Chase your dreams.
You can do anything you set your mind to.
You can grow up to be anything you want to be.
Feel free to add your own to the list of clichés we have to encourage people to dream big and follow their dreams. Because we have a lot. We are an optimistic people, us Americans. In the face ironclad statistical proof that no, you probably won’t achieve your dreams, we keep throwing ourselves into the fray, convinced that this one time, this one chance, is going to be THE ONE.
And that is what makes us amazing.
Let’s break it down. If your big dream is to be President of the United States of America, I can save you a lot of time, money and heartache and tell you no, you aren’t going to do that. If everyone whose dream it was to be President got to be President, we would have a couple hundred thousands of Presidents a year, and that’s just not practical.
But what I’ve found this past weekend is that it’s not actually ACHIEVING your dreams that matters (well, it probably matters to those that actually get there, but for the rest of us schleps…) it’s what you learn on the journey, and what you do in the face of realizing that your dream might never happen.
I decided to make auditioning for The Voice part of my AMPFUSHAH for 2013. I chose New York City as my audition city because it’s only a 6 hour drive from Pittsburgh, and I wanted to be able to take my nephew Alex with me. He is 15 and has wanted to audition for as long as the show has been around. I asked my 17 year old son, Kyle, to come, too. So I signed up to take two teenage boys on a 6 hour car ride, to go stay in a hotel room the size of a postage stamp, in the biggest, most bad ass city in the US. On purpose.
The car ride was actually a blast. We listened to music, sang, and talked audition strategy the whole way there. And took pictures of funny things we saw along the way. Such as:
Kyle has never been to New York City, so I get to see in person, sitting right next to him, the look of awe and amazement that spread across his face as we rounded the bend from Newark and the NYC skyline spread across the horizon. That moment will never happen again, and I was there for it. That means something.
We get to the hotel and decide to do some poking around the city. It was in the low 20s, but if you thought that meant that Kyle and Alex would have coats on, you would be wrong. Apparently teenage boys think they are impervious to the cold, except once they are IN the cold, then they realize they are wrong, but they will never admit it. Oh no. They will act like they are just fine, thanks.
We hit 5th Avenue and did some shopping, then darted down to the West Village so mama could shop (It was also the first time I have ever seen the Stonewall Tavern in real life. I didn’t know I was going to walk past it, so when I saw it, it was like accidentally happening across Martin Luther King in person. I was profoundly moved), then we headed to Times Square.
Yes. Times Square. On a Saturday night. It was mayhem. The boys wanted to eat, and of course since we were in the middle of the culinary epicenter of the world, they wanted to go to Applebee’s. Thanks to the two hour wait, I was able to talk them into going somewhere outside of Times Square, but not too far out, because I didn’t want them to get hypothermia.
We ended up at a Thai place on 7th, where we had a feast of tasty food, I had wine, and they had Coke with no free refills. We also had a ton of fun.
Of course they drove me nuts. They thought they should be able to run around NYC, alone, in the dark, on a Saturday night. Because they aren’t KIDS, god mom! You are so MEAN! I bet other parents let their kids loose on a strange city they don’t know, with no coats on, in 20 degree weather.
I am such a meanie.
I drag them back to the hotel, where they met some pretty girls that were also auditioning the next day. I did let them hang out in the lobby with said girls, so I am not a total bitch.
The next morning came way too fast. My alarm went off at 5:45. Time to get up and go dream chasing. Me, Alex, and about 5,000 other people.
I would estimate there were 5,000 people there, and that’s just for our Sunday, 7:00 am wave. If I had to guess, 20,000 people auditioned in NYC that weekend. That’s once city, one weekend. I am not too good at math, but if you add all of the cities and all of the days together, I bet they get close to 4 billion people auditioning.
I will save the nitty gritty of the audition for now. After this post I am going to do a tips post for anyone that is thinking about auditioning for The Voice (tip number one: don’t bring two teenage boys with you).
6 hours after we got there, it was our turn. Me, Alex, and 8 other hopefuls filed into a room with a producer. When it was my turn, I belted my heart out. I just laid it out there, and when I was done, I was happy with how I sounded. It was either what they were looking for or it wasn’t. I wasn’t even nervous. I felt the world was in balance and whatever happened next, I would be just fine.
Alex went after me, and I was so proud I almost exploded. He sounded the best I have ever heard him. He looked confident and mature. Not bad for a 15 year old who has never done anything even close to this before in his life.
We didn’t make it through. No one in our group did. And Alex and I both had to pee so bad, we almost didn’t care. We both literally ran to a bathroom. Then we met back up with Kyle and they both looked at me and I realized that this is what the whole trip had been about. I stupidly thought it was about me chasing my dream, but I was wrong. This was about me teaching them how to deal with crushing disappointment. About picking yourself up and brushing yourself off. About not letting failure define you. Man, I suck at this shit. Here goes.
ME – “Okay. So, we both did our best. Alex, I could die I was so proud of you in there. We did what a lot of people don’t ever do. And we aren’t alone in not making it through. We can’t take it personally, we can only say we did what we came here to do; try.”
ALEX – “I think we learned a lot. It will help us the next time. We are doing this again, right Aunt Bethany?”
Wait. What just happened here? Did Alex just teach ME something? This dream chasing isn’t over. Not by a long shot. Optimism in the face of crushing disappointment; it’s the American way. And I was all on board.
ME – “You bet your sweet ass we are.”
We got back in the car and headed home. It was a much quieter ride back. And I only took one picture.
The act of chasing your dreams is never just about you. It was Kyle’s first trip to NYC, and he loved it. He was smitten by The Big Apple’s charms. He already knows he wants to be a chef, and now I think he knows where. This wasn’t the end of my dream, not by a long shot, but it might be the beginning of his.
Yours in reflection,