Do you think that sounds a little cheesy? Me too, but I’m sticking with it for a whole year.
Most people think I’m kind, but that is because they haven’t heard my inner critic. So my focus for 2023 is to practice genuine self-compassion and rewrite my story, chapter by chapter.
What will this look like? I’m not 100% sure, but let’s start with something simple.
I failed music
There was a time when I decided I would give up everything to play music.
I had started learning classical piano when I was 4 or 5. That was something we did in my family, but — as kids often do — I lost enthusiasm and stopped. I got singing lessons for a while, then guitar lessons, and I played a variety of other instruments through middle school, including trumpet.
As I recall, music wasn’t offered in 11th grade, whether from a lack of interest, the teacher’s extended leave, or some combination of the two. But when the teacher returned later in the year, she did so with gusto, planning a big school concert. I chose to participate.
I have no recollection of my act, but I presume it was a vocal solo as I had done at school camps throughout the grades. All performers were required to be in the gymnasium together for hours on end, days on end, so our acts could be perfected. This all culminated in a brand new school song we performed together as a choir. It was an intense experience, and it flicked a switch in me. I wanted nothing more than to do music all the time, forever.
This involved choosing to repeat 11th grade. Because I was a straight A student, I was offered a scholarship at a newly built private school. My plan came together perfectly.
This was one of my first big life decisions. 100% mine. I was choosing my destiny, or so I thought. If I judge that decision by my outcomes in music, or academics in general, it was a bad one.
No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to make my fingers progress through 5 years of classical piano in 18 months. As the final exam results read “The technique is not yet established sufficiently, and this marred much of the work.” I had failed.
To make matters worse, leading up to the rest of the final exams, the dysfunction in my home reached new levels. I took refuge with families from school and church… a different home each day of the big exam week. Other than math, my grades plummeted. Thankfully, because the results are published after the end of the school year, I didn’t have to face everyone. A scholarship student with mediocre results. Was I an imposter? I felt ashamed.
Given all of that, I returned to my mother’s advice to “make sure you get a good job for when your husband leaves you”, and chose a business degree program. I scraped in with the lowest acceptable score, but I was only eligible for the evening program. I went out and got an accounting job, where I was paid about 50% what a middle school counterpart was making. She had never graduated high school but had completed a secretarial course.
After all this, it has taken multiple decades and some peer life coaching for me to play music again. Through coaching we moved from the unintentional thought, “I’m not that musical” to an intentional “I love playing the piano”. With the gentle guidance of the Simply Piano app, I now enjoy playing music from multiple genres. I have kept this up for about 11 weeks.
So for 2023, in being kind to me, I will continue to enjoy playing the piano.