It was the big day. I woke up, went through my morning routine, and scrolled through Spotify looking for some music as I got packed and cleaned my horn for my audition.
My first instinct was to play songs that made me feel energized and pumped up. Confident by Demi Lovato, Unstoppable by Sia, Showdown by The Black Eyed Peas. The playlist goes on and on. But a voice inside of me thought differently. "Let's leave ego out of it this time," it said. "Don't think about winning or beating anyone else. Just do your best and trust in God. "
A few hours later at the audition site, I grabbed a warm-up room almost an hour before my audition time. I never like to spend that much time warming up, but I had a new plan. I was going to spend a solid 20 minutes praying in the warm-up room as my own form of meditation, and listening to that voice inside my head again, I scrolled past my "Audition Hype" playlist to my Christian music playlist.
After praying and warming up, I found out the audition was running a little behind schedule. I pulled my phone back out and put my music back on to keep calm while I waited. I can't remember that last time I felt so loose going into an audition. I didn't feel like I had to force my way to victory. I didn't feel tense. I did feel like I trusted in God.
The idea of trusting in God can mean different things to different people, but for me it has come to mean accepting what happens. Trusting in God doesn't mean I expect God to give me some supernatural, unfair advantage - it means that I trust Him to help me find something good from that audition, regardless of how great or terrible the music sounds that day.
This perspective has come from the hindsight of looking back at "failed" auditions, and realizing how helpful they were long-term. When I got my undergraduate rejection letter from The Colburn Conservatory in LA in prescreening, I was devastated. When I auditioned in the bottom half of the horn studio at ASU my freshman year, my confidence fell completely flat.
At the time, it felt like the sky was falling down, and performance anxiety was wreaking havoc everywhere. If there was an older horn player in the practice room next to me, I'd get nervous to the point of shaking. It was that bad.
But hindsight is 20/20. And in hindsight, I can say those struggles were some of the greatest things that have ever happened to me. It took some help to see that. I wasn't mature enough to realize it at the time, but with God's guidance, I found ways to rebound, learn from my mistakes, and use failures as my ally.
Fastforward - I'm listening to my music, and waiting my turn for this audition with the greatest sense of peace I've ever felt. "Do I really want to win this audition?" I think. "Maybe it would actually help me if I had a really bad run..." I felt like I could literally look failure in the eye and identify it as a friend - as someone who helped me learn and grow more than any success ever had. Or maybe God had helped me find a sense of optimism that turned bad things into good. Whatever the case may be, I was feeling great that day. I played great, sounded just as good as I did in the practice room the day before, and for the first time since high school, I won an audition.
Two days later, I have a big performance. I go through my same routine of prayer and music beforehand. I play even better than I did two days prior.
A few more auditions pass, and the trend continues. I'm not feeling the stress that used to accompany these situations. I'm not kept awake at night with audition anxiety the way I used to be. The auditions don't sound perfect, but they're just as good as my mock auditions were, and that's everything you can ask for. Performance anxiety who?!?
This isn't to say that everything is going to go perfect for forever. Everyone inevitably has rough stretches in their lives where they're wandering through a storm and unsure of where to turn, no matter how much they work, pray, or believe. But the next time I'm going through that storm, I can keep calm knowing that God can help me out of it.
If there's one thing I've learned in these 20 years on Earth, it's that I've stressed about a lot of things, and the decision to stress was almost never a good one. From this day forward, stress will be greeted with strength, doubt will be greeted with dedication, and fear will be greeted with faith.
Why would I fear the future? For I am being pursued only by your goodness and unfailing love.