Some people know what they want to do with their life from a very early age. Others don’t quite figure it out until later. What we think we are meant to do with our lives doesn’t always work out how we planned. Throughout my life, I’ve wondered why that is. I’ve often said to myself, “Why is it taking so long for my dream to manifest?” “After all this hard work, why does it feel like I haven’t gotten anywhere?” “I’m so good at this, but it’s just not working out like I'd hoped.”
Maybe what we want so badly or what we think is our purpose, isn’t what were meant to be doing at all. Maybe we’re not listening close enough or paying attention to what the world really needs from us.
In the fall of 2015, one of my lifelong dreams had come true. I walked onto the stage at Theatre 11 in full costume, covered in light green makeup, a thick black wig, and with a broomstick in my hand. I opened my eyes to the bright golden lights, a full audience, and four intimidating judges sitting right in front of me.
People have often asked me what it was like, but I could never fit it into just a few quick words.
“It was amazing,” I’d say.
“It was surreal.”
“It was a dream come true.”
Though it really was all those things, it was so much more than that. It changed the course of my life and my spiritual journey. It freed me and opened the door to more opportunities than I could have ever imagined.
Recently, I saw the musical Wicked for the second time. Performed on the same stage at Theatre 11, it brought back wonderful memories as I sat there in awe, scene after scene.
I was first introduced to Elphaba’s character in high school. I wanted to perform in the school talent show, but I had no idea what to sing until it was suggested that I sing Defying Gravity. I had never heard of this song or any musical called Wicked for that matter. The more I learned about it, the more I fell in love with the story and the power behind each word these characters spoke. I instantly connected with Elphaba’s character. She was a kindred spirit, someone who understood, someone who seemed to know just how I was feeling.
Since I can remember, I had always wanted to be a singer. I sang every day, sometimes for hours at a time. I wanted to make a living as a singer, though I had no idea what that life might consist of or how I’d do it. I’d come to realize throughout my years of working with bands, that I didn’t want that life. I still, however, had a passion to sing. I wanted to perform on stages like those artists. Though I knew it wasn’t for me, I just couldn’t let it go. It felt like I would be letting down the child within me, the child that would have screamed if she knew what my life would become, all the people I would meet, and the amazing experiences I would have.
I became a wife and a mother, two of the biggest dreams I ever had. I was getting older and that feeling in the pit of my stomach was getting stronger. The more I would fight to keep my singing dream alive, the more my gut told me it wasn’t right.
I passed my desk every day. Sometimes I would stand over it, confused by my novel outlines, books on my shelves, and my burning passion to write. Since I was thirteen years old, I knew I wanted to be a writer. It wasn’t until I was around eighteen that I knew I was meant to be a writer. It wasn’t because the idea sounded fun or easy. It was because when I thought about it, there was nothing in my gut telling me to dive in. I think we’ve all experienced that intuition, our guts telling us what was right and what was wrong.
Whenever I pursued writing, everything seemed to work out, but it terrified me. I ran from it for years. I was afraid about what would happen if it actually worked out. I knew it would be a lot of hard work. I had stories to tell, but I would have to learn how to write, I would have to learn about the business and that was no walk in the park. As I got older, I realized that my time was precious. I couldn’t everything I wanted, if I wanted to do anything right. Singing was something I needed to put aside. I knew this, but it took me years to accept it.
In the beginning of 2015, I began finishing the novel I had been writing on and off for eight years. Later that year, I finally told myself that in order to give one hundred percent to my writing, I needed to let go of something else. Maybe singing was something I was supposed to do in my childhood. Maybe its purpose had already been fulfilled, but I still had one more song in me. I wanted one last hoorah before I put that dream in the drawer and opened up my life to writing.
As it should happen, auditions for Switzerland’s Got Talent came around that Fall. I passed three auditions before learning that I had made it to the stage. At that point, I only had a month and a half to prepare my voice.
The day finally came. I woke up early feeling unusually calm. I got myself in costume and makeup and sent the boys off so I could get in an hour of practice before we headed off to Zurich. The drive there was beautiful and soothing. I sat quietly in the backseat, channeling Elphaba’s character, remembering all the times her words and songs helped me through difficult times. The boys wished me luck with kisses and prayers. It would be the last time I would see them until after my audition. I turned around, adjusted my witch’s hat, and walked into Theatre 11.
As I waited backstage, an interviewer asked me how Elphaba and I differ. I said, “We don’t. Really. Except my skin only turns green when I’m angry.”
I went through rounds and rounds of German interviews and performed skits in front of the camera until I had a while to myself in the waiting lounge. The cameras hovered over me several times. I’d give them a quick witch’s stare, and they’d be off to leave me in a bit of peace. Oh, the power of green!
The workers were wonderful and helpful, offering me props if I needed them or water so my voice wouldn’t dry out. I met several interesting contestants, all of who were supportive and encouraging and loved speaking English with me.
