Wake up, it's time to start preparing for a new day.

By Chaya Sandler

Tuning Up

Recap: Kayla has an upcoming job interview, and an examiner is coming to assess her music.

As I told you last time, mornings are just not my thing. I am a creature of the night. As light and dark vie for control of the sky, my soul awakens, steadily shining in proportion to the darkening of the ether.

So, since Hashem loves me, my interview was scheduled for the afternoon. It was to be at 5:30, which gave me precisely half an hour to dash from my school to the school where I was to be interviewed. I was praying the tube would be on time; if anyone committed suicide I would kill them.

I sent off my CV and hoped it was professional-ish.  They called me in for an interview so I suppose they must have liked it, but what do I say?? It’s so nerve-wracking and yet this is precisely the time I need to be the most confident! I’m this little kid really, just playing at being grown up, and now life is shoving me out into the big wide world with no one to hold my hand.

I know my fellow morning travellers probably think I’m insane as I slide through the doors just as they’re closing and spend ten minutes catching my breath and then doing my hair. (I know I’m supposed to get dressed before I leave the house, but if they had sockets on the tube I would straighten my hair there. Though, in that case, my fellow passengers would probably consider me something other than mad.) But now I convinced my evening counterparts of that too.

I don’t know if you’re up to that stage yet, but your first job interview is seriously nerve-wracking. You try to maintain a professional, confident air, but inside your heart makes its presence, and its nerves, known the entire time. Sitting in the reception outside the office, I stifled a giggle. Don’t laugh, don’t cry, just breathe. Breathe, breathe, in-out, in-out, not so obviously!

Then of course, you’re busy surreptitiously sizing up the competition. Of course you make small talk and wish each other luck, but really all you can think of is if it’s possible for your heart to overheat. Can your heart beat too fast? Mine was trying to outdo Usain Bolt.

Once you’re done, it’s time to psychoanalyse every word and move on your part and theirs. Oh, and the waiting jitters. It’s like waiting for Moshiach. You have to get on with the rest of your life, but it’s always in the back of your mind, this little niggling feeling, the apprehension and impatience that will in no way hasten the end of the limbo into which you are now cast as you await the verdict. Hired? Or…

At least it isn’t as bad as the apprentice. My interviewer wasn’t half as bad as Clive’s, and they didn’t set me even one task.

I got home and pulled out my instruments. That A-level won’t pass itself. My science books lay accusingly in my bag; they would have to be dealt with later. For now, I pushed them under the desk and out of my mind. A history textbook slid out – drat you Queen Victoria but even you, Ma’am, will have to wait.

The music is calling me.

I get slightly soppy about music. This piece however is tinged with nerves because the examiner is coming in tomorrow and this piece must be perfect! It is already, I know it’s a masterpiece. Still, a little more practice won’t hurt…

At some point that night I went to sleep. Nerves and tension and excitement ran circles around my mind as they fought for supremacy. As the moon succumbed to the sun, my mind succumbed to sleep and silence reigned.

Dawn rose and the shadows fled. I slumbered on. I awoke at my usual time of 20 minutes before the tube leaves. I fell out of bed, struggled out of my covers and made it to the bathroom, where I washed my hands (and my PJs too), dragged a t-shirt over my head and grabbed a top out of the cupboard whilst stepping into a skirt. I subjected my hair to a comb as I flew down the stairs and downed a coffee whilst pulling on my shoes. The requisite chocolate bar and smoothie were grabbed on the way out along with my bag as I ran for my life. Sliding into the tube carriage, I smudged some poor lady’s makeup as I did my hair – oops.

Rachel sauntered on ten minutes later, all sweetness and light and all things bright. I hate morning people.

Struggling through science, even my teachers picked up on my tiredness. For the first time in my life I actually skipped a class and slept through history. I felt so guilty. I’m normally a model student, but I consoled myself with the fact that this was the first time and I was in sixth form, plus there were some extenuating circumstances.

At lunch, Rachel and Abby quizzed me on the interview and my absence.

“I was zonked, guys. I could not fall asleep last night.”

“Nerves?” asked Abby.

“Yeah, and I need to be sharp for this afternoon. An examiner is coming to listen to our compositions.”

“Hatzlachah rabbah, good luck! You know you’ll be great. You are brilliant! What are you worried about?” Rachel meant well, but there is a pressure when you’re perceived to be the best. The price you have to pay for success is that you must succeed. You must be the best. You can’t come in second and you must never, ever fail. No slipping up; push yourself as far as you can go. Because you have no choice.

I’m not a perfectionist, but I am incredibly demanding of myself. If I get anything less than 90, I consider it a failure. I am never fully secure in myself. As soon as I reach one peak, there is another to climb. I feel like I can never reach the top, and if and when I do, what will I have to do to stay there?

I know I’m a musician. It’s in my blood, it’s in my soul. It’s who I am, it’s how Hashem made me. And know I have to prove that to the world.

“What instrument did you choose?” Rachel interrupts my reverie.

“Flute.” This was a solo piece and it was the most precious part of my music. The flute expresses my soul. All my music does, but the flute even more so.  I hate playing for just anyone; it’s baring my soul, sharing my mind, giving over a little piece of myself, and this was the biggest part of myself I had ever put into my music. Everything was riding on this one. The mark I would get for it would swing my final mark. If I did well it was a big advantage, but if I failed…I may as well not study for the exam. This was my last composition piece. After this I got my final marks for the practical.

The bell rang.

This was it, the moment of truth with so much at stake. And it had arrived.