Until it came time to practice with the accompanist. Turns out that even in oratorio, you're still not guaranteed to get your notes in the accompaniment (I knew you didn't in art song, but I sort of assumed older music was a little more helpful). I couldn't find my notes and I floundered through both the accompanist rehearsal and the performance.
After the performance, I went to the school chapel and cried for an hour. I have never given a really good singing performance in my life, but this was undoubtedly the worst I had ever done. You're in your fourth year. You should be better than this. There are second-year students singing better than you. Why are you even still in this program, taking away valuable time that the professors could be using to help actual talented people? For the first time I began to seriously consider pulling out of the performing arts program.
I was so discouraged that I steadfastly avoided the next week's song -- no point in trying so hard and putting so much effort into it if it was just going to suck anyway. I knew it was a defeatist attitude, but I was so tired of putting in so much time and effort and seeing exactly zero results. How long could I reasonably expect to see absolutely no improvement when I was practicing six and a half hours a week (not counting lessons)? What more could I possibly do? I was already singing until my voice gave out nearly every day. I couldn't ask any more of it lest I damage it.
I learned the lyrics to the song and memorised them, but didn't even attempt the melody until Monday. Tuesday morning I went for my voice lesson and got a thorough lecture from my teacher on how unprepared I was. She told me the reason I had so completely failed the previous week was because I had been unprepared then too. It had never occurred to me that I had been unprepared -- I had thought I did rather well to learn it that far in advance. But there was no doubt that I was unprepared this week.
"I know you're going through a lot of issues right now, but if you cannot get past the discouragement enough to put in the work, you will never go anywhere in the performing arts," she said.
I trudged back to the house after that lesson nearly in tears. I knew I was in a tailspin and I knew she was right, but I felt powerless to stop it. I was so tired of the mental fight just to do anything that I wanted to collapse and die right there on the street. My heart literally hurt. I wanted to close my eyes and never wake up. I knew I had to practice and actually properly learn the song, but I couldn't see why I should bother. I couldn't think of anything I could tell myself that 1. would make me want to practice, and 2. would be encouraging on any level. Every morning I wake up and I fight this same mental fight to live one more day. Nothing ever changes. Nothing happens. Just the exact same mental fight from the same place every day. It's like those films where the protagonist keeps relieving the exact same day over and over again. Any progress I made during the day is erased and reset at night when I sleep, and I awake every morning to the same herculean fight that I could never win, day after day after day after day. I was getting too physically tired from the battle to bother to keep fighting it in such a void. If nothing was ever going to change, what was the point of trying?
I was writing about all this in my journal over lunch today, and suddenly a mental picture flashed in my head and I wrote, Think of the Doctor, punching the ice, reliving that day. One day, maybe nine thousand years from now, your fist will shatter the last crystals and your bleeding knuckles will punch air.
When I wrote it, I wasn't sure I believed it. It still sounds too cheesy and abstract and 'easy' to me now as I read it back. But that mental picture somehow helped. I was lighter for the rest of the day and actually managed to find the motivation to practice -- again -- until my voice started to give out. I swear I practiced those two measures from A4 down to F up to D and back down to F a thousand times, trying to memorise the feel of that low F so I could find it in a void (because as usual the accompaniment doesn't have my note). My technique is probably crap (it always is), but I will know this melody come hell or high water -- or even a wall of ice twenty feet thick.
Here's the clip for the aforementioned Doctor Who episode. (Yes, it's actually diamond he's punching but I only saw the episode once, when it first aired like two years ago and I didn't remember that detail when I wrote the journal entry.)