I almost didn't include this one in the blog, but I realized that I write a lot better when I know people are going to read it. Even if it is just the one or two that actually do.
Warning: This one's a little dramatic. Not for the frequent eye rollers.
Hangnails are on the bottom 15 list. Also is the feeling of when you slaughter a brilliant piece of music in front of a lot of people. Tonight my ward had a closing social/talent show. I wanted to be involved, but didn't really know what I would do. I put on the list "probably Piano something-or-other" which meant by default Rachmanninoff's Prelude in C# minor.
I started taking piano lessons when I was probably about 5. My mom was a piano teacher, and insisted that I continue with them until I graduated from High School. I've taken lessons on and off again since then. But this piece, I've known for years now. I love it. There are moments in it where only the soft pedal is down, and I'm barely touching the keys, and there are parts where I'm pounding on the piano until my forearms ache with the amount of force I exert. I play it best when I'm angry, and I almost always feel better after I've finished. It's therapeutic for me.
I went to the front, gave a little intro, and sat down at the bench. A hundred pairs of eyes were staring at me, and I felt the blood rush to my face before I had even begun. The first few notes were perfect. The mood was set, and there was so much potential for me to communicate the kind of emotion that I believe Rachmanninoff intended. And then the first wrong note came. And the second. And the third. Pretty soon I was stumbling and confused. I felt like I had just had a lobotomy and that my occipital lobe (responsible for memorization in muscle memory) no longer was a part of me. My fingers shook and hesitated, and everything went all wrong.
After stumbling a bit but trying to keep going, I skipped to the next section, which is one that rarely gives me trouble. But my frustration due to messing up in the first place distracted me, and I found myself stumbling again. I just wanted to cry, or die, (or something else that rhymes with "I") but I had to keep going. I thought for a minute that I could salvage it... that it could get better. I thought that I could perform the rest of the piece with the greatness that I knew I was capable of, and hopefully the crowd would forget about the first part of the piece. But I stumbled again.
This horrible pattern continued: skipping to a new section in the song, skipping over these beautiful notes that Rachmanninoff crafted together so well, skipping over elements of music that have such power to move and to communicate. I interrupted the awkward pauses when I was trying to continue with comments like "Um... sorry everyone, this wasn't planned" or just saying "Sorry" again and again. I knew my teacher would cringe if she had heard me. You never say sorry, or anything during a performance. You just keep going and hope that nobody noticed the mistake. But everyone noticed. It was choppy and crude and ruined.
I reluctantly let out the last few chords, after what seemed like an eternity of utter humiliation, and I returned to my seat. Despite the loving applause from the audience -- people who are my friends and don't really care if I make mistakes -- it was all I could do to hold back my tears. My eyes were brimming each time anybody talked to me, even long after the show was all over. They came to me, complimenting me, telling me I was so brave to get up there and keep going, telling me I played wonderfully. I knew they had good intentions, but I couldn't help but think that everyone just felt so sorry for me and felt like they had to say something to make me feel better. But they made me feel so much worse.
It's like when I was young and I played on the playground during recess, and I'd get hurt somehow (inevitable for a young rambunctious child). Sure I'd be in pain, but I could hold all the tears in, just as long as no one would notice me or put me on the spot. But pretty soon someone would "kindly" ask me if I was okay, and the attention and embarrassment would start the water works. I hated that feeling. So pathetic, so ashamed, such a little girl. So on my bottom 15 list.
I felt so much pain when I wasn't able to share Rachmanninoff's incredible piece with others just because of my own self consciousness or shyness. It hurt, because no one knew that I knew this piece. It was my piece. And I wanted to play it. A piece that I love so much, and I killed it. Call it damaging my pride, or damaging the ear, call it whatever you want... but I call it tragedy.
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