When I first began my regular, formal piano lessons, I was a type-A, perfectionist-prone teenager. This is probably what made me learn so quickly, but it was not an easy journey. Every mistake made me want to give up. I cringed at every wrong note and every missed beat made me angry that I did not take dance lessons as a child. It took me so long to get both of my hands to play the piano at the same time, and the biggest mistake I made was thinking that there was something wrong with that.
The thing about making mistakes in music practice is you eventually learn to accept that you are not perfect. Nobody plays perfectly the instant they start. Even the whole Mozart prodigy thing is exaggerated. The truth is even Mozart worked his little Austrian bum off. Musicians have to constantly practice, make mistakes, and practice some more. Yesterday, one of my adorable students, Ben, said the most optimistic statement about mistakes. He told me he likes mistakes because it means he gets to start the song over again, and when he finally gets it right, he "gets to feel good." I loved that! Most students get really annoyed with their inabilities, but Ben really seems to understand that it's all about the process.
Isn't this true in every area of life? How many mistakes did you make today? I made a few today, but yesterday... don't get me started. SO many! Made an insensitive remark, forgot about a new lesson time with a student, sang some bad notes... Yesterday was rough. Today, I got up and decided to start over, and it has been a good one so far.
I am still prone to perfectionism, and I do have a tendency to beat myself up over mistakes, especially in music. In every area of my life, mistakes provide an opportunity to learn. In music, a mistake teaches me that I have to focus harder on certain chords or finger positions, use stronger breath control when I sing, or simply practice more. In life, a mistake reminds me that I am not perfect and I should never get too cocky. Every day is an opportunity to learn.
In my present life, I have had to think hard about decisions I have made in the past. Some decisions I made could be seen as mistakes, but I have decided to look at them differently. The word "mistake" seems to imply regret, and I do not regret anything. Every choice has provided an opportunity to evolve and become smarter and more aware of who I am and what I want out of life.
There are many choices I have often looked back at and wondered, was that a mistake? Was it a mistake to stay in my hometown for college? To choose L.A. over NYC? To buy a house? To get married? To get divorced? No. The answer to any question like that should always be a confident "no." Every experience has value. Every amazing experience and every traumatic experience has taught me something important. Dwelling on the past get's me nowhere. It is tempting to regret choices and so called "mistakes," but what is a mistake? It is just a stumbling point, a stepping stone, a learning experience. I will not let difficult moments hold me back from focusing on my goals. I plan on staying present, focusing on my dreams, and never looking back.