Can't we all just get along?

I don't think I've written this many blog posts in one week since I was trying to write one for every day of an entire month a couple of years back. I would like to say it's because I'm feeling excessively creative this week, but the truth is probably more that I'm procrastinating learning texts and music. I have a lot of music to learn and memorize at the moment, and while I adore rehearsing it, I hate the drudgery of making it all stick in my head, and my brain often rebels, either putting me to sleep or sending me to the computer. 

But I've also had some frustrating interactions this week with people online that have started me thinking about why it is that so many people feel the need to tear other people down. The week started with a complaint from someone I didn't know that was tweeted to me about the fact that even though I was the *winner* (yes, they put it in asterisks) of the Spring for Music Blogger competition, I didn't attend and blog about each concert separately. It frustrated me for many reasons, but one of them is that I never claimed to be a reviewer - I don't write about concerts and operas that I see except in passing - I am an essayist who writes about my own personal experiences performing and auditioning and such, and never claimed to be qualified to write musical reviews, nor do I want to. Plus I was sick, and I didn't think the Spring for Music people would appreciate me throwing up on their audience, so I had to miss a few concerts. Plus I only happen to live in New York - I'm not sure every one of the entrants would have come to New York on their own dime just to see and write about the concerts, had they won. So that little exchange got me kind of steamed.

Then, one of my facebook friends posted my last Huffington Post article, and one of his friends left a tiradey comment about how I had missed the point, didn't know what I was talking about, and proceeded to take apart my article sentence by sentence and spell out everything I did wrong. Since the article was published two weeks ago, I'm still unsure what she was trying to accomplish except to make me feel bad, which congratulations to her - she succeeded in doing! 

And then just now, I was looking at my blog's "stats" to see how many visitors I had and which blogs had referred to me and noticed that some referrals had come from a blog called Ionarts. I was first made aware of this blog when the writer was also one of the entrants into the Spring for Music challenge, but was eliminated in one of the earlier rounds. Then after the competition was over, he tweeted this: "In the great circle jerk of PR, opera singer who averages two posts per month is crowned "best arts blogger."" I sort of chalked this up to sour grapes, but when I saw that his blog had a reference to mine, I had to see why. I discovered in one recent post where he lists things to listen to and look at on the web, a sentence that said "See what the recently named "best arts blogger" has to say about the aforementioned concerts. As of this posting, nothing yet. " And that was just so snarky and mean spirited against me directly that I felt like I wanted to respond. 

First of all, I can't figure out why he's so mad at me, personally. When in the past, someone else beat me in a singing competition, or now, when someone else gets chosen for a job I audition for, I certainly can be frustrated if I think they didn't deserve it, or that I was better for the part or something. And I might even say to my boyfriend or my mom, "It's not fair! I'm so much better than so-and-so! Why did she get picked over me?" But then I realize that this is coming from a very small place of jealousy and frustration, and that in fact, the person that got picked did have talent and drive and actually doesn't deserve any wrath from me for winning something. I would certainly never try to publicly humiliate them on the internet, as this blogger was clearly trying to do to me. It just seems unnecessary and cruel. 

I'm not saying I've never said anything about anyone in a public way that might have been critical. I regularly participate in my boyfriend's podcast, Operanow!, and because it is a live show and not scripted, I occasionally say something that I later regret because I fear it might have sounded mean or harsh or hurt someone's feelings. I hate the idea of hurting someone's feelings, because since I am in the public eye,  I certainly know what it feels like to have my feelings hurt. 

Because yes - when you put anything out into the world, you have to willing to be a subject of criticism. You have to strong enough to accept that if you succeed in any way, people will be out there who want take you down a peg, or who think what you're doing sucks and aren't afraid to tell you. And I'm certainly way too sensitive about it all. I should just shrug it off and not worry about it, but that's just not who I am.

I like to think that my experiences being criticized have made me a more sensitive person towards others, but I'm sure I slip up and say things that hurt people's feeling occasionally. But I can tell you that if I do, it is certainly not intentional. I would never say anything or write anything that would be intended to hurt another person, because I believe the whole "do onto others" business. Unless someone does something or says something mean about someone I care about - then I can hardly help myself and my inner lioness comes out and starts roaring. I should probably work on that. 

I love the internet, but it certainly has sped up the demise of courtesy and respect. 50 years ago people used to have so much more respect for celebrities and politicians, and they would never consider saying horrible things about them in public forums. Now we have entire blogs devoted to making fun of everything they do. I'm not saying we should unnaturally revere people and that people in the public eye shouldn't be criticized. I know that it's a part of life, but I don't know - I guess I'm just a softie at heart. I wish people had more kindness in them, and got less joy out of being cruel. 

Especially those of us who reside in this classical music world together. We are all so lucky to have had something happen in our lives that exposed us to this world and drew us in. There's only a small percentage of people in this country that have been regularly exposed to classical music and the arts in a way that allows us to take full advantage of the depth of these art forms, and we are damn lucky to be in that minority. I often try to be funny on this blog and make light of things, but I truly believe that anyone who has had a life surrounded by the arts, whether they have chosen to pursue them as a career or not, should realize that they have been given an incredible gift. There is no need to be small and petty when we have had the chance to hear and understand a Mozart opera. 

I guess I must have needed to be reminded of this myself, which is why all this happened to me. I needed to be reminded not to squander the gift of being an artist by complaining about people complaining about or criticizing me. So with this blog post, I officially let it all go. 

Which brings me back to memorizing song texts. Which I LOVE by the way. Did I mention that earlier? Yup. Love it. Couldn't be luckier. I would certainly rather be doing that than about a million other jobs. So thanks, Mr. Ionarts and the all rest of you who found fault with me this week . You just reminded me of how lucky I am to be doing this. I sincerely appreciate it.