Who am I?

I am currently taking a class about the use of media and technology in education. I was asked to take the photo above and edit it in a way that represents who I am. The photo above represents me in several ways. I am a pianist and conductor so I have included both the keyboard and my baton. The piano in the picture is also significant because it is my parents’ piano that I learned to read music on when I was five years old. The piano itself triggers a lot of memories for me because I played on it during my whole childhood up till college. I overlaid a photo of Pease Auditorium here on EMU’s campus where I gave my senior piano recital last April. You can see the isle way leading up to the stage where the grand piano sits.

The juxtaposition of these two photos is really significant. The isle way aligns with the keys of my childhood piano and represents the journey of music learning I have worked towards that ends in this final performance at Pease. The stage is significant to me because I was told to quit piano at different parts of my educational career but I stuck with it anyways: I transferred colleges twice because I had a bad relationship with my piano teacher till I finally found the great program here at EMU. I also have had to push through a lot of difficult circumstances from not having the same basis of music education that many wealthy families can provide to their students that pursue piano; I had a lot of health issues that delayed my high school and college progress; as well as being a survivor of domestic violence in college. Through all these difficulties piano and music in general have been my constant and the activity that I use for solace. This photo represents my beginning and my ending goal having been reached through perseverance and hard work. I also like that the patterns of the organ pipes and concert hall wall behind the stage lay over my face. I fell a year ago and ripped my lip up to my nose so I now have a large scar that was not a part of me during my childhood and first few years of adulthood. The patterns fading in my face represent how I have come to terms with my scar and the emotional scars of all that has happened to me and how they have become a part of me that I can celebrate.

This assignment helped me remember the depth of my piano students’ lives that I just can’t see in the 30 minute lessons we interact once a week. But even with such little time together I could make a lasting impact on their lives like the teachers in my life (for better or for worse). I have had piano teachers that ruined my self-image and destroyed my self-confidence for years to come. I have also had piano teachers that have built me up, discovered who I am through music, and pushed me to be a better version of myself. I hope to be the latter kind: I want to push my students to discover more about themselves through creative expression and hard work. I hope that I can be a good example to my students and colleagues of a teacher that truly cares about my students’ development inside and out. Who would have known that piano and piano teaching could change someones life like it has mine?

I am falling.

My professors have asked me to form a world view and synthesize who I am, how I tackle projects, and how I persevere through difficulties. I do it for them, but find it hard to really apply it to my everyday, pretty boring, life. I mean sometimes the most exciting thing that happens to me in a day is that someone I don’t know well tries to talk to me and I find a new way to avoid a long conversation with them. I have had all hell let loose in my life before, but thankfully in the recent months my biggest decisions in day are if I should drink another cup of coffee although I’ve had three today already.

I’m making my life sound really boring, but doesn’t everyone think that their lives are bland? I’m way less prepared for life than I sound on my resume. I’m not anti-social media, but just saying, my Facebook profile makes me sound sooooo much cooler than I really am. Meeting me in person I am not the professional, pretty girl that is in my pictures. You wouldn’t know on sight what my degree is in or what my job is or how intelligent I am. Heck, I have like over 200 friends on Facebook. How many do I have in real life? I’m “friendly” with lots of people, but I am not really friends with them. So honestly? Like 3. I mean like 3 good ones that I talk to more than once a month and actually hang out for a few hours a week. One of those friends is my eleven-year-old brother. Another is my boyfriend’s cat.

But, despite what I think is a boring life, I do have goals. I have thousands of tiny goals and a few huge life goals. I have a goal to read a book series by the end of the year, a goal to clean my room by the end of the day, a goal to make a new friend this month, a goal to finish an anime series…etc., etc…

So when my professors ask me to articulate my world view or write my philosophy I do have a lot of ideas even though they do not feel as real and concrete as my coffee-drinking, book-reading, cat-playing real life.

Honestly at first when I imagined a goal it was sittin’ at the top of a giant mountain. Out of reach. Out of sight. It’s up there on the peak, teetering maybe, covered by snow and ice. Goals just have always seemed¬†that unattainable. I’m on the ground. The flat ground below sea level in the mountain’s shadow. I can’t even see if there is a path. Maybe my feet are in quick sand too so I can’t even begin the journey. Maybe there’s a vicious human-eating vine reaching around me and ninja hiding behind each tree…okay I’ll stop. Oh yea, one more thing about me is I have a huge imagination.

Back to the image of the unattainable goal…man, I sound like a huge downer, don’t I? Truth is that I have spent most of my life depressed. Every time I would dream up a new life goal, I’d spend hours being anxious about how to actually make the dream a reality. So many hours I would not even begin working on making it happen. I started censoring my own thoughts to not dream when I was less than ten years old. I started convincing myself that there are goals like that for the big people, the talented people, the rich people, the smart people, the gifted people…not me, duh.

Unfortunately I’m really really convincing.

But in the midst of years of therapy (not joking) and many crazy life experiences, I had this realization during one of my more optimistic bursts: that I don’t have to think of myself at the bottom of the mountain.

In fact, I think I started life at the top of a mountain.

I was born at the top and flung over the slope, left to tumble until I land at the bottom and die. If I don’t dodge trees and rocks I’ll get hurt, and scarred and maybe even die early. No matter what I do, I can’t fight the momentum from that first throw. I can’t stop myself and stay on a certain part of the cliff if I want.

So when I set goals they aren’t at the top of the mountain. I’m not climbing but I’m rolling and falling. The goals are laid out in the valley below the mountain and I have to somehow steer my path towards them. I can fall short, miss, and (hopefully) overshoot. Time is the momentum of the throw and gravity keeps me moving towards the bottom. I can’t be lazy or I’ll miss an opportunity. But I can’t speed up the process either.

Life is constantly in motion. Even though my slow-moving, uneventful life seems stagnant I’m still being propelled to my death. But not just my death, I’m being propelled towards achieving my goals.

About only a few feet down that mountain when I was six years old I had a thought that maybe I could someday¬†– if I work hard enough and am good enough – be a professional pianist. I immediately censored myself, of course, but the thought kept coming back year after year as I rolled and rolled down the slope. I was told again and again that I couldn’t make it. But life isn’t climbing, it’s dodging. So everyday I returned to that little goal that is now a big goal and I did and do something to put me in the right direction and avoid something that could throw me off track. I somehow kept with piano and keep returning to piano. And guess what….I’m now a professional pianist. Despite all the flack and negativity that came from within myself and was echoed back to me by terribly nonsupporting people along the way.

So as negative as my world view sounds, it is really freeing.

I’m falling and all I gotta do is dodge.