I remember the feeling of sitting on my hard leather piano seat in dread. I would press down the keys and be met by a blaring “WRONG” from my teacher. Over and over again, I would hit the keys, trying different speeds, rhythms, mildly tweaked volumes, but still be met by the shouts of disapproval from my teacher. I gave up on trying to enjoy the process of discovering music, instead searching for what was “right” just so I could move on to the next measure.
Every lesson was an interrogation. “WHY are you playing this wrong? Why didn’t you practice enough?”.
I don’t know???
I don’t understand why this rest is here or why I have to arbitrarily press down the pedal in this location. I don’t understand why I can’t hold onto the notes slightly longer or why I have to lift my fingers like the keys are hot potatoes for this measure. I felt like my intuition was being stamped out. I was given the map when I really wanted to discover on my own.
Sure, what does a kid know about music composition compared to the music greats of our world? But I loved the way it sounded the way I played it, even if it wasn’t following the composer or my teacher’s original intent. I felt like I could coax secrets out of the notes, conjure hidden passageways that weren’t signed in bold black print. I was chasing Diagon Alleys instead of the brightly lit avenues.
It’s like forcing two jigsaw pieces together that weren’t cut to fit. I didn’t understand why the music was written that way, all I knew was that was “right”. My piano teacher would inscribe new arcs all over my music sheets, indicating places to press the pedal and when to lift. I was memorizing a formula instead of understanding the variables.
I wanted to fall into the music, to feel the emotions it stirred, build my own bridges, and discover my own universe from the building blocks on the page. Intuitively, I wanted to breathe the music: to live it and let it sing through me. Instead, I was being IV dripped the notation and expected to understand the story. The notes came out flat.
Many years have flown by me. I feel really sad when I think about how I decided to quit. I loved the joy of discovering those universes for myself, to explore the caves of the notes and the bridges of the lines. To feel in my heart’s vibrato, the way the notes bowed the chords of my heart’s strings and sung with me.
I’ve been writing in private with the intent of discovery. To learn about myself, and write solely for myself and the eyes of a few friends for now. I don’t want to get trapped in the hamster wheel of building and catering to an audience, when I am the one audience member I know I’ll have for my entire life. Preserving agency and cultivating my own voice is sacred to me. First and foremost, I want to discover for myself what I enjoy writing and how I enjoy to write.
Your heart is an instrument that you can play. You are both the potter and the clay.
I used to run a blog when I was, like, 10, where I would curate motivational quotes said by famous people. Maybe that’s how I got my start in giving motivational pep talks to my friends. I digress.
I distinctly remember thinking, “wow, how are these people saying these super smart and wise things?? I don’t have any thoughts like that”.
That’s bs. You have it in you. These inspirational quotes that get published 20938430298 times on the interwebs and used in corporate Linkedin thirsttraps aren’t anything special.
They’re just thoughts and experiences, made known, which everyone has.
It’s the same way I used to read up on the advice of successful people. Mistakes they regretted when they were 20. Things they would’ve changed. It’s all just notation, words on a screen that your life experience might not map to. You can try playing it, but you may find that you want to play it differently, or just write your own.
One thing I want to improve at is living life without the guardrails up. To dance audaciously if I feel like it, twirl all over the ivories and bow the hell out of my heart’s strings. In the same way too much tension will snap the violin’s bow, it will do the same to you. To search for answers in other people’s notation is to tiptoe through life, fearing that you’ll fall off the tightrope.
So, note to self. Listen closely. Play notes that don’t sound right together, loudly. Dance, dance, dance audaciously! Who cares? Figure out what sounds good to you.
Your heart is an instrument you can play. Please play it.
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