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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Expectations

I should be writing a paper right now...but I can't focus.  I have to talk something before I go crazy.

Today was my violin lesson.  I was nervous for it because I hadn't gotten very much practicing done the week before.  I had just come from practicing 4 hours a day to practicing an hour a day, on average.  Some days I got five minutes done!  Just five!  So, it goes without saying that my playing in my lesson certainly was not up to par.  Prof. Thompson didn't really ask questions about why I wasn't playing as well as I had been before.

"I've never had to say this to you..." he paused, "but you don't seem to have a good picture of the rhythm and bowing in your head."  I shook my head and bit my lip, wanting to go through the floor.  "How much have you worked on this?"

"Well...today and yesterday, and a little over break, but I've been focusing more so on the Bruch [my concerto] and other repertoire than [the Sarabanda]."

After a little more discussion about how to get it to work right, and lots of me not knowing the answers, Prof. Thompson finally asks me, "Do you feel like I'm backing you into a corner and you can't do anything right?"

"Yes!"  I replied quickly.

He nodded in understanding.  "I'm not meaning to make it seem like I'm setting you up for a wrong answer, because there are none."

I laughed and said jokingly, "Naw, you're just setting me up for failure.  But I can do that on my own."  He just shook his head and moved on.

When we got to the end of my lesson, I shoved my practice journal toward him.  "It's...not very good this week," I said sadly, feeling awful inside.

He took it and opened it.  "Oh yes, Emily [his wife] said you were freaking out about not getting enough practicing done."  I ducked my head and tried to direct my attention to zipping my case.  "Remember I had the same schedule as you this week.  And you're such a good student..." I whipped my head around and stared at him.  "...that I can let a week like this last one slip by."

I didn't really know what to say.  "Thanks..." I whispered, my gut twisting inside of me.

"You really are a great student," Prof. Thompson said again.  I gave him a look of "are you serious" mixed with a bit of disbelief.  "Everyone thinks so!"

"Everyone?" I asked skeptically, trying to laugh it off.

"Dr. Maher [my theory professor] says you are in his class," Prof. Thompson explained.  Apparently one professor means everyone.

"I try to be.  I like his class," I replied.  I started to leave his office.

"See!"  Prof. Thompson explained.  "You understand!  You understand what it takes for you to be a good student and you know what people ask of you and you want to meet that.  That's what makes you a great student."

I just gaped at him for a second and then swallowed.  "Okay.  Thank you."  I really didn't know how to react.  At first, his words really warmed my heart and encouraged me.

But then I started to actually think about what those words meant.

He knows that I want to be a great student and try as hard as I can (most of the time) to succeed.  He wants me to be like that.  He wants me to do my best.  Because he knows what I have done to get to the level I'm at, he knows I can keep doing it.  He expects great things from me.

Expects...

Expectations.  It goes back to that word...the word that scares me to death 90% of the time.  Prof. Thompson has such high expectations of me, he basically admitted that today in my lesson...and a few other times previously.  Add that with my high expectations and you have Mount Everest!  The actual scary part though, is that fear that I won't meet those expectations...that I won't come through.  That I'll have another week like this last one where I won't have a good excuse like the musical to back me up.  Even though he says (or at least insinuates) that he believes in me as a person and a musician, I sometimes wonder...how much is to calm my nerves and put me at ease...I know how awful that sounds...and yes, I have issues with taking compliments without categorizing them myself.  I'm working on it...

I know he's not setting me up for failure, just a little closer to the deep end of the pool where I may drown under the sea of expectations washing over me.  That's what scares me.  Scares me to tears.

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