Trying too hard & not having any fun?

I’ve recently started playing the piano again after a 23 year hiatus. I took lessons for years as a child.

Back then, I loved it!  

For the entire first year I would master a new song every week, thirsty to learn and play more.  Unfortunately, this also meant that I quickly outgrew my first instructor and was handed off to a much more traditional and much less fun teacher.  I was enrolled in The Royal Conservatory® private music study.  And so began the decline of my love for piano… or more specifically, piano lessons.

When the focus of these lessons stopped being about having fun, and instead was about my execution of scales, memorizing theory and mastering technique…

Then, I hated it. 

I was often and loudly criticized by my teacher (an iron-willed women who’d raised 9 children of her own) for not advancing quickly enough through lessons and making too many mistakes.  It did not matter to her if I was having any fun.

As I look back now, the effect that experience had on me was akin to suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD)… or as I’ve been known to joke, Piano-traumatic stress disorder.

Now things come full circle.

My own daughter (read more about her here) has taken up piano lessons.  This past fall we bought her a piano off Kijiji to get her started.  Since then, I’ve been tinkering around, attempting to play some of my old recital songs and to my surprise, I’ve rediscovered a joy I’d forgotten…

Turns out, I DO love playing the piano.

And it seems I’m not alone!  This experience of revisiting and rediscovering childhood pursuits is one that I’m hearing about from a lot of women.  Whether we’re dusting off our old ballet slippers, figure skates, or – in my case – our piano books, we’re having a lot more fun than we remember.

It makes me wonder: how often do we ruin our joy by trying too hard?

What element of fun, what seed of talent is sacrificed for the sake of achievement?

This question applies to our professional pursuits as well as our personal ones.  At home, fun is often replaced by expectations in our hobbies, exercise routine, and even in raising our children.  The things we love become a chore.  We get frustrated.  Struggle.  Endure or burn out.  Similarly, in our career we often start out guided by little more than a whim… a vague sense that something interests us or is fun because of some natural talent.  But then life gets complicated. We get caught up in a race toward achievement, advancement, “success” and before we know it – we’ve lost sight of the simple joy that attracted us in the first place.

I had long ago forgotten why I loved playing the piano; using my hands to create something both concrete and fleeting; being lost in the moment, consumed by the intense focus that is required (at least for me) to play music.  Clearly, I’ll never be a concert pianist but that’s precisely the point…

Whether it’s a personal or professional pursuit, we must keep joy at the center of our focus.

Anything else is unsustainable.

Reflection:

  • Is there an old interest or hobby that you’ve abandoned?
  • Do you remember why it appealed to you – before expectations or judgment suffocated it?
  • What about your work?  What element of fun has been lost over time?
  • What changes you can make (both big and small) to rediscover the joy that is yours?

 

Heather

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