This I Believe

Clarissa - Clarksville, Maryland
Entered on January 30, 2008

This I Believe

I believe in a lifetime of learning.

I am an adult student of the piano.

Not an adult who has studied the piano all my life, rather an adult who has started learning piano after a lifetime of work, family and other priorities that distracted me from learning to play a musical instrument.

I awkwardly take my place among my fellow young piano students, some whose feet barely touch the ground from the piano bench, and some who struggle with early adolescent social awkwardness, all whose parents proudly bring them to piano lessons and encourage their efforts.

I bring myself.

I struggle with the same scales and arpeggios, groan when we learn music theory, force myself to practice sight-reading, and play the compositions endlessly to get my tangled fingers wrapped into something that resembles (but not completely) music.

We play for each other, offer feedback, constructive and otherwise. As when I proudly finished a lively blues piece and one of my fellow students dryly commented that the piece wasn’t meant to sound “so sad”.

We study a structured music curriculum and it is a part of my commitment