Listening

Echoing reverberations from the choir bounced around St. Finbarre’s Cathedral, around me standing in the center aisle listening for problems. After a few seconds the director turned, smiled, and asked, “was that okay?”

“Are you kidding?” was my unspoken response. It was an absurd question. Chamber Choir Ireland had sung my piece nearly perfectly, in an amazing venue. Of course it was okay—it was about as good a rehearsal as I could have imagined, and the evening’s concert was even better.

Having a piece performed is odd, though. Despite the assurance of a rehearsal, as my piece comes closer in the program the months of anticipation turn into heart–pounding anxiety. When the performance actually happens, I barely realize it’s occurring, jolting out of a strange semi–aware state when it finishes. It’s not until much later that I appreciate the moment.

“Were you happy with how they did?” from friends and festival attendees. Another absurd question. But “yes” is just a feeling, and I’ll understand why later.

Taking a bow at the Cork Choral Festival

The spring semester and my final weeks in Ireland are a flurry of events and deadlines: sound design for a theatre piece from February through March, right into performance and paper deadlines for final assessments; constantly preparing for gigs; my piece featured in the Cork Choral Festival, and singing in it besides; joining a Dublin choir to compete in Germany, joining my classmates to perform at a computer music conference in Spain, joining my Mitchell family on our final retreat to the UK. When one ends, the next had actually begun days before, and I’m already in the thick of the next step.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these steps. From responsibility to responsibility, from piece to piece, from year to year. “Take things in stride” is an okay way to justify the busyness, but I can’t help but feel that my stride is a bit short. How do you take the next step when you feel like you haven’t landed the current one?

I don’t know if I’m ready to step out of Cork. I love that I see familiar faces in every coffee shop, that with just a month left I still befriend people who invite me into their artistic and personal lives. I’d rather not leave behind the guidance of my professors, the omnipresent River Lee branches, the spirit of my choir, the Cork accent.

Some of the Mitchells at Glenstal Abbey

And I’m not ready to step away from the Mitchells. My sense of imposter syndrome within the group has never gone away; when I spend time with them I learn more about how much I don’t know, I laugh constantly at their incisive, deadpan humor, and I’m bowled over by their capacity for kindness towards and investment in the 11 others they each met only a year prior. So much of my growth this year has come from their vibrant example of living and learning.

But, I have to step anyway. What feels like cutting my stride short is actually coming to rest. To stand still and listen to my memories of the past nine months, snap out of the relentless experience of a year that seems like it’s barely started and appreciate all that happened in it.

“Were you happy with how you did?” Yes. For now, it’s just a feeling—I’ll understand why later.

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