As of this week we'll have been in Toronto for a month! I'm feeling much more settled in here as the days go by.
In terms of music making for Week 2, we wrapped up our first show and started work on a second show that I don't play in. I went back and forth between sitting in on rehearsals to get familiar with the material in the event I need to sub, and using a small music room to practice my solo material. It was great to watch my friends play something different alongside some of the vocalists and dancers. Everyone is incredibly skilled and versatile. At the end of the week, we went out to a local bar to hear forró, which is a Brazilian dance and genre of music. It was a ton of fun hearing something new and even learning the dance myself. The next day our music team treated us to dinner at Lee, celebrity chef Susur Lee's restaurant. The food was absolutely incredible, as was the service. Every menu item had so many delicious and unexpected flavors. I've only had a handful of dining experiences like that in my life!
Week 3 was our last week with our music team before they headed home. The next time we see them will be on the ship in Germany. We continued working on our show material and also started putting together some cover band music to play as a group. It can be a little spooky to go into a new musical situation with people you've never collaborated with before, but so far we work extremely well together, which is a good sign for how we'll continue to work together on board. We also got to watch runs of two of the other shows, and they were phenomenal. I honestly got emotional picturing them in full production and imagining guests' reactions. One of the days this week we had our weekly PCR testing in the morning and then a long break until rehearsal in the afternoon, so our guitarist Dave took us to Fran's for breakfast. This diner is right across from the iconic Massey Hall, so of course we had to grab a picture.
Our last day with our music team was also our last day with Dave, so we celebrated with some donuts that Clay brought in to share with everyone. Going into Week 4, we kept working on our cover and solo material, rehearsed our show music a few times, and did a lot more safety training classes. In our off time, we went back to our favorite ramen place, visited the Art Gallery of Toronto, and simply hung out and had drinks together (and I finally had some poutine that wasn't from Wendy's). These have been some of my favorite experiences here so far, connecting with the people I'll be spending most of my time on board with and exploring a new place together.
On a more personal note, I've been working on taking better care of myself these past few weeks. I was on such a high during our first week that I started to crash once we got used to our routine. I didn't become aware of it until we started working on cover material as a group and I started singing some high-intensity songs after not singing very often for two weeks. Singing felt more effortful for me than usual, and I was consistently tired. I started to slow down and think about why that could be happening. In the short term, my body had just gone through a lot of change with traveling, a new schedule, and more eating and drinking that came with being social. Thinking more broadly though, the past year of my life has been full of big changes and painful losses. My tolerance for resilience has definitely been tested. I'm most prone to anxiety spiraling any time I am not distracted by other things, which is typically when I'm driving or in bed before falling asleep. As a result, my relationship with sleep has suffered this year, and sometimes I will keep myself up well past when my body signals a need for rest in fear of intrusive thoughts. Cue having a space all to myself for the first time in a while and... you see where this is going. I've been working on slowing down and being gentler with myself in ways that are realistic for me. For example, being more mindful about what I eat or drink - not necessarily avoiding "junk" altogether but perhaps avoiding ordering a second cup of coffee on an empty stomach. Getting ready for bed earlier, and giving myself permission to take a nap the next day when I don't. Adhering to the boundaries I set for myself regarding social media (this one is the toughest for me). Making sure I set aside time to get a solid vocal warm-up in. And most importantly, being more mindful in general of how I'm feeling and recognizing the stories I tell myself. I don't nail all of this every day, but I feel better as the days go on. My voice feels freer and I feel good knowing I can show up and do my best.
In my free time I've been doing a ton of walking around the city, mainly whenever I've needed to go shopping but also just to get my body moving. When I'm not outside, I've been enjoying cooking for myself and rekindling my love for some of my interests. I spent hours on Animal Crossing this past Sunday after not playing for months and it took me right back to Summer 2020. I've also been spending a lot of time going through my wedding photos which we received a few weeks ago and organizing them into albums. My only way of connecting with others over the photos so far has been sending links to family and posting on social media, so I'm looking forward to looking through them with my husband... when he gets here this weekend! As much as I'm proud of us for being pros at the long distance thing, it's always difficult. I cannot wait to give him a hug in person and show him around my temporary new home.
Some shots from my solo walks, and a peaceful moment in my apartment.
My experience here so far has been both rewarding and healing. Putting all the skills I've learned to the test in this gig and realizing how much I benefit from them is rewarding. Feeling free to be myself with new people and reflecting on how much I've grown is healing. I'm especially grateful for how kind everyone has been here. It's an honor to be part of a team like this and I have to pinch myself daily to remember that it's real.