Wednesday morning I awoke with my teeth clenched, feeling the aftershocks of a singing competition in my dreams. Though my subconscious had done a shabby job of fixing my less than enviable voice, it wasn’t my squawking that caused my REM cycle distress. Instead, it was my dream self’s recognition that I could have spared the crowd a few misfired pitches if I had only been satisfied to enjoy success from backstage.
In the imagined contest, each participant was required to write a new song and then perform it with the help of a randomly selected stage band. Through some strange twist, the adorable young performer before me had co-opted my Kanye West-worthy rap and wowed everyone on hand with her incredible interpretation. Even I, the songwriter, was celebrated for making such a performance possible, but was still expected to grab the mic and give it a go myself.
While my dream piano player and violinist left a lot to be desired, it was really my own stage presence that was the problem, and I woke up disturbed to have dreamed up that level of embarrassment, convinced that I would never again karaoke in public if I knew what was good for me.
But as I relaxed in bed imagining what the dream could mean (because apparently unnecessary analysis is something the sluggish summer version of myself enjoys), I wondered if the songwriter-singer divide has something to do with the way I spoke about vocation with the youth group earlier this month.
For every few people poring over notebooks to create songs for their vocally gifted counterparts, there are hundreds who want to be center stage, signing record deals and winning Billboard music awards. Generally speaking, young Americans emerge from classrooms convinced that we are all fighting for a public spotlight, evaluating worth on the basis of how often our names are on the lips of our jealous peers.
But if I have learned anything in my one year of post-college wandering, it is that the group of people I admire most do not hold fame or fortune in common. Instead, I envy them for the way they live into their own passions, finding happiness where they have been made to meet it, whether that be in a sleepy Chicago suburb or a tiny Texas wildlife preserve.
We have to stop seeking the best title to put under our names on Facebook profiles and work instead toward a kind of life that fulfills us, whether it be spent in the classroom or in a cornfield.
It is hard work becoming who you are meant to be, but I hear the benefits package is huge.