For the past two years, I must’ve said some variation on “I can’t do this” at least once a week. Usually at least half believing it. Or… I think it’s that protective instinct again, to declare that I can’t do this right up front so that if it turns out I’m right, I didn’t fail. Or didn’t embarrass myself. Or something equally irrational that wouldn’t actually make failure any better except that it would make it more directly my choice. Which isn’t better.
I set myself up for two kind of big challenges over the five weeks of the summer semester, in both my voice and piano lessons. I can’t count the number of practice sessions that have ended in tears and declarations of my inability to do this in such a small amount of time. I decided to attack both of my weakest areas at once – who does that? Crazy people! Clearly I was over-ambitious and overconfident. Clearly my teachers had too much faith in me, but I’ve been telling them all along I’m not as good as they think! It’s going to be their fault for having expectations that don’t align with reality! I warned them!
Except… every day, I’ve seen progress. Most days frustratingly tiny amounts of progress. Progress that made it clear that I was not going to be able to skimp on practicing, and was in fact going to have to put in more hours than I would if I had a whole semester to work on these pieces. People keep telling me I’m a hard worker, which kind of makes me giggle inwardly – if they knew how naturally lazy I am inclined to be, they would be appalled. But I’m starting to think I’ve evolved into a hard worker out of wanting this music thing so badly; it doesn’t matter that what I want to do is lie on my sofa and catch up on hours of Netflixed tv series. It doesn’t matter that if given a chance I will procrastinate all day, doing random things that scare me less than practicing. Or do my hours of practice first thing so that I can do absolutely nothing for the entire rest of the day. What matters is that I got those hours in, every day, despite thinking I couldn’t, that I wasn’t making enough progress, that it was beyond me.
I have eleven days until juries, and I’m just starting to get to the point where I think, if I really, really kick my own ass into putting in enough extra practice from now until then, I can deliver solid performances. It’s crossed over from the realm of this is never going to happen into the realm of the possible. I still sigh in epic relief any time I see a miniscule amount of progress – because I’m always afraid at some point I’m just not going to get any better at this – but I can see that if I keep going I’ll get there. That I actually can do this.
Which means, if I were to fail, I would still be choosing it. I would stop practicing out of fear; I would give up now. I would decide I didn’t want it that badly after all – which is a lie, but maybe a safe one. I would look at this jury in the overall scheme of things and decide that it’s still too small a piece of the puzzle – that even if I do this perfectly, I might not be good enough to even transfer in the Spring. That there’s no way I’m ever going to translate any of this into a career even with the amount of hard work I’m putting in. And remember, I’m actually totally lazy. This will never last. The real world will remind me that I’m not good enough any day now. And so on, and so on.
I’m not going to do any of that. I’m still terrified, every single day, every single time I reach for something new. I still hate the process of being bad at something until I get good at it. I hate it so much. But I’ve come to love those tiny realizations of progress so much that they’re enough to keep me going. And to trust that people’s impressions of me are right, and that my mental excuses have stopped actually affecting what I deliver in terms of actual work a long time ago, and it’s time to just shut them up for good.