Soon my name was called for sound check. Thrill and excitement flooded my nerves when I walked on stage. It was the first time I would perform with the fog machine and I was looking forward to its effect.
When the music began, my voice did very well, well… until the middle. I expected a thin fog to slowly creep over the floor, but what I felt instead was a fog blast to the back. I took a deep breath to prepare for the high notes and what do you know? My voice broke. The fog killed my throat, sucking away all the moisture in the air. I guess that’s what it felt like to smoke for the first time?
It was too late to change the machine nor did I want to go without it despite what I had just experienced. I was concerned, but for some reason, it didn’t bother me like it should have. I couldn’t change my sound check, so I accepted it and moved forward.
I went back to the waiting area. Hours went by until the audience showed up and it was finally time for the first audition. Shortly after, I was informed that my performance would be near the end. So, I sat there watching the people fade away by the hour until it was just me and a few others left.
They called me backstage. I sat with the producer who quickly prepped me about what would take place on stage. It was then I learned about something called a golden buzzer and that if I get three red buzzers I would be out. I’d never seen a Got Talent show before, so this was news to me. No red buzzers, I told myself. NO RED BUZZERS!
When I was led to my dressing room, I only had five more minutes as Gina.
A thought, or rather a memory entered my mind. When I was a teenager, a girl approached me in church. I had never met her nor did I remember ever seeing her before. She said something to me that rose the hairs on my arms. Her words were, “I feel like God wants me to tell you to sing your heart out.”
In my dressing room, I prayed and relaxed my voice. I didn’t allow the sound check hiccup to bother me. Instead, I stood grateful for the opportunity to sing my heart out. Maybe I would inspire others. Exactly who or how? I didn’t know, but I hoped I would.
As my audition drew closer, I was led backstage. During this time, the other contestants and I were recorded interacting with each other. I was in full character either making the others laugh or scaring the hell out of them. One by one, they left for their audition and I watched them on the backstage screens. It filled me with joy to watch one entertaining and successful audition after another.
Soon, my name was called and I was led to the stage entry. When I got my cue to go, I took one last breath and said a silent thank you to whatever it was that brought to that point in my life.
I walked to the middle of the stage and stood on the X. The room was quiet. Maybe they expected me to perform spells or do something silly. I think witches have a rough reputation in Switzerland.
Warmth and calmness soothed my body. My voice was soft and ready and when the judges had finished their questioning, I knew the next three minutes were mine.
The music melted into my bones. The words I sang came out with a truth I had never fully believed until then. I soaked up every moment I had until the final note ended. When I opened my eyes, everybody in the room was on their feet, whistling, clapping, and hollering. All four judges were standing, applauding, and smiling. Did that really just happen?
After hearing ‘yes’ four times, I walked off the stage in a kind of shock. As they removed my mic, a woman asked me if I was okay. I looked around and everyone appeared calm and normal. I thought I was dreaming. She must have noticed the shocked expression plastered on my face and tears, as dry as they were, melting my makeup. Yes, I was okay. I was more than okay. I was overwhelmed with a sense of fulfillment. Not because I had a successful performance, but because I knew I could finally let it go.
I had been ready to part with that dream for a long time, but I didn’t have a way to say goodbye until then.
For me, letting go of this lifelong dream didn’t mean saying goodbye forever. I still try to sing as often as I can. I try to learn how to play instruments so I can teach my son and I still work with bands. Music is in my blood and always will be, but my dream of being a singer has grown its wings and flown away. Now I can focus on what I am meant to be doing at this stage of my life. I knew I needed to write, but I could never apply one hundred percent until I let go of my childhood dream and faced my fear.
It was a painless parting. It was a thank you for all the wonderful memories. It was letting go and making room for something greater.
Now that I’ve accepted this calling on my life, I pursue it with ease. Opportunities pop up out of nowhere, I meet incredible people along the way, and I learn so much about the path I’m now on. Sometimes I still get scared, but I don’t run from it anymore. I’ve learned to embrace my fears because on the other side is always something incredible.
I believe we all know when we’re on the right or wrong track. All we have to do is listen to our intuition and make choices that just feel right even if we don’t fully understand it at the time. Often, things don’t work out the way we want them to because we’re too busy holding on to something else.
Roy T. Bennett says, “Let go of something old that no longer serves you in order to make room for something new.”
WARNING: possible spoiler alert!
All my life, I thought the wicked witch of the west died when they threw that horrendous bucket of water on her, but I’ll never forget the last few seconds of Wicked when Fiyero and Elphaba took each other’s hands and entered their new life.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to trust whatever the assignment is on my life. It’s okay to let go. A goodbye doesn’t have to be permanent. It can be a simple see you later or until we meet again.
Elphaba’s character will always live on in my heart, as will music and singing.
So farewell Elphaba. Until we meet again.