some kind of industrial wasteland and then, as if by magic, you are in the Gard du Nord.
I felt no sadness leaving Munich this morning. Not because I won’t miss it, or because I won’t miss the wonderful friendships I made there including – finally, a real one with myself. It is because by nature of my peripatetic life, I will probably spend just as much time in Munich living in Paris as I did when I actually ‘lived’ in Munich. I was away so much that I get the sense I only scratched the surface of what the great southern belle city has to offer. Munich makes you work hard for her secrets. The obvious ones – The Englischer Garden, Viktualienmarkt, the Isar are accessible to all. But the real gems – a late night cocktail bar deep in the back of the Haus der Kunst, the best €5 large Margherita pizza just around the corner from our place, the Giesingerbräu, were harder to uncover. A friend of a friend was there. Or I happened to walk past one day. Or a tram was delayed so I ended up spending an extra 10 minutes in a new neighbourhood and discovered something new. So was the experience in Munich. I will miss working hard to discover my city.
Paris feels already like na old acquaintance. I don’t think I could say we were ‘friends’ quite yet, although we are well on the way. Soon Paris and I will be doing sleep overs, and in a few years I’ll make the embarrassing speech at her 21st birthday and she’ll be my maid of honour. Paris is young and old at the same time. Naive and ancient. Some parts of Paris are so absurdly old that they seem to belong to a make-believe world. The worlds of Victor Hugo or Andrew Lloyd Webber. And yet those places really are a as magical as they appear in my imagination. The banks of the Seine in winter are beautiful and desolate and the water as black as death. The Palais Garnier really is that opulent.
I recently learned from a friend at uni in Munich that I had a secret nickname – the Glückskind – The lucky kid. This rather demeaning moniker made me chuckle. I am aware of the incredible fortune I have in my life. The privilege of coming from a family where there was always, always space for art. The privilege of education. The privilege of scholarships during my masters, meaning more time to go on auditions and more resources to invest in myself. But I wonder why people chose to call me that. Maybe the audacity to believe in oneself – to bet on oneself – is too much for some to bare. Maybe its easier to see someone who appears successful and say ‘they are just lucky.’ The trouble with that mindset it is it disempowering. If you, too, come from a background that allowed you to pursue a classical music education without major financial duress, seeing other people’s achievements as luck is really the least empowering thing you can do. I stopped seeing ‘luck’ a while ago. I used to think the soprano ahead of me, getting the better, bigger jobs, had been hit with a bigger lucky stick than I. But once I started working myself, I realised what set them apart was not luck, but hard work and dedication. It’s a lesson I’m still learning. I don’t work nearly hard enough. I feel guilty about it everyday and it feeds into my imposter syndrome. But I don’t have any excuses.
It’s wonderful in your late twenties to be able to experience true curiosity. I am honestly completely open to what Paris might bring. I have no idea what is coming, although experience has taught me change is (generally) good. I know myself enough to foresee myself burning a flood-sized path through the undergrowth, burrowing around the industry like a hungry mole. I wonder where I will pop up.