Much to my delight and surprise, I was accepted for an opportunity to audition.
Friday afternoon. 12:30PM. Be 15 minutes early. Prepare two songs, approximately 30 seconds each.
I committed to myself that I would do the audition. I wanted to see how I would fare and see what the experience would be like.
I showed up with 50 other hopeful riders, a colorful rainbow of spandex and anxiety milling around in the brightly lit space. Everyone had their songs, pre-downloaded, and ready to go on some device so that they can get up to the podium and have their two minutes of fame.
I would call my level of preparation adequate because I’m too ashamed to say that it was paltry. I had vaguely thought about what I might say, knew the rough rhythm of the songs, and figured I would just give it a go.
We piled into the studio.
I was on a bike to the far right of the room, closest to the exit door. The national talent leader explained the format of the audition. Three people at a clip would line up to get ready to lead the class, and everyone else would be the willing participants.
Most spin classes last 45 minutes. This one would last almost 3.5x that. Moreover, as the group, it was as much our job to support and celebrate the person trying out as we hoped they would do for us. That meant that quietly riding in the saddle was not an option — it was GO time.
I, unwisely, had skipped lunch not wanting to have a full stomach before the audition. I had also gone for a 6.5-mile run that morning. I was also planning a four-hour ride the next day as I continue training for my Ironman. I felt the negative spiral begin to swirl.
How did I go from quietly confident to brooding and nervous in just a few minutes?
These thoughts conspired in my brain as the auditions began. Then things got worse: it became immediately apparent that the way I saw this opportunity was not how many others saw this opportunity.
One man had lost over 100 pounds at Soul. Another had made his best friends at the studio after moving from a different city. Others used the classes as a breather from a harsh reality in their life, like having a loved one with cancer.
This was their moment. This was their shot. This was an opportunity to find permanent sanctuary in a place that had offered some divine salvation.
I felt guilty. I saw this as an amazing way to stay in shape while finding a different avenue to promote the ideas of wellness and positivity in the world around me. It felt pretty boring after hearing the first few stories.
I also learned that the way I prepared was not how other people prepared. There were well-rehearsed introductions. Multiple choreographed moves. Calls and responses. It reminded me of being a diver in college when the reigning national champion visited for a “fun” meet. His first two dives outscored my entire list — we were competing at different sports.
Eventually, my turn came to get set up. I left my bike and was helped by a Soul instructor to get my mic ready. I did my best to pump myself up knowing that I was a bit unsure of what I was about to experience.
When my turn came, I did my best to be me. I cracked jokes while I set up the bike. I told the room about my mission to make the world a happier place. I expressed my gratitude for all of the good energy that everyone was pouring into this long day.
The version I had download was too muted for the sound system to play.
Feeling my heart pounding against my throat, I explained that I had only my first song in another format, and I would just ride to that for as long as they let me.
I reset quickly and started pedaling. I was going twice as fast as the beat because I was nervous. So I stood up to slow myself down and catch the beat, but then people in the class stood up because they were trying to follow me. Then I remembered that I was supposed to be talking this whole time. So I started babbling about something — couldn’t even tell you what.
The song ended, and I felt relieved. Then the instructor said, “You should do another song — just put on another one.”
I put on another song. It was not the song I had chosen earlier. It was not a song I had thought about previously. It was a song I barely knew, because it was one of the only other songs that I could find in less than five seconds to alleviate the burning embarrassment of bombing in front of 50 people who came here to make their dreams come true.
Same thing: got ahead of the beat, tried to focus on finding it, forget to say anything, awkwardly blurted out word vomit to recover, and finally was saved by the music fading out. I was granted a quiet applause, and if I recall correctly, a solitary “woo.”
For anyone who has performed on stage at any point, you have a good ability to measure the quality of applause that you receive. You can feel the enthusiasm or lack thereof.
I don’t say this to the detriment of the riders, at all. Frankly, I’m lucky they even acknowledged that I was up there. I knew I was unprepared, and I received the recognition that a lack of preparation deserves.
I was in the middle of the group, so I had another 25 or so auditions during which I could marinate on my failure. I haven’t gone for gold and missed so widely in a long time.
I pause the story now to share with you, as the author, that what follows is relatively new. It’s a reaction, and a state of being that is decidedly different than what may have transpired even a few months ago.
In the face of embarrassment and sweat and time poorly spent and defeat, I just laughed.
I laughed at the absurdity of the workout gauntlet I was putting myself through. I laughed at my one foot in, one foot out approach to the audition, which is not exactly a recipe for surefire success.
In spite of the bruised ego, I was so relieved that I no longer felt attached to the shackles and weights of failure that I once was. I was thrilled that I saw this as an opportunity to find joy rather than find fault.
So, what did I learn?
I haven’t heard back from Soulcycle, so this story may still have an unexpected twist if I somehow showed so much composure in the midst of a catastrophe that they feel compelled to give me a shot.
But more than likely, it will be a no.
This will be a story of a time when things didn’t work out.
This will be a story of what I went through before I figured it out and made something great happen.