So, all my talk about thinking about others was crap. My bad.
I have a piano student (I’ll call her Faith) that I’ve been concerned about for a while now. She and her best friend were born 2 days apart and have known each other their whole lives. I’ve been privileged to teach them both but saw quickly that the besty was – and still is – progressing much faster. I’ve worried that Faith would see and hear how much more advanced the besty is and become discouraged or jealous. Moreover, parents love to compare notes (see what I just did there?) and all I want is for everyone to live and grow harmoniously (I just did it again!).
I make a concerted (okay, I’ll stop – probably) effort to not make mention of any other student during my private lessons for this reason. Everyone is on his or her own path, and I want to ensure that my babies are focused on their own growth and no one else’s. I want them to hear each other play so they hone keen listening skills and can appreciate and uplift each other, but I’ve had a teacher or two directly compare me to another student and I found it devastating. If I’m doing my best – what else can I do?
There are many virtues I’ve taken from music and applied to endurance sports. Persistence. Courage. Humility. However, a stark difference occurred to me as I was in the middle of the race, talking to myself as I normally do. I started to say something to myself that I often say to myself as I am practicing the piano.
“Joan. You don’t have to go so fast. It’s not like this is a…shit.”
There actually is a first place. Aaaaaaand you get it by being the fastest. How – different.
I wish I could say that it didn’t bother me that I am the slowest person in either of my peer groups. No matter that I’ve been racing for about 5 minutes. It still sucks to feel like the loser. It frightens me to think that one day this won’t be the case and I could be one of those people who thinks, “Thank God I’m not the slow one anymore!” Gross. I would rather come in last forever than relish in the fact that I am not the slowest. Aim higher, people.
How does one deal with this? Recognizing and appreciating that there are people who are better while simultaneously recognizing and appreciating your own strength?
I’ve got to shut them out.
Not completely, of course. I still want to cheer them on and celebrate their victories. But I am on my ass about this all the time. “Self, did you do your best?” “Yes.” “Then STFU and celebrate victory.” See, I didn’t even say YOUR victory. Victory. Full stop.
It is important to me that I progress. What a relief for an overachiever like me that I have NO FREAKING CLUE at what rate I am “supposed” to progress. Thank God I’ve got a wise triathlon coach who doesn’t compare me to her other clients and allows me to grow at my own pace. All I can see is the next stroke/revolution/step in front of me. And I make it and take it. Like a freaking champ.
My baby Faith is also a freaking champ. I’ve had to help her through a couple of moments where she wasn’t doing her best because she wasn’t sure it was good enough. I know she hears the besty and part of her wonders why she is not where she is even though they started at the same time. No matter. She’ll never be as good as she can be if she’s not putting in the time. Now, Faith is progressing more quickly – not because of being motivated by the besty, but because she sees how well she can do when she applies herself fully.
Me too, Faith. Me too.