Hopefully, you have somebody in your life that is just a little bit “off.” Maybe it’s the writer, or the artist, the actor, the poet, the musician, hell, maybe they’re just crazy. Whatever it is, everybody has a right a little lunacy. I get mine from my dad. He was always Off the Grid, and taught me to be that way whether he meant to or not. I’m a musician, and if there’s anything I’ve learned about musicians, it’s that we’re all crazy (except maybe my piano teacher, he keeps it together pretty well). So many of the people that I’ve met that are actually doing with their music are such an inspiration to me. I’ve met 6’10” scalawags that lead mosh pits in the middle of the night, pianists that played concertos to accompany works of Shakespeare, and I’ve met commercial composers who travel the world playing stomp shows with a fiddle rock and roll group.
While I haven’t made my dent on the industry yet, I consider myself one of the many jewels that are out there. Being Off the Grid is not something I try to do (anymore), it’s just what I am.
Best Examples of My Weirdness:
I suffer from Selective Perfectionism, I concentrate on improvement and push myself so hard that everyone in the room can hear Eye of the Tiger playing in my head. Other things, some may argue more important things, but whatever, I just forget about. I like to push myself about things that I care about. I care about how I sound on the piano, I don’t care if I wear yoga pants and no makeup to school.
I love throwing fruit at brick walls. Since my freshman year in high school when my friend showed me that apples explode when I chuck them hard enough, this has been my favorite method of stress relief. You should try it. Throwing a bucket of tomatoes at a wall is on my bucket list.
Oh, and I’ve ridden a unicorn. That may not be weird, but it’s pretty darn awesome.
Lessons That Music Has Taught Me:
1. Trust Yourself
One of my main problems with piano is that I know the pieces too well. If I could turn off my brain and let my hands do what they know how to do, then I’m sure that I would play a lot better each time. But, when I feel pressured to do well, I start second-guessing myself. “What comes next? Is that where this goes? How is that supposed to sound? Where am I on the sheet music?” That distracts me, and then I start to think that I’m not doing it right, so I change the way I’m doing it. My hands hesitate before they hit the keys, and I hit a bunch of wrong ones. If I could have been able to keep my inner mouth shut then I would’ve done fine. My hands know what they’re doing.
And that’s life. It’s not just life with epilepsy, but it’s life in general. Don’t second-guess yourself. Trust that you know what you’re doing. You need to know that your feet know where they’re stepping, and that they’ll only go where you want them to. It’s called muscle memory. That’s why you can totally blank out, but end up at the other end of the hallway in front of your science class. Or finish that daydream about chocolate cheesecake and Friends reruns but still finish writing your sentence. Trust that you know what you’re doing.
2. Crazy Is Not A Bad Thing
I briefly mentioned being different in my last blog, and I want to elaborate on it here. In first grade, my mom had to teach me the word “fickle.” She had to teach me that the Queen Bee of the class was a fickle friend because of the way she treated me. Queen Bee would literally tell me that I was “allowed” to be her friend that day, and the next day she would pay me no heed. I would come home crying wondering what was wrong with me, and why I was such a bad friend. My mother had to teach me that fickle friends were two-sided people who treated everybody like that, not just me. I was six years old, so I didn’t have some earth shattering epiphany that told me that I would never be like this Queen Bee person. I didn’t look up from my mother’s arms with a tear stained face, and a camera didn’t zoom in at the perfect angle as I realized that I could be the different one. But I think that I did start making changes. I mean, I was never the frilly, preppy, pretty in pink girl to begin with. However, from the second grade forward I can see where I went out of my way to act “weird.”
I would act different for the sake of being different; I would do some weird dance on the playground, and then walk up to someone who was watching and ask them if they thought I was freaky. Whenever we were asked to go around the room, introduce ourselves, and describe ourselves, I always chose different, weird, or even crazy as my one word. Of course, over the years that led to some bullying, which I came through; and over the years I realized how stupid that really did sound when I said stuff like that. Many of my friends in elementary and middle school were fickle, and I’m glad I caught on sooner than later. I have a great group of friends now in high school, and I wouldn’t trade my best friend for the world.
I’m glad I established my reputation as “the weirdo” early on in life. I shudder to think how I might have turned out if little ignorant baby-me hadn’t been like that. I might actually have been sucked into the cult of Hollister and Abercrombie, the Wai-Tu-Much-Makup denomination, the sisterhood of Rigid Ribs, Peeking Panties, and Fickle Friends. I hope that anyone who fulfills this description is happy just the way they are, but just the same, I am glad that I am not one of them.
3. Sometimes Repetition is Comfort, Sometimes it’s Not
Practice makes perfect. It’s true. When I was younger, the quota was 30 minutes of practice a day. I would set the timer on the oven, and sit down to play. About 5 or 6 years ago, my dad suggested moving up to 45 minutes or even an hour a day. It didn’t hurt my playing, I just thought I had better things to do for an hour every day. When learning a new piece though, my method is to take a tiny section and play it over and over and over and over and over….and over again for practically the whole hour. It’s an interesting process, because I’ll begin to play a new section: I’ll be kinda bad, because it’s new. I’ll gradually get better and better, then I’ll peak, and I’ll do really well. But then I’ll slowly start to do worse again. This happens every time I play something repeatedly on the piano. I have to switch it up. I can’t just sit there plunking the same thing for 60 minutes, my fingers need change.
Change. If you sit at the piano of your life, hitting the same keys, over and over again, things will seem okay. You’ll start to get to know the pattern of your life. Things will get better, and you’ll be just fine with that, but then your fingers will slip, and that will totally mess with the memory pattern you’ve just been developing. You’ll have to start over. That one wrong note will seem tiny without a little change to help you along.
4. I Am The Kid In The Shopping Cart
Two things I love about music are that one, so much can be done with it, and two, that it can be so personal. Take a good old-fashioned church song like Amazing Grace. I can play it slow with nice big chords on the bottom for people to sing along to. I can play some quirky jazz chords to play it at a dinner party. I can play a bunch of empty chords if a contemporary group wanted to perform it. I could even play a nice honky-tonk hoe-down arrangement.
Jazz theory is interesting, but it’s truly a skill. Not everyone can do it, one of those people being me. I’m learning jazz, but it’s very complex and I sometimes I just don’t think I’ve got it. That’s why I like hymns: they’ve got all the chords written out right there and you have more leeway to mess around with them. I can make them into anything, a ballad, an actual hymn, an arrangement, but my favorite is the bouncing ragtime ritual. It’s fun, and if you can make something fun, why don’t you?
That’s why I am the kid in the shopping cart. I don’t mean the little baby sitting in the seat up front with its chubby little legs swinging away. I mean the grown kid that’s standing at the end of the basket making their parent push them even though they’re perfectly capable of walking. Kids jump on the shopping cart in order to entertain themselves and distract themselves from the fact that this is just another boring trip to the grocery store. I jump on my metaphorical shopping cart whenever things get too boring or too intense. My shopping cart has a bright pair of faces at the other end pushing me on, and it’s full of fun, colorful coping mechanisms.
I’ve had a lot of change in my life in the past three years, some good, some great, some not so good. But, if nothing bad had ever happened to me for the past three years, then all of this would’ve hit us at once, and we would’ve been a lot worse off. Instead, a few bad things would happen, then a few good things, then maybe a bad thing, then a good thing, etc. That’s a lot like playing the piano. I’ll play a song perfect and sigh with satisfaction, then I’ll go to do it again, and kerplunk! bad note straight at the beginning. But I have to take the good with the bad. If I don’t take the good with the bad, then I won’t get any good to go with it.