It would be easy to look back at my first year of college and think "I didn't grow as much as I should have," "I haven't really changed," or of course, "That went by so fast." However, time is silly. Our brains are discarding the less salient memories every few moments, and it tricks us into thinking our lives have been less than what they've really been, that my year has only been a short string of schoolwork, piano practice, and social interactions. Yet it's been so much more than that.
When I take a step back and really pinpoint who I was just a year ago, I've gained so much: I've learned so many new things about myself, discovered new interests (like the organ!), and become a more mature person. My growth as a musician this year strongly mirrors my growth as a human being.
When I was younger, I didn't always want to play the piano; I didn't always understand how playing piano music could be a form of self-expression or sometimes anything more than a chore. Even up until last year, I honestly felt like a lot of things I was doing at the piano were either because I thought they "sounded good" or because my teacher was telling me to do them, and rarely because I knew why or how. Altogether, I wasn't always thinking critically about the kind of sound I was creating. However, this year, my piano teacher has truly taught me how to take autonomy and independence as a musician.
I have been taught to question the way that I instinctively play, to truly look at every marking and phrase in the music and figure out what implication and meaning it holds. I have found that my individual voice as a pianist starts with having a strong attention to the score, and it is this attention that has engaged me even more as a pianist and made me more focused on what I truly want.
Although I loved the grand and overwhelming multitude of things I participated in during high school, this year I have truly learned the value of focusing in on those one or two things that I truly love. I have many things that I loved in high school, but strangely enough, when I'm spending all my energy, effort, and time on the piano, and now organ as well, I love it more than I ever did before (effort justification effect - thank you, social psychology!).
This autonomy and independence that I've developed as a musician is also one of the biggest struggles I've found in being a college student. People are very focused on their own individual growth in college, and although many people make amazing friendships, sometimes the amount of independence and focus I had to put on my own work and my own self had the ability to feel lonely and alienating. As a driven person who's very serious about music, I truly did have to make sure I had enough social time beyond the practice rooms in my daily schedule. For some people, it works in an opposite manner. Either way, it's important to find a balance.
This year wasn't easy. It had its ups and downs. It had its successes and failures, loneliness, depression, confusion, questioning.
Was it perfect? No. Did I do everything I expected to? No. But was every struggle worth it? Yes.
And I'm reminded of that when I find pictures like this one on my computer.
The true gift of being able to study music at a professional level can often come with a lot of overwhelming pressures that take a great deal of emotional strength to combat. And I am so grateful for those people who I love so much, who have been at my side, who have made me happy to be a musician and happy to be who I am.
Thank you to the many incredible people who have had such a positive impact on my life this year. I don't know where I would be without you.