"Never underestimate the power of gaining a new perspective by simply changing your immediate environment." - Hal Elrod
Our lives tend to be well-trodden paths of sameness; reading the same types of books, watching the same shows, listening to the same podcasts, walking the same routes. Even when we "branch out," we tend not to branch very far, looking for things within our comfort zone; reading books in the same genre (I'm especially guilty of this), digging up older episodes of our favorite podcasts, etc.
This year, I have decided to shake up my routines and gain some new perspective, and I have learned a lot about myself and the world along the way.
One day, I decided to walk my dog down a different path than our usual park loop. I discovered a whole new area of my neighborhood that I never knew existed, complete with a lovely tree-shaded path, a pond where we now regularly see turtles and blue heron, and a dog park I didn't know was there. I have lived in this neighborhood for 5 1/2 years, and I was so content with the same-old routine. I would have missed this beautiful space entirely, had I not set my mind to trying something new.
I have made a point to start reading more nonfiction books (high fantasy is a guilty pleasure of mine, as regular readers of this blog may know). I read a book about negotiation and learned principles I have been able to apply to real life. The same goes for books about creating lasting habits, establishing boundaries, and noticing patterns of inequality that permeate our society. It's amazing how much you notice about yourself and the world once your attention has been drawn to it.
I have made a point to start listening to people more closely, as well. It's amazing how something you have a concrete idea about can suddenly change, just by hearing out how someone else views it. For example, I started a mini book-club with a friend who happened to be simultaneously reading the same book I was reading. I am so used to reading in isolation and operating solely from my own imagination and perspective. Chatting with my friend about his view on the book made me think about the world and the characters in ways I hadn't imagined. Suddenly, the book had more depth and became a richer experience for me, because of one small suggestion from another person's perspective.
It makes me wonder about how we can apply this to the world of opera. When is the last time you sat down and chatted about the character and motivation in an aria with someone else who sings the same aria? I certainly never have. How much richer could my Cherubino be if I asked someone else how they think about Voi che sapete? A year ago, I might have thought I had all the answers to Cherubino that I needed, but now I'm not so sure.
(Of course, being open to changes in perspective has larger world benefits, as well, but I'll refrain from getting too political in an opera nonprofit's blog post.)
I will continue to challenge myself to seek out new perspective, and I encourage you all to do the same. You may hate what you find, but at least you will have learned something about yourself in the process. And who knows, you may stumble upon a richer experience that you could have imagined.