Plane diaries

Wednesday, October 17th, 11:11

QA 424 Melbourne – Sydney

Soundtrack: Hänsel und Gretel, E. Humperdinck. Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic. Gretel: Lucia Popp, Hänsel: Brigitte Fassbender. Conductor: Sir Georg Solti. Decca 1978

This is the first of what I am calling plane diaries.  There’s an enforced reflectiveness about flying.  Mostly, one is alone. It’s loud. One often has to repeat oneself. Interactions with fellow passengers are awkward.  Everyone is trying to figure out what the other wants and needs. Where the boundaries are.  Is there anything worse than a chatty fellow passenger fixated on making small talk, when all you want to do is zone out?  I’ve also been practicing kindness recently, which means if someone reaches out to me to share something, I try to be open to it.  It really doesn’t cost me anything, and can make someone else very happy.

We’re about half way through this leg.  Did you know the Melbourne-Sydney flight path is one of the busiest in the world, second only to Tokyo-Osaka? What an incredible fact.  It’s certainly a trip I’ve taken countless times. Surrounded by suits and token Australiana, this is a very familiar setting. The seat is definitely big enough, although the young man in front of me is insisting on reclining his seat – a travel faux-pas on such short flights – making the typing elbow space a little cramped.

The reason I’m headed to Sydney is to compete in the Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship finals.  I just got a muscular stomach spasm (i.e. butterflies) just typing that out.  This is definitely me betting on my self.  The Opera Foundation for young Australians generously contributed $450 to my travel costs, but that doesn’t make too much of a dent on an International flight from Paris.  This is one of the hardest things about being an artist. Even if you earn enough to live off, there are so many add-on costs associated with this career.  You have to see it as an investment in yourself.  Paying $4000 in flights (I also came back to Australia for the first round in April) makes sense when $43,000 is on the table, but you have to have a lot of self belief to take a risk like that.  Not to mention the physical and emotional costs of travelling intercontinentally and being away from home.  I’m starting to get the impression that frequent air travel has some kind of cumulative corporal cost. Not to mention the psychological journey for someone with some flight anxiety, like me.

This trip is a bet on me, but I think it’s a safe bet.  By that, I don’t mean it’s a sure thing that I am going to win this competition, but that I have to believe that investing in myself, and taking a (calculated) chance like this is always the right choice.  I am also reassuring myself with the fact that the outcome of this trip will certainly not determine whether or not I ever spend time in New York. I know myself enough to know that if it is important to me, I will find a way.

Having faced some serious anxieties and insecurity about my voice recently, my approach to preparing for this competition has been mostly psychological. I am worried that I might get so nervous on the day that I under perform. But as my psychologist recently pointed out: “So you’re worried about getting worried?” Good point, shrink.

UPDATE: My talented an gracious colleague took home the top prize at the competition, but what I learned about myself was more than enough reward. (this is positive self-talk)