This could easily become another post about “impostor syndrome,” but I think it goes far beyond that.
Last weekend, when I was going to my piano lesson, one of the guys who worked there mentioned a recital that Sunday and that I could go or if I wanted to participate, let them know. I was like “uh, no way would I play, not yet for sure,” but they also said I could show up and listen and offer support (they needed an answer because there was limited room available and it was a bit late).
I’d heard about possibly doing recitals or playing in front of others. After all, that’s the beauty of music; it’s a language all it’s own. However, I also haven’t been as good to myself in terms of learning music the past few months. So many things have been put on my plate (and anemia has really messed with my sleep schedule and timing) that music practice has fallen near the bottom of the priority list.
That ticks me off, because it should be near the top, at least as far as things to do day after day. I wanted to learn music. I want to learn all I can and get good at it.
But why, exactly? That mention of the recital got me really thinking this week about how or when I’d be willing to play in public. Not like I haven’t before, but it’s a lot different when you’re a clarinet player smack in the middle of a couple dozen other clarinets on stage, or one of the ants marching on the field during half-time in high school.
Maybe that anonymity helped me out, but even then, I had REALLY crappy practice habits. My band director’s attitude toward me as the year went on just made it easier for me to quit by 10th grade. I was good at practice in 6th and 7th grade, wanting to work hard and do better. But when things got tougher and my schedule got crazier, I let things slide.
I’ve noticed that awful pattern just kept coming along in my life. As soon as things get more difficult (like when my embouchure changed after my braces were removed and I couldn’t compensate), I can’t figure out how to push on, or it doesn’t occur to me that I just need to incorporate this new skill and move along, going forward. Somehow I can do it when it comes to a job… but it happens so gradually I’m not aware of it. If I look at myself in my current job now, and then try to see myself three years ago…I can’t figure out how I got from there to here. I’m just so used to the way things are now, even if they get more complicated.
I’m worried a bit about playing in front of people eventually, but not in the sense that I’ll suck in front of them. Okay, maybe a little bit about that. It’s more I’m worried I will actually be good enough to hold my own on stage in front of others and not believe it to be more than luck or a fluke (which leads to self-defeating prophecy-making).
I’ve had a lifelong fear of screwing up. I can’t figure out where it came from, but it’s bothered me immensely for as long as I can remember. And it doesn’t seem to matter how old I get, it’s still there. Just yesterday my boss said she was moving on to other opportunities. And today I heard that one of our newer co-workers was interested in being the director of our location. I was a bit shocked about that. Not jealous or annoyed, because she’s a hard worker who I think could pull it off nicely, but rather surprised.
Of course, I had to remind myself that my boss told me that “if somebody wanted to step up…” It took me a day to realize that it wasn’t a subtle hint, but I was so startled at her announcement I didn’t recognize it, and instead immediately backed up mentally like “I dunno if I could do that.”
Well, there I go shooting myself in the foot again.
I let my terror at screwing things up automatically stop me from doing something that would let me grow and expand my knowledge (and certainly my wallet). I’ve let myself be dragged along on the path of least resistance for my whole life, it seems.
And now, that same thing is playing out when I go to my practice sessions. It sucks because I’m not getting much done and I’m sure I’m my piano teacher’s worst student. Why? Because somehow I’m letting my worries and all the other crap interfere with what I want to do most.
I want to understand music.
I want to play music.
I want to join others in playing music.
I want to make friends while playing music.
I want to make somebody’s day brighter through a nice piece of music, or to make them think, or make them feel not so alone with not so good thoughts or feelings through music.
Instead, I’ve let myself practice very little and come barely prepared to practice when I should be fiercely practicing my pieces until I get them right, in piano and guitar (though guitar’s gotten a bit easier, but I still don’t practice it nearly enough).
It’s a persistent fear that I’ll suck that holds me back in a lot of respects, but also that fear that one day I’ll wake up and I actually WILL be good enough… but I won’t recognize it. I also have this weirdness where I can give complements, but I can’t seem to accept them (or don’t know how to acknowledge them). My boss gushed over me to somebody else today and I just stood there kind of nervously smiling.
Self-doubt is killing me.
I’m never going to get anywhere with that attitude. Wouldn’t wanna be an arrogant prick, but to know how to give and receive complements is a must. That would make it easier to accept constructive criticism, too, I’d bet.
And that’s the thing I guess I hadn’t thought about: criticism. It’s not that I don’t WANT criticism–I do not believe ignorance is bliss. We can learn from constructive criticism, and dammit, if I’m doing something wrong, I’d rather know about it.
The difficulty is, you can know that that’s true, but at the same time there’s a part of you so afraid to hear it, or constantly waiting for the shoe to drop. It leads right back to making a person like me afraid to stick my neck out.
There are a lot of changes to come about in the next few weeks, and certainly in 2020 altogether, musically and otherwise with me. Perhaps learning to improve on music will help me in other aspects, because I really want to be good at piano, guitar, and other things.
Why, exactly? Other than a love for music itself, I don’t really know right now. I’m working on those dreams, figuring out what the real motivation is that’ll keep me going all my days.
Either way, someday (perhaps sooner than I think because I’ll have begun to practice as I should have all along) I’ll get the chance to play in front of other people and feel ready to do so. My piano teachers says that would be a great thing for me to try and do because of what music theory I did know before the end of my first lesson. She thinks it would benefit me to play for others.
I hope I can feel like that someday soon, and not want to hide or shrug off what I’m capable of.
Amazing how my minuscule practice efforts today got me really thinking about this, that how I felt about practice and preparedness is mirroring what I’m going through in my life.
I’ll be working on that tonight and through the weekend. There has to be a starting point, a foot to push forward on the sand, a necessary step that leads to more. Practice and assurance.
Guess I got one more thing on my resolutions list.