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June 2019
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2002-07-26 Regrets

True Hell is the you facing the you that might have been. Think about it.


Those words were said to me soon after I graduated from university around the time I was dithering about my future. I focused on the words and though they seemed negative at first, they have turned out to have had one of the most positive effects on my life. Hell for me would have been sitting in my armchair at the age of 80 with a mental image of myself performing an operatic role with a leading opera house, or recording a CD with a reputable recording company, or worse still going to a concert in my 70s and thinking I couldve done that or I could do that much better. The what if factor is something I know would just kill me in the end, or at least make me a very bitter old man.

On many occasions after performances I have had people congratulate me, followed by them telling me that they could have been a singer too, if only they had had the chance or that the opportunities just were not there for them in those days. Had I the courage, I would respond using that two-syllabled word that describs bovine faeces. I firmly believe that you have to make the chance, and if you really want to do it enough, you will find a way. There are endless tales of Caruso and Gigli walking miles to singing lessons, sleeping rough and permanently on the breadline.

On leaving college, I taught for a while in Dublin, and heard about a summer school for singers just outside London. I went along and met a gentleman who offered to be my teacher there and then. I returned home on a high, but faced with reality, thought I would still take the safe option and teach. I was in my early 20s and doing well in my teaching career, but those words kept ringing in my ears  True Hell is the you facing the you  that might have been. So I handed in my notice to school, to RTE, and to the church where I was organist and choirmaster. I now had no job, no money and was moving to a very large scary city. I found a job in a music shop on my second day there , and worked in a pub in the evenings (smoke  Ugh!). Having to pay for rent, travel and lessons had me always in the red but I was determined. If you really want something, you go for it until you get it. I had seen a lot of my contemporaries give up for one reason or another along the way, or others who simply wanted to be famous which in my mind is a real recipe for disaster.

When I was in a position to give up my work and go full-time, it was still by no means plain sailing but those words kept ringing in my ears. Imagine if I had done the lessons, gone to a few auditions and came home with my tail between my legs? Believe me, I was tempted more than once, but I would still be one of those bitter old men always wondering what wouldve happened if Id tried for a career in singing. Now at least, I can look back and say Well, I gave it its best shot, I gave it a go!. Of course that doesnt mean Im still not going to be a bitter old man.

Regret really can be one of the most destructive emotions. When someone passes away you often hear people say I wish Id told them I loved them. When my dear late mother was going through a lot of suffering, on several occasions I just squeezed her hand and told her I didnt understand why she was going through such pain, but that I loved her. A tear trickled down her face, and I knew she knew. So if you love someone, tell them for Gods sake, as tomorrow may be too late, you never know.

Similarly, if you think you have what it takes to go into show business, go for it today, dont wait. After all you dont want to be facing an image in your twilight years of the you that might have been.