This week The Fit Singer welcomes guest blogger, Kristine Hurst-Wajszcuk. She is associate professor of voice and opera at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While serving as stage and musical director, her opera productions have won three awards int he NOA Opera Production Competition. Currently pursuing certification in hypnosis, her dissertation on managing performance anxiety has expanded into overall wellness for singers. An active performer, she was recently featured as Dido in Boubon Baroque's Dido and Aeneas. I met her at the NATS Conference in Chicago this past summer where she presented " Sharpening the Saw: High- and Low- Tech Wellness Strategies for Singers". With the recent time change this post seems quite "timely".
Every week, I listen to Ted Talks on NPR, usually while I'm at the gym. One week, the theme was our conception of time (you can listen to it here). The portion on physics kind of blew my mind (I love that stuff), the concept of our perception of time shifting as we age made perfect sense, and the rest just got me thinking. Then CBS Sunday Morning had a segment on a 98-year-old guy who is still running races. He started running in his 50s. Humbling!
Along with my latest favorite book, Pressfield's The War of Art, these broadcasts raised the greatest issue any of us faces: how do we spend the little time we're given? Does it reflect what we truly value? Do we waste it?
It's not always easy. There are many distractions in our world. But there are choices we can make every day that make us feel better about how we honor who we are. There are also choices that affect how our experience on this planet is shaped over time. Here are some of the choices I make, in no particular order:
I read spiritual texts every morning and sometimes in the evening, even for only 10 minutes, to ground myself as a spiritual being. This helps me be a little more patient, which is a struggle for me.
I do strength training so that my bone density is maintained or improved over time. I swim so I feel looser both physically and mentally. I do cardio so that my vascular system is strong and will continue to be strong. This will allow me to do the things I want when I'm older, rather than retiring into an easy chair in front of the TV.
I sing coloratura arias and exercises every day so that I don't lose flexibility in my voice. I do sostenuto work as well, to maintain legato line. I incorporate text into my vocalises as well, so language work isn't separate, but is integrated. All of this will positively affect how I sing when I am 50, 60, 70.
I do constructive rest every day, so that if I mis-use my body while typing, for example, I can get myself back on track. This, too, will affect my posture over the long haul.
I keep track of my calorie intake throughout the day, so that I can adjust if necessary. This might mean adjusting what I have for dinner if I have an indulgent lunch. It might mean that I throw caution to the wind for a day or a two, but I get right back on track after a weekend of naughtiness. This affects everything from how my belly feels today to how my knees will feel in 10 years.
I try to get ahead on my creative activity during the summer, so that once the semester gets cranking, I don't feel overwhelmed trying to meet deadlines.
I could go on and on, touching on relationships and other parts of life, but I think you get the idea.
How do you spend your time? Does it reflect what you really want? Does it point you in the direction of where you want to be in 10, 20, 30 years? Or are you spending time on things that have little or no payback over time?
I, for one, plan to be here for a long time. Women in my family tend to live until their 80s or even mid-90s, so I don't want the last 20 years of that long life to be uncomfortable, miserable, or lonely. And if I were to kick the bucket at age 50, I would hate to think that I wasted any of that precious time.
Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk, D.M.A.
Associate Professor of Voice
Director of Opera
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Vice President for Workshops, NATS