Cardinal Diaries: The Transient Life of a Performing Artist

by | Feb 28, 2022 | Featured, The Cardinal Diaries

It’s Chapter 7 of Lauren Margison‘s series, The Cardinal Diaries: The Transient Life of a Performing Artist! If you missed the earlier instalments, you can read them here: chapter one | chapter two |chapter three | chapter four | chapter five | chapter 6. Below, our leading soprano returns home after travelling afar to perform, and all at once, she’s overcome with feelings of nostalgia and a longing for home.

“Please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead, please don’t be dead,” I muttered under my breath as I fumbled for my keys in my coat pocket.

A dull thud behind me was evidence enough that my overpacked suitcase had given in to the floor’s gravitational pull. I clung fast to my many smaller bags, making the quest for my keys more difficult. If I had not been quite so stubborn in my refusal to put the bags down, the whole process would have been far less dramatic. Yet here I stood, flushed and irate, my circulation being cut by various bag straps.


The keys were finally found, and I and my motley crew of luggage moved from the hallway into my apartment.

The air was stale, and my heart sank when I saw the sorry state of my plants. I rushed over to them one by one like a horticultural Florence Nightingale. The leaves of my philodendron lay prostrate on the shelf around its pot.

Cardinal Diaries

The Cardinal Diaries: Chapter 7, “The Transient Life of a Performing Artist”. Illustration: Alya Stationwala

After tending to my patients, I rounded up the losses and eulogized briefly before chucking them into the bin. The few still clinging to life were watered and placed under a grow light. I heaved a sigh as I settled onto the couch, letting my mind wander. I checked the time and counted the hours back.

“I was on a stage about 5,000km from here just under 24 hours ago,” I said aloud.

This was not an unusual situation or reflection for a professional performing artist, but it still felt strange as I now sat alone contemplating a cup of tea.

I puttered around, opened a couple of windows, started a half-hearted attempt to unpack, put the kettle on…all the little rituals to remind body and mind that I was home. My body and my luggage were here, but my mind might have missed the flight that morning. My thoughts were discursive, and my body was starting to show signs of exhaustion. My eyelids grew heavy, my neck grew weary of holding my head up, my back yearned for a good stretch, but my mind still wasn’t home. I tried my best to locate it, and found it, finally, still with the show I had just finished and the cast members that had felt like family. My mind needed an emotional grace period to come back to my old “normal” and I was trying to rush it. After some hours spent in front of the television fighting off sleep, I slipped into slumber.

Cardinal Diaries

The Cardinal Diaries: Chapter 7, “The Transient Life of a Performing Artist”. Illustration: Alya Stationwala

The glare of the sun through my living room windows woke me the following morning. Consciousness flooded back as I wiped the drool from my cheek and gingerly hoisted myself to a seated position. Passing out on the couch had not been kind to my neck and the shockingly sharp pain prompted a wince. Though my neck was hurting, I felt that my mind had finally returned from the gig, and I smiled and looked around my apartment with fresh eyes. Home. It was perfect in all its imperfection.

A mere moment later I was worrying about learning music for the following engagement. I had a month at home, and though I wanted to cherish it, I couldn’t escape the feeling of the looming expiration date. The lifestyle of the performing artist is a transient lifestyle, and while I can agree that the only constant is change, sometimes change seems the hardest thing to stomach. In times of change, one always clings to the oldest habits. Not new and improved habits, not aspirational habits, but the ones that have been the most consistent. So, if life is constantly changing, how are we actually able to implement any new habits?

I wanted this time in my nest to lay some groundwork for the person I was still hoping to become. I didn’t want to waste the month reverting to coping mechanisms that had been comforts while I existed in survival mode. I wanted to embrace the transient life and implement changes of my own into the ever-changing arena of my existence.  There and then, I made a detailed schedule that I would uphold. It involved early mornings, and early nights. It involved “to do” lists, and fewer carbs. It involved workouts, and meditation. It involved less wine, and more tea.

Cardinal Diaries

The Cardinal Diaries: Chapter 7, “The Transient Life of a Performing Artist”. Illustration: Alya Stationwala

Naturally, the exhaustion I felt after creating such a detailed image of who I wanted to become meant that I couldn’t very well make my own dinner. Quick as a flash, I had Uber Eats open on my phone, a glass of wine at the ready, and The Two Towers queued up on the TV.

“Moderation,” I said to myself with a smirk. “It’s all about moderation.”

fatphobiaLauren Margison is a singer and writer from Toronto, Ontario. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, and the Atelier lyrique of the Montreal Opera. She was a first prize winner of the George London Competition. Lauren continues her vocal training under the tutelage of Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka.


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