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I have been 20 for just over a month. For a decade of my short life now, I have been singing, and now, I’m in my third year of working towards a degree in it. 

 

Do you have one of those things? That thing that just consumes you all the time and fulfils your brain and body and keeps you reaching, yet satisfied? It’s pretty special. 

 

Whatever you spend your time doing, whether it’s singing, or playing soccer, or doing lab work, there’s no doubt that the things we do shape who we are, and the way we perceive ourselves. For me, an admittedly intense and ambitious person, this tendency for seeing action as identity can sometimes have toxic effects. Often it can be difficult to separate your talent from your identity as a person. Here’s how I focus on being a person before I am a singer. 

Who You Are Goes Far Beyond What You Have to Offer People

Singers are incredibly hard-working people, as are all of the musicians that I have the privilege to spend the majority of my time with. For singers, our instruments live inside our bodies with us. It’s always there; our voice is with us doing shots of tequila with our friends, it’s with us at work, and during our times of relaxation. This can be a lot. Singers are trying to work toward a successful career, by using their bodies. How do we remove the person from the occupation? I spend somewhere between 2-5 hours a day singing. Many of my friends are singers. I spend much of my downtime listening to, analyzing, and thinking about music. I am a working singer, with a regular church job, frequent subbing work, and seasonal work (people like to hire singers around the holidays). My voice is tightly intertwined with my identity. I am by no means an expert of finding balance in my life right now, but I do believe I am on track. I am more aware of my body and feelings than I think the average person is, as are many performance artists. In fact, you can actually hear it in my voice. It tightens up when my mind is preoccupied and lets me know when it needs a break. I know when something is wrong, and usually, to fix it and feel better means to take a step back and do nothing. This can mean saying no to fun plans or taking a sick day. I fight through my cravings of being productive, and through saying “no” to things, I remind myself that it’s okay to say “yes” to me. It comes down to valuing my own time and health as much as I value other people’s, whether they’re friends, bosses, teachers, or family. I matter, too! Being productive and working hard is super fulfilling. When I’m working a lot, I feel absolutely on top of the world and independent and blessed. But resting, which often does not feel as good, is more important. 

When I’m not feeling burnt out, it is important that I do things with my day that do not involve singing or being “productive”. For me, this looks like getting coffee with my friends, dancing to Lizzo in the kitchen while I cook, and watching those awful Hallmark movies on Netflix. It’s planning dates, sending frantic Snapchats, dreaming about travels, trying new restaurants, and spending time outside. It means no longer making space for people who don’t make me feel good. As an introvert, sometimes I need to push myself to get out and be social, but once I make myself go, I’m glad I did. It’s important to fill my days with as much variety and joy and support as I can, and so much of that comes from the fantastic support system that I have. 

 

I, Olivia the person who sings, am in a season of growth in my life. I’m growing towards choosing myself unapologetically and sharing time from my busy, beautiful life, with people who make me feel like the person I’m growing to become.

 

*images owned by the author 

 

Edited By Olivia Levy 

Olivia Spahn-Vieira is a Toronto-based artist and soprano. She currently studies classical voice performance at the University of Toronto, and loves performing in musicals and operas every chance she gets. Offstage, Olivia is passionate about food, fashion, travel and culture. She has enjoyed writing from a young age, and finds it to be a creative and fulfilling way to communicate.
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