“You have to try out” they told me. First it was Star Search, then American Idol, then X Factor, and The Voice. They insisted I audition.

I heard them implore me as a kid, throughout my college career while studying opera, after rock performances in New York and LA, and even in the hospital when I sang bedside as a music therapist.

Yet, I was busy, into my own music-making, and to be honest, I wasn’t so sure I’d even make it through pre-screening. It felt like a pipe dream. I didn’t want to camp out for an audition. It all seemed out of reach. Besides, even if I met the big guns, would Simon insult my classical training? Would anyone even turn their chair around? Would my entire career come down to a flashing red X? It was terrifying.

Nonetheless, this year I found myself living in The Netherlands (also known as Holland) and I soon discovered that The Voice started here. Actually, a lot of reality shows originated here. Fear Factor, Big Brother, Deal or No Deal– they were all created by the same guy in Holland. I was intrigued. So, with unexpected confidence, I sent a video into casting for the upcoming season of The Voice of Holland.

Two days later, I received a call from producers. What happened next was a whirlwind. I remember sitting backstage before my blind audition in disbelief. I had to wait for many hours and through many auditions before my turn, and each outcome before mine left me stunned. Instead of Adam, Miley, Jennifer and Blake, there was Anouk, Sanne, Waylon and Ali B.  All instructions were given in Dutch and I was the only American in sight. For someone stage-freight over a reality singing competition, I sure knew how to pick one!

Finally, it was my turn. A crew member handed me a microphone and bid me on my way toward the stage, reminding me to “thank the audience if no one turns around.” “That’s encouraging,” I thought. During pregame, they instructed me to stand on a little white “x” which was easy to see on the pitch black stage. Only now, the same huge stage was covered with beaming letters spelling The Voice of Holland in glowing white lights. I could see no “x” but instead saw hundreds of people in the live studio audience and the back of four chairs.

I don’t remember much more about my blind audition from that point on. What I do know is that the music hit me, I sang my heart out and a coach named Sanne turned around, claiming me for her team. That was just the beginning.

What transpired over the following weeks were a string of interviews, rehearsals, coaching, filming, preparations, staging, wardrobe meetings, and plenty of waiting. It was exhilarating and exhausting. What we don’t often expect from achieving our goal is the insane amount of anxiety and obligation there is once we get there. Here I was, living a dream, yet it was also totally draining – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. There were, however, a few things that helped me to find the gold, enjoy the journey and combat the fatigue that can often come with a dream-come-true.  

Make allies

The best part of my experience was the relationships made. The production staff was on point and the fellow contestants were golden. I met a girl from Kenya who taught me grace, was inspired by a guy who came from a family of 15 siblings, and became best of friends with a man who played Disney’s “The Beast” and one evening he even sang to my daughter in our kitchen. When stressed, tired, and overworked, it is important to know your tribe- these fellow artists were mine. Find yours.

Be more concerned with the journey and less about the outcome

Easier said than done, I know. My blind audition was a blur, full of doubt and panic. I wanted success badly. I decided to play the next round, a singing battle, differently. I only wanted to give my best performance, move the viewers, and bring joy through the music I sang. While the process was still stressful, after making this commitment, I had one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I lost the battle to my opponent, but in actuality, I won.

Know who you are

I am so glad I waited to do a singing reality show competition until I was in my thirties. It is difficult to be judged, but when you know who you are, comments, judgement and rejection doesn’t really matter. In fact, the day it was all over, I felt free and happy. I was excited to get back to my personal music projects. Someone described it best as being “unplugged from the matrix.” I can’t imagine I would’ve seen it this way at 18. Today, I know who I am and like being my own boss. I saw this competition as a moment in time, not an identifier. Any project, dream, or vision reached comes with new challenges, boundaries and authority – but knowing who you are is key to survival.

Remember that there are things that don’t depend on your success

For me, throughout the process, I kept reminding myself of all the things that wouldn’t change for me, win or lose. At the end of the day, I had my husband and daughter to go home to. I had parents who loved me unconditionally. I had friends who had seen me through thick and thin. I had my soul and a roof over my head- those are the important things. The only person who really cared about my achievement was… ambitious, driven me. When striving or maintaining something big, it’s important to remember the things that really matter- the things that endure long after the competition is over and regardless of an outcome.

Have fun and find the beauty

While the process of participating in this show was full of craziness, doubt, fear, desire and pressure, I had a revelation while watching my segments when they aired. There were so many beautiful moments of laughter, collaboration, unity, and pure fun, too, and watching it as an observer made that all the more clear. The world we create in our own minds is often way more intense than reality. Sure, fear and worry happen- but we shouldn’t fight it. Instead, we should allow those emotions to come to the party, too. When we stop resisting them, they no longer take center stage. It’s only then that we can also see all the wonderment around us, allowing the whole world to awaken with beauty. Before I went on stage for my battle, the Kenyan woman told me that our job was important: “We sing so that we can remind them that we are one.” she said. And we are all one. We all have a dream and long for its manifestation, but once we get there, sometimes we have to remember how to enjoy the lights.