I have played piano my whole life, but only recently did I begin to really enjoy it. It started out well, I think—I don’t really know for sure, because I’ve been playing piano for as long as I can remember. From what I can recall, I found playing the piano to be genuinely fun when I first began. It escalated in intensity as I grew older, and gradually I built myself up to the full roster of tasks serious piano students are required to work towards accomplishing. For a little over a decade, I played completely formally—I went to a certified teacher, got “real” instruction, took exams, and earned certificates. I played in recitals and practiced every day, like clockwork. I even participated in a few contests and festivals, where I won awards. And slowly, slowly, something changed. I began to hate it.
I hated it, but continued. My mother, sensing my increasing unhappiness, told me if I didn’t want to play, then I should quit. I wanted to, but something held me back. Maybe it was the fact that I’d been playing for so long and couldn’t remember a life without piano that I couldn’t bring myself to walk away from it; maybe it was because I thought I’d disappoint my parents, who’d invested so much time and energy into my musical education. For whatever reason, I kept on playing long after I found myself hating it, dreading every time I had to attend a lesson or practice a piece. Really, I wasn’t playing for myself anymore—I was doing it for other people, to do what I thought would make them happy. I wasn’t thinking about myself or what I wanted, and this sort of thought pattern made me associate piano with putting myself second and doing something I hated just to please someone else. I also felt as thought quitting now would somehow be a waste of over ten years of work: I’d been practicing so much for so long, working so hard and trying my best the entire time—it seemed like turning my back on it now would be a betrayal of myself, my parents, and my teacher all at once. So I kept at it.
But, as most if not all of us know, doing something for someone else when it no longer holds any value to you is a perfect setup for failure in the long run. If you’re anything like me, you can’t just power through something forever just for the sake of someone else if it’s not fun. It’s got to have some sort of appeal, especially if you’re doing it every day—and eventually, I couldn’t convincingly keep up the façade. My dislike of the piano became more and more obvious (probably because I took to constantly passive-aggressively complaining and arguing against my having to go to recitals and play for festivals) and eventually my parents made the decision that I should stop my piano-playing for me. Suddenly, it was all over. I’d gotten what I wanted…hadn’t I?
Well, no. Not entirely. For a while, I reveled in the free time I’d gained, and I loved how I could now walk past my piano without feeling guilty or miserable. But as much as I’d complained before about it, piano was a huge part of my life—I did other activities, like dance and art, and I had school to focus on—but piano had been my ride-or-die, always-there “thing.” I’d never been without it, to my recollection. So to not have to practice or have anything to take up my huge gaps of free time was startling. I found, over time, that I actually missed playing the piano. I knew I wanted to go back to it somehow, but I didn’t want to return to slogging through repertoires and études I had no fun doing. I needed something in the middle that I could dip into whenever I wanted to jam out.
When I came across pop music and classic theme song transcripts, playing the piano became a totally new experience. It was amazing! Because I already knew the songs and loved them, playing was a breeze—I actually played more when I was doing these types of pieces than when I was doing the prescribed pieces for my piano grade level. I felt the same way I did when I first began playing—invigorated and energized. I’d discovered a new side to piano, and I found that I really did love playing the piano. I was happy with it again, and (even more surprisingly) so were my parents. They were probably relieved just to hear me talk about how much I liked piano as opposed to complaining about how much it sucked, but they were also happy to know that I’d “reconciled” with it. I’d found a new way to have fun with the piano and put all my training to use, and according to them that was more than enough. It turned out I’d significantly overestimated my parents’ expectations of me—they hadn’t wanted me to keep doing something I’d hated all along. It’d actually saddened them, but they hadn’t known how I’d really felt about it. Combined, it’d all spiraled into a sort of vortex of misunderstandings and misery.
I’ve struggled a lot with my relationship with music and its role in my life, but ultimately it’s all worked out—it took some experimenting and a lot of thought, but I’ve come to terms with my former dislike of the piano and come to accept it. I’ve found a way to enjoy it that works perfectly for me, and I’ve come to understand that quitting wasn’t a “waste” of my training or my time. On the contrary, turning away from formal instruction probably impacted my development and personal growth even more positively than I could’ve predicted. Piano will always have a special place in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.