I’m getting into my last leg of this unique year in Oklahoma and it’s hard not to feel the pressure of moving forward. I spend much of my life thinking ahead (although I have also done my fair share of procrastination, let’s be real), but I think a major part of me equates racing forward to success. The problem is, sometimes I don’t have an actual idea of what “forward” means.
Growing up as a violinist, forward used to mean moving onto the next piece, especially in the early books. Success meant moving on, regardless of how well you were playing your current piece. Comparing yourself to other kids was so easy, especially because the Suzuki pieces and books were numbered. If a kid was “ahead of you” in the books, it automatically equated to them being a better player. I was lucky to grow up with a teacher who did not give into that rule and made sure that I was doing each piece well before I could move on even if it meant staying on a piece for a while, but it was sometimes hard as a kid to understand that logic.
It is less like that in my adult life as a violinist. I have started to appreciate the process of learning more as I get older, but there’s still a very large part of me that feels like I need to be “moving forward” constantly. I’m slowly learning that progress can mean many different things and it doesn’t always have to mean constant change, it can also mean slowing down and becoming comfortable working on things I may think I should already have mastered.
Through my seemingly never-ending struggle figuring out how many body relates to my violin I am slowly (and I mean slowlyyyy) learning a couple of important lessons. One is that the body is changing constantly and when I wake up in the morning it can be like starting all over. This can seem so discouraging but I’m accepting it as good information to know because it just means that I have to practice finding my alignment every day. Slowly (again with that word!) it will become easier to find and someday my body will know how to get there by itself. I am also learning that practicing little bits at a time in the right way can get you so much further than practicing a lot the wrong way, which seems obvious, but it’s actually so hard to actually put into practice!! Especially in our culture where constant practice is so valued. Practicing the wrong way is like working out the wrong way, you can seriously hurt yourself, not to mention it’s a waste of your time! (I need to cool it with exclamation points in my life in general but also in this post).
The process of understanding how my body works with the violin has been a sloth-like one (see I used a different word). I know that the work I’ve been doing this year will extend beyond the time I’ve spent in Oklahoma but I’m gaining the tools to carry with me as I move on. Much of my time has been spent focusing on something that may not amount to anything big in the end, but I am trying to take little kernels from all of my work and slowly piece them together into what I want my life to be. This lifelong learning is part of the fun of it, but it can also be infuriating at times. Sometimes I feel like I want to be done learning and just be an expert in something already! But then I think about the people I admire most in my life and those are the people who find joy in constantly improving and are able to bring that joy out in others. It’s not those who have completely 100% mastered being a human, because those people don’t really exist.
Here’s a photo from my recent trip to Arkansas where much of my life pondering took place:
Along with many musicians, I have dealt with muscle tension as a result of my violin playing for a long time. I hope that this blog will be useful to those dealing with similar issues as I talk through my ongoing journey to play my instrument pain free.