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  • Writer's pictureSydney Anderson


Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Turning 30 this year was a much bigger deal than I expected it would be.

Last year, after my 29th birthday I felt an urgent pressure to hurry up and accomplish things, and there’s no secret as to why.

Over the past five or so years, whenever family members expressed concern over the difficulty and instability of pursuing a career in the arts, I would always say, “I’ll give it until I’m 30.”

Thirty was also a number that housed a sort of mysterious, inevitable reset button – a button that I was evidently terrified to press. And so, I spent the last year of my 20s desperately working to build momentum in order to avoid it.

And on paper, it worked!

The calendar year turned over to 2020 and in January I won a competition, gaining a bit of industry recognition, which led to some very exciting contracts for later in the year. By February, 2020 already contained a full schedule of back-to-back performance work, including two World Premieres (that is - the opportunity to create a role in a brand new opera), which is the section of the industry I moved to NYC to pursue.

I felt good. I felt accomplished and valued in my field.

I told myself that I had succeeded in building adequate career momentum “just in the nick of time.”

But who was this urgency for?

To whom did I make this blood-promise, and why?

Why did I feel like I needed to justify my life choices and provide a sensible exit strategy with an arbitrary deadline?

What does it mean that merely days before starting that first project in March, the wheels fell off the world and all of that work evaporated in one fell swoop.

Within the span of about a week, all of that “momentum” was gone. The emotional roller-coaster felt like it defied at least one of Newton’s Laws of Motion…

On the eve of my 30th birthday, I realized that all of my remaining work has been cancelled or postponed through April of 2021 and I thought… “How’s that for a reset?”

So, it turns out I was right all along. I knew that this milestone would force me to look at my life and reassess. What I didn’t know (and what I never could have expected) was that I would be gifted with months of emptiness and time to prepare my response.

Instead of a relieving wiping of my brow, as if to say, “Whew – I don’t have to pivot yet,” I get to look at the start of my 30s as an opportunity to redefine, rediscover, and recreate. I get to jump off the hamster wheel – the ever-spinning, never-advancing path of unnecessary urgency.

Instead of spending my 30th birthday racing from one gig to the next, making a quick pit stop to see my little brother get married, I got to take a 30-mile bike ride around NYC, showing gratitude toward my own miraculous body and thanking each mile as a symbol of each year that brought me to where I am today. Appropriately, the end of the loop was exactly where it began: HOME.

(I currently live ON the 30-mile bike route that goes around the perimeter of Manhattan.) It was a symbolic reminder that each “ending” is truly a new beginning.

Every journey begins and ends inside of us.

After a bit of rest, perhaps some grieving, one can always start again.

This time has taught me that every day is an opportunity to hit a reset button.

Turning 30 this year was a brilliant reminder that every day is full of infinite potential, and I am excited to spend this next decade stepping through fear and into empowerment.

As the first step on this new journey toward Authenticity, I decided to create a photo narrative of this feeling – which I am calling “Unbinding.”

In a follow-up post, I will unpack the idea of perceived vs. truthful authenticity in the performing arts.

In the meantime, enjoy this collection, which depicts the unique experience of putting on a "costume" in the form of a jewel-toned, knee-length dress and walking into an audition room as a character that happens to have your own name...

All photos captured and edited by @the3rdrealm.

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