My Birthday Fail – How failure can be a good thing

And Life said, ‘It’s your birthday? Here’s a whopping failure to celebrate!’ Hurray! It was devastating at first, but I’ve gotten over it now and thought it was interesting and meaningful (look for the bold text) enough to share, so here goes:

I love singing and especially enjoy singing in choirs — the interactions between the parts and the beauty of the human voice make for an amazing combination. So I applied for a choral scholarship at my first choice college in the hope that I’d be able to sing in their amazing choir. I was hopeful but not expectant, and prepared hard for the audition, recording myself and going over my piece again and again, sight-reading choral works and using online ear training sites to improve my aural skills (in the usual last-minute way, of course).

On the day, I was fairly prepared, excited, and surprisingly not too nervous. It was a lovely morning, which put me in a great mood. Everything was going well — I’d even managed to get to D6 on my warm-up. So when it was my turn, I just couldn’t wait to start. First up were the aural tests, in which I was asked to sing intervals, identify the middle note of chords and stuff like that. I think I got a lot wrong, but it didn’t put me off too much because I knew I’d be pretty bad at that anyway. Next was the sight reading. It didn’t look too complicated — just a few sharps and flats here and there, some interesting rhythm on the 2nd page and a key change. I foolishly sang it all in my head in the preparation time, and thought I’d be fine. If only I knew what was about to happen.

I’m usually decent at sight reading, but this time I lost my note after a mere 2 or so bars. I freaked out. ‘Where is my note? Is there some note in the alto part I can pick up on? Where are we?’ As the accompanist kept playing the alto, tenor and bass parts, I became mute for a full two lines as I tried in vain to find (1) where we were in the piece and (2) a place where I could easily find the Soprano pickup. Fortunately, I did get it back, but by that time I was so flustered that I lost my note again within another line. The apparent clashes made me feel uncertain, scared, worried, stressed, everything horrible you could think of. Luckily I didn’t have to sing my piece straight after — that was reserved for later that afternoon. I quickly thanked the conductor and the accompanist, and rushed out of the room. It was hands down the worst sight singing I’d done in my life, and I was so shocked and upset I found myself in tears.

I didn’t know why I was crying, and didn’t want to cry — was I really such a sore loser? Could I not accept that I screwed up and get on with life? After barely scraping through running my piece with the (brilliant) Organ Scholar & talking to the office head, I went for a walk round the city centre to calm my mind.

For a while I became dangerously dismissive, and tried to convince myself that I didn’t care about it. I hate that I try to convince myself I don’t care about something if I’m bad at it. I probably lost out a lot on things because of that. So don’t be an I-don’t-care-about-it-cause-I-suck-at-it loser like me.

Of course, I couldn’t lie to myself for long, so I was forced to face the music. (See what I did there?) I tried to be more optimistic, and realised that I was very lucky to be given a chance to fail, especially as I really cared about it (so it made an impact on me), but it wasn’t a life-or-death situation or something that mattered a lot. Failing isn’t something I’m used to, and it’s not something I like, but as they say it’s important because it helps you grow emotionally and in whatever area you failed in (if you’re willing to learn from it). Failure also stops you from being complacent, which is DEADLY. Hopefully, it will help you become less afraid of taking risks too. Now that I’ve gone through a worst-case-scenario level super-embarrassing audition, I don’t think I’ll be afraid to audition for anything else I’m interested in. And I know what to watch for next time I’m sight reading.

I won’t bore you with further details, but I’ll let you know that I had a wonderful afternoon. I had nothing to lose, sang the best I could at the mini recital, met lovely people, and listened to some beautiful voices. I didn’t get a callback, but, still, I left the college grounds with no regrets. Okay, maybe one or two, but it’s hard to banish the ‘what-ifs’ from your mind, you know? (On another note — stop what-if ing the past and what-if the future POSITIVELY.) Anyway, you get the idea. Hope this wasn’t too dull a read, and have a great day!