Thursday, July 22, 2010

American Idol and The Fear of Success

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch with Kelly and Dave watching So You Think You Can Dance, when I caught a glimpse of a commercial advertising the new season of American Idol. More specifically, a commercial on the local Austin station telling us that we should get involved.

I was perplexed. I'd never seen an audition commercial before. Could that mean....

Was it possible....

I quickly went to the American Idol website and looked at their audition schedule. Sure enough, this year, they were coming to Austin. On campus, no less.

My knee jerk reaction was one of sheer elation. I immediately stated my intent to go forth and audition. I posted on Facebook. I told everyone I could get on instant messenger.

See, I kind of like to sing. Just a little. 

Anyone who has spent any amount of time around me at all knows this. I'm likely to launch into a song at any given moment, and I'm not particularly shy about it. The bigger the audience, the more I enjoy performing. So, the prospect of auditioning for people who could give me a venue to perform - who could actually make me a singer - it was, to say the least, a little intoxicating.

By the time I got home, though, I was starting to feel uneasy about the whole audition thing, for several reasons. Over the course of the last couple weeks, I'd very nearly talked myself out of going. Not because I was afraid, or because I didn't think I was good, or even because I don't like big crowds of people (though, I'll admit, I'm not thrilled about the idea of fighting a crowd that size.) My uneasiness hasn't been coming from the fear of failure - it's been coming from the fear of success.

Let me explain. This may be long. (Or it may be short. Or it may be interrupted. The child could awaken at any moment.)

Saying that I come from a family of musicians is a little like saying Prince Charles comes from a family of nobility. My dad was in a band that got broken up by the draft. My mom was pretty well known locally as a folk singer. My uncle was even more well known in the area as a singer and guitarist. I have cousins in functioning praise bands. Dad plays bass and harmonica. Mom plays guitar and piano, and has even been known to fiddle a bit.

We have a stock pile of instruments, including a dulcimer, two violins, a piano, at least three guitars, two basses, a mandolin, and, for some reason, a banjitar. My parents entertainment center in Lockhart is fashioned out of a Marshall amp, a head, and two enormous speakers. The living room is dotted with amps, microphone stands, and music books.

My parents gave me a microphone sometime around 2 and I went with it. I've been playing the piano for about as long. 

Give me a stage and an audience and I won't hesitate to start singing. Performance is an adrenaline rush that you just can't beat. Occasionally, I manage to keep the audience from running away in fear, too.

Music just DOES something for me, you know? I go somewhere when I play that I can't get to otherwise. You can always tell the musicians from the casual players. The musicians get this look. We all go somewhere else.

I'm not amazing.

I'm not even really special or unique.

But I love it, and I'm pretty good at it.

Since coming to Texas, I haven't really had a venue in which to play. Back in North Carolina, we had huge musical get-togethers every year. Now I play in my apartment and just hope that no one bangs on the door and tells me to shut up.

I miss it.

If I could pick one thing to change about Kelly, I'd make her musical. It's difficult when the thing you love to do more than anything else is play and sing - and your best friend is entirely tone-deaf. And likes Metal. And stares at you blankly when you lament that you have a voice built for the key of A-flat, but would much rather play in G.

I still have hope for her children. I'll make them musical yet.

In any case, everything I've just said builds a pretty convincing case for why I should go downtown on the 11th of August and audition for American Idol.

If it were two years ago, I wouldn't even be hesitating.

But now?

When I look at the course my life is taking, I have a hard time seeing a future in which I'm a professional musician. I do love it - I do SO love it - but I'm not really sure that it's where I'm going.

When I see my future, I see a career as a therapist. I see the creation of a National Foundation for Students with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I see myself as a Doctor of Psychology, working at a university. I see myself, as I have always seen myself - an intellectual. Never really popular, but certainly ambitious.

I see a husband and children, in a house - not on a tour bus.

I see myself conducting research and writing books.

This spring, I received a nomination to the Diversity and Equity Student Advisory Committee, representing Services for Students with Disabilities. Just two days ago, I found out that I'd been nominated to take part in the University of Texas Undergraduate Leadership Program. 

For the first time in my life, I'm being challenged academically. And I'm starting to get to a place where I'm going to have the connections to do really great things. I want to be a representative for students with disabilities. I want to represent Social Work. I want to bring some recognition to the School of Social Work, and show everyone who keeps telling me that I'm crazy that I can make a real difference for students with OCD on a national level. 

I'm in a position to do that. And I really believe that I can make it all happen.

I've worked so hard to get to here. Auditions would take time - the first round, not so much, but the second round, or the semi-finals, slated for some time in November or December? That could screw around with my finals. It could keep me from going to school. It could change everything.

I know all too well how one little decision can change your life. I'm here, after all, because of a video game.

On the off chance that I go to auditions and succeed - I'm not really sure that I'm prepared to change the course of my life again. I'm not sure that I'm prepared to stop being an intellectual to become what I'd have to become to be a musician. (Not that musicians can't be brilliant - but when you think popular musician, does 'smart' really come to mind?) I'm not sure that I'd be prepared to be well known, either.

I'm not good with people. I'm uncomfortable at parties. Though I function well when it comes to helping people, when it comes to non-work interaction... it's all a little foreign to me. I can discuss Russian poetry and psychological theories at length, but small talk?

I don't really DO small talk.

Of course, as Kelly has told me, I don't really have a chance in hell of winning the whole thing, so I ought to stop worrying about it and just go.

And I won't pretend that hearing that didn't sting. Even when you know that you aren't amazing, you don't want to hear that from the people you love. Not that it was malicious - and not that she's wrong. (Kelly is forever a realist who occasionally forgets that optimistically supporting impossible dreams is part of the best friend job description.)

She IS right.

I'm not cute. I'm not blonde. I'm not a heart-throb. I'm neurotic. My social skills suck. I don't take direction particularly well.

Did I mention neurotic?

I'm neurotic. Really, really neurotic.

I do things like analyze the heck out of American Idol auditions. Maybe that makes me conceited. Maybe it just makes me weird.

Did I tell you that I don't even WATCH American Idol?

I gave up on it years ago. But don't tell them that... 

Dave thinks "You couldn't pay me to watch this damn show these days," should be my opening audition line.

I'm not so sure. Then again, he might be on to something. That way, I could audition, and be assured that I wouldn't make it past the televised audition blooper round!

Kelly told me last night that I was GOING to audition.

I probably will.

But I might not.

I'll let you know.

(I'm not indecisive. Nope. Not at all.)



  1. Kelly proof:
    Bobbi loves to sing. Bobbi loves an audience. Bobbi is a GOOD singer.
    Bobbi said if Idol was ever auditioning in the city she lived she WOULD audition.
    Idol is in Austin.
    Bobbi lives in Austin.
    If Bobbi didn't audition, she would be a liar.
    Kelly doesn't like liars.
    Kelly likes Bobbi.
    Thus, Bobbi MUST audition.

    You don't like crowds, but you like music people. Imagine the fun you'd have with those people singing and performing in Hollywood.

    Classes will always be there. School will always be there.

    To chase a dream and have that memory, that experience for the rest of your life... priceless. You NEVER want to say to yourself "Coulda, woulda, shoulda."

    Just saying...

  2. Bobbi you should do it. I'll go with you.
    And by the way, you aren't cute. You are GORGEOUS.

  3. Hey you!

    I didn't know you even knew I had a blog!