As the Olympians have been preparing to compete in Rio, I’ve been making my way to piano eisteddfods in pretentious dresses that I’ve found no occassion for otherwise. It doesn’t sound like much of an event, and honestly it isn’t when compared to something like the Olympics, but when I thought about my long hiatus from competitive stages, the stress made it seem larger than life.
During this period of preparation, I actually noticed that sport and music were really similar; the endless hours of training and practise, the bid to push yourself to move just those milliseconds faster, the determination to be your absolute best. Both careers mandate excellence in high-pressure environments and both sportsmen and musicians alike aim to get one step closer to perfection with each new day. There’s so much work to be done behind the scenes, so much pressure to be at your peak form that with music, I find it is just as much about refined technique as it is tremendous passion and just as much about frustration and failure as it is about enrichment of the soul.
It’s been 5 long years… I have really taken a great deal of time off from the competitive side of piano-playing and I feel the years would likely have rolled on into eternity had I not snapped out of my self-encasing doubt.
Piano competitions used to be a religious routine since I was 7, but as a kid, it was different; you just did it. Your parents enrolled you in something and it was just another activity to do to pass the time in your day. As adults though, oftentimes stress, illogical emotions and the ease with which you can simply choose to give up finds itself in the mix and it really stops you from being in an ideal state of mind. As each year whizzed by during this time off, I lost more and more chunks of my sense of foundation and my need to perform at a high-standard.
My purpose in playing was chipping away and I dipped my toes in other things, trying to find the passion I felt I had lost. However, with the numerous new beginnings I realised one important thing; the problem was never really with piano itself. The problem was actually always with me.
The issue wasn’t with what I was doing, it was with how I was doing it. It was simply a lack of zest with my approach to my activities which caused this internal conflict to build up, making me think that I was better suited to other things. So many people seem to fall into this trap; they chase passions blindly, thinking that they can find happiness simply by pursuing a different path. However, they usually find that they’re just as miserable as before even in new settings. Attitude is the absolute key. So instead of trying to search for passion, try taking passion into the work that you are doing. This shift in perception makes you realise that happiness can be found almost anywhere. For me, in these recent weeks, I’ve become more and more aware of my direction, learning a lot about myself, others and life in the process.
In terms of what I’ve rediscovered, I think the attribute I’m most thankful to re-embody is confidence and belief in myself. I actually have some friends to thank for making me see myself in another light, making me see the limits I had unconsciously imposed.
Fear stops you from doing a great deal. It makes you become comfortable with not trying, enclosing you behind pretty fences, leaving you to doubt your potential and capabilities. Don’t do that, don’t allow yourself to stagnate. Life, you’ll find, exists between your greatest fear and your deepest desire. Just make sure you keep dancing in between.