A 20-year-old reaction returns

Twenty years ago, I graduated from The College of New Jersey with the education required to become a music teacher.

I’ve become really good at teaching. But at music? Mediocre at best.

Historically, I’ve been a fast learner without much grit. It took a lot of life before anything crossed my path that I was motivated to do better than I needed. Things were typically done well, but nothing was exceptional or in more depth than necessary.

As a result, I always played my instruments enough to be able to play what I needed for school, and sometimes songs for fun, but never songs harder than what was offered. (My parents’ refusal to pay for music lessons—because I had a music teacher at school and why would they pay for another one?—compounded this when I finally had a bit of interest.)

When I got to college, I wasn’t very good. And I didn’t think I could catch up. (Changing to trombone changed that mindset substantially, but that’s another story.)

I was extremely self-conscious about my skill level. I hated practicing. (The practice rooms were not sound-proof and I didn’t like that people could hear me). Ensemble practices were stressful.

Most of the hours and hours every day that I spent in the music building were at least twinged—if not completely fraught—with anxiety.

Decades have passed. I’ve had some musical milestones that I was proud of. I’ve spent a lot of time practicing. And, most recently, I’ve stopped playing in ensembles. Nowadays, most of the time, music is fun again.

Over the summer, we were on campus to meet a friend for lunch.

We walked into the music building, and the old familiar anxiety crept in.

It was so odd and so familiar and I thought it funny that after all this time, when I walked in with no expectations (and definitely not to play), it was still there.

Makes me wonder what else I have this reaction to…and how, after I find it, I can get rid of it.

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