Coming to terms with my left-brained self

When I was in high school, I was in the gifted program, and we did all these "special", "enriching" things like the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator (I'm ISTJ, by the way). Actually, I tied on the T/F back then and I'm pretty sure I'm still sittin' on the fence today, which makes for some weird mental and emotional tug-of-war episodes at times.

Myers-Briggs wasn't the only test we did. There were tons. We had a teacher who seemed to have an obsession with promoting self-awareness so we could make better choices for long-term careers. One of the other really short exercises we did measured where on the range between left and right brain you fall. In other words, are you extreme left or right or somewhere in the middle? I was secretly devastated when my result put me just left of the middle. I wanted to be right - far right. I wanted to be creative and artsy. I was in band, I played the flute, sang at church - solos even! I was musical! Why was this stupid test saying I was left brained?

Probably because I answered honestly and it came up with the right result. I fought that result hard. I graduated from high school and left the next day to go on tour with a singing group. We toured for three months and then I went back and spent about nine months gearing up for my audition for music school - as a voice principal. I had some serious cajones to walk into that audition. I was asked questions about my singing background. All I could say was that I was in band in high school and had no formal vocal training other than a few weeks to prepare for my audition. I can't remember ever thinking that I wouldn't get in. Everyone who heard me sing was so complimentary - I had to be a shoe-in, right?


I got in - on probationary status. Which meant I automatically lost a year because I had to spend my first year basically proving myself. (You have to pass four juries to graduate, so I was going to have to double up at some point to be able to graduate in four years - or sign up for the five year plan.) I'm pretty proud of my first year of music school, though. It was hard work, but I loved it and I did well - except for learning arias and other classical music. I loved singing, but I didn't LOVE singing and classical training was way harder than I expected. I didn't have a passion to perfect my instrument the same way that others did. I should have known that I was a fish out of water after the first semester, let alone the first year. But I didn't ever admit it to myself. I got caught up in the pride of being accepted to the prestigious Florida State University School of Music...blah, blah, blah. I didn't know what that meant when I was accepted, but I had a lot of friends who were happy to help me learn. So, I just kept plowing through, trying to attain the title of music educator for myself.

My second year started out pretty well, though I didn't have the same connection with my teachers that I'd had the first year. By second semester, I was really sick of Sight Singing/Ear Training and usually missed a class or two each week. I also ended up with a horrendous case of laryngitis - I lost my voice for about a week and couldn't sing for over a month. My vocal coach cancelled my jury and said we'd do it in December. I gladly agreed even though I'd have to play some major catch up later on. I was already having doubts about the direction I was taking and this gave me some time to figure out what I really wanted to do. After participating in some real class observations and doing a couple of practical teaching assignments, I was experiencing some definite second thoughts about the direction I was choosing for myself.

Everything came to a head when I got a call in June during the summer break. It was my frantic vocal coach calling to say I had a jury scheduled for THAT week. She'd told my accompanist but he never bothered to call and tell me. Nevermind that I hadn't practiced anything since school had let out six weeks before. Nevermind that I was supposed to have juried in December - six months away. I had to be there or I was out. We had a quick practice two days before my jury and my teacher and accompanist said I'd never sounded better. It felt great, too. Saturday, I walked in to my jury scared to death. I had six songs "prepared". I got to pick one to sing and the jury would pick one. I sang my choice and it went well. I sang their choice and it went pretty good. Then they decided to throw me a curve ball and pick another song - one of the two I'd prayed they wouldn't choose. I faltered and then fell flat on my face - metaphorically of course, but it might as well have been literal.

I didn't fail my jury, but I didn't pass either. I was going to have to do it all over again. By that time, music school was starting to feel like an ill-fitting outfit. I'd tried it on, spent time making adjustments and checking myself out in the mirror, but no matter what alterations I made, it was just never going to fit right.

I don't regret trying it for a moment, but I left that day and never looked back.

I learned a lot about myself in those two years spent in music school, though it's taken me over ten more years to realize that I'm just not an artist. I can be creative, but not in an artsy way. My brain is still firmly pointed to the left and I'm okay with that now. I can't relate well to my friends who are passionate about music and poetry, but I do enjoy a good quality tune - especially if I can sing to it. I hope to instill love and appreciation for music in my son and I'd love it if he played an instrument one day, but if he ends up being left-brained too, then we'll probably have a cleaner house.

I have abilities that many "artsy" folks sometimes lack. The differences are complementary, not competitive. Neither direction is better than the other, despite my best efforts to squeeze myself into the "artsy" mold.

Do you now or have you ever wished you were wired differently?