Unrealistic expectations. That was what brought me to that moment, standing hunched over a tiny violin with eyebrows furrowed in concentration, fingers to the point of bleeding from the countless hours spent repeatedly pressing them onto cold metal strings, head pounding and aching from the grueling effort it took to create a decent sound.
What had I expected, really? To make beautiful music the first time I sat down to play an instrument? To send the notes tumbling one after another in an effortless stream of perfection? My ears hurt from straining to get a single pitch in tune. An entire song was out of the question… completely.
Giving up sat patiently and quietly on the horizon of my mind: a quick and easy escape from this horrid and out-of-tune hell I had managed to get myself into. Why exactly had I wanted to play an instrument in the first place? I won’t flatter myself and say it was because I wanted the challenge. No, I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to be good. I was to be the next young violinist prodigy, minus the actual time and effort.
That was the day I almost quit. The day I almost gave up. But I guess there was a little backbone in that 10-year-old me and a small voice in the back of my head that came forward from the uncertainty with a quiet but firm, “No.” So I stuck it out. And the next day came and I picked up my violin once more and made my fingers bleed and my head ache all over again. But I didn’t stop.
And to this day I haven’t stopped. It’s been nearly seven years and I’m still going at it. Day after day after day I pick up my instrument and I fight. I wage a daily war. I fight for perfection. I fight through sweat and blood and tears and pages and pages of sheet music. What once appeared as nothing more than black dots on a white page has become a second language to me. I live and breathe music. If you took apart my soul, you would find quarter notes spilling out from the bottomless depths within me. If you leaned down close and listened to the pounding of my heart, it would be hammering out beat one of a 4/4 time signature.
Not many people know this side of me. The musician. I am most often regarded as the writer, the reader, the teacher. But there is another part of me, more quiet, more haunted – a part that hears the calls of the universe and answers back with cries of its own, my fingers flashing across the fingerboard of my violin and converting the essence of the world into music.
Music is what saved my soul from the bleak, plain shores of reality. It was the ship that arrived at port and sent my name into the wind, calling for me, promising adventure. Promising a different kind of life. I set my feet upon the deck of that ship and stared out at the open ocean rolling before me, my heartbeat skipping around like a hare but exhilarated by the dare of it all. Exhilarated by my own audacity.
To think that I could tackle that raging sea before me, I would have been mad. No, I only desired to sail it. To see some of it. To gaze down into the waves of something I could never truly understand. Now, that was real adventure. That was the journey I had been waiting for all my life.
It amazes me now to realize there was a secret hiding inside that old, hand-me-down violin I used to play all those years ago. How was I to know that through my persistent, suffering bliss I was unveiling more and more of that secret everyday?
There is a life waiting for us. Each of us. It sits in the forgotten corners of the world, places that have long slipped out of memory and time. Perhaps it is a despairing thought to know that we might not ever discover these places where our lives await us, might never stumble across the cabinet or glance behind the door to discover where they lurk. Yet I prefer to think that our souls will find a way back. That they’ve been there before. That they can lead us to the very place we’ve left our hearts in past lives, hoping beyond hope that our unconscious would bring us back. To find whatever would await us there.
Whatever would lead us back to becoming who we really are.