Thursday, August 11, 2011

What are you trying to prove ??

A while back, Nota wrote a great post entitled Walking Away from the Proving Grounds.

I love this post.

Why? Because I think it's something every single one of us can relate to.

Oh, sure, Nota's post is specifically about running. And Lord knows I'm not a runner.

But as a young musician I once cancelled my audition for the conservatory the day before, because I realized I didn't need to prove myself to anyone.

While most people in my real life know that I play the trumpet, what relatively few know is that I used to be quite good.

I trained my entire junior high & high school years for a career in music. Classical music, specifically.

My family had limited no funds to really support my endeavour, so I saved my allowances to pay for private lessons. I bought my own books, did my own research. And practiced. I spent God-knows-how-many hours practicing in our basement. Lord, did I practice.

By all means I had nowhere near the book knowledge of classical music, music history, etc. as many of my student-colleagues. But I was good.

Quite frankly, I was darn good.

My teenage years I practiced daily, performed several times a month, and had the privilege to perform in several different states around the country.

I became known.

In certain circles, anyway.

You know, when you meet someone completely new, in a totally different, non-musical environment, and they cock their head and say "hey, aren't you that trumpet chick?"
Why yes, I am was.

I loved it. I loved music. I loved making music.

But I digress.

As I progressed, the natural normal society- and- education- imposed progress is to compete. In ensembles. By yourself. Against others. Against yourself.  You allow others to judge you. You allow experts to judge your performance.

You prove yourself. To the experts. To your colleagues. To yourself.

And that's what I did. And I did well at the competitions. Somewhere in my parents' home are the trophies and badges and ribbons to prove it.

But sometime during my senior year of high school, as I was desparately saving every penny (it was not uncommon for me to pay my tudor in change, bless his heart) to pay for lessons to prepare for my conservatory auditions... well, somewhere in there... I had an epiphany.

My audience loved my music.

Do you know, in marching band, I once had a woman tell me that my solo was so moving it made her cry? A chick in a marching band uniform standing on a football field played so beautifully it made her cry?!?

I was regularly told how people were moved to tears. That I gave them chills. That I was blessing them. That they were touched by my performance.

So why then... did I care... if some judge, any judge, any expert... thought I was good at all? Why did I care if I was marked down, yet again, for my embouchre, which was never what it "should" be? And really, why was I still seeking a career in music, if as an amateur, a teenager even, I could invoke such a reaction from my audience?

I fought a philosophical war with myself for weeks. This is what I had prepared my whole life to do. This was all I knew. If I didn't allow this judging to continue, and enter school for music... then... what would I do?!?

But I already had my answer. And when it came down to pressure time, the night before my audition, I called and cancelled.

After I graduated from high school, I stopped playing for two months. I never intended to stop altogether. Just needed a sabbatical, of sorts.

Eventually (and a long story of how it happened later), I joined my university marching band, and played to my heart's content.
And then basketball band. And then concert band.

And then I took so many music courses that by the time I graduated I was fairly close to having my minor in music.

But mostly, I just enjoyed being a band nerd.

Because I liked making music. And when it came to the music part of band, I no longer had anything to prove.


So that's probably my biggest single story of walking away from the proving grounds. Of realizing that I don't always have to prove something.

There is balance in there though. I am not nearly the musician I was when I was proving myself to the world. And there is beauty in that achievement.

I think the most difficult part of any journey is finding that balance. Of proving yourself, and enjoying the moment, enjoying the accomplishment. Of jumping in when you're ready (and sometimes when you're not), and walking away when you sense that that part of your life is over.

We all prove ourselves in different ways. I still sometimes find myself struggling to prove myself as a wife & mother. Mostly to myself, but somewhat to others.

And with the variety of supervisors I've had at work lately, I've found myself in the unsavory position of having to re-prove myself in the workplace, repeatedly, over the past several months.

We all do it. It's part of life. And like any journey, sometimes it's about knowing when to get on the highway, and when to take that off-ramp to the next destination.


Cyndy Bush said...

What a great post. I think life is about finding balance in every aspect. And it's easier said than done!

'Yellow Rose' Jasmine said...

Ah yes, the moment when you realize that you only get one time around on this ride that we call life. And that you don't want to spend it trying to prove anything to anyone.
I once was a really great little flute player. Always first chair in everything I did. I never even had to try that hard. But I had only played the flute because my family happened to have one. It just wasn't me. I yearned to be a trumpet player. So I quit the flute and started in on the trumpet. I have happily been a mediocre trumpet player who loves it ever since. I still participate in local bands, etc. And I know I never would have done that playing the flute.
Nice post. You really caught the spirit of a decision to be true to yourself.

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