Sunday, 5 August 2012

Medals and Goals

I have watched something of the Olympics every day so far. Initially I was upset that the cruise I had booked was over the London 2012 period, but decided that it was worth it for the R&R post show. The joy of being able to watch each day, and feel part of a UK Olympics has been an added and welcome bonus.

There is something breathtakingly inspirational about watching these finest of athletes, whether running, jumping, shooting, sailing or tiddly winking ! The sheer focus upon their goal is astonishing to see. The utter physical effort, and the way they push themselves to the absolute end of their ability.

There used to be a question which regularly cropped up in A Level syllabuses when I taught in school many years ago. I loved it, and always made my students answer it many times over during their preparation for the exam. 'Singing is a Sport. Discuss.'

It was then, and is today, a completely true statement. The physical stamina needed to sing an un-miked, three hour operatic role is huge, the focus one needs to memorise in umpteen different languages is mind boggling, but most of all, the one track mind set and mental hunger to be the best, is overwhelmingly exhausting and hugely frustrating at one and the same time.

As performers we make enormous sacrifices both emotionally and financially, we give up much of the 'play time' which our non performing peers enjoy, and the lonely hours of dedicated practise just to keep up, never mind actually bettering oneself, can be very isolating to the point of depression at it's absolute worst. The ever present fear of illness or injury, which in a flash can make performing impossible, or perhaps just under par enough to get a poor review, and thus slide us down the fickle theatrical and operatic rankings in a nanosecond.

Why do we, and those in the Olympic stadium, do it? I have asked myself that question so many times in my life, most often when quaking in the wings just before making one more terrifying entrance. Why, I thought in total seriousness, did I not work in Marks and Spencer ? To go to work, to do the job and to leave at 5pm with not a hint of fear, terror or panic that my career depended on one moment, or a few misplaced notes.

I did it because I was driven, and because I had no option.

Perhaps I might have been a better cook, or considerably richer financially, or an easier person to live with, had my choices been different, but for me the sacrifices were worth it, and I would not change a single decision. Tough as it was sometimes the exhilaration of those years gave an extra rich, 'double cream' dimension to my life. Passing it on, as I do now, is just as all consuming and fulfilling, although I still never seem to find a quiet window in my days to learn to cook !

If you are driven from your core, then go for gold. Work yourself into the ground, and know for sure that you gave it your all, because even more than natural talent, it takes hunger, sweat and courage to stand on the top of any medal podium, musical or sporting.

It's a jungle out there.

(little lecture to all my pupils
with aspirations!)

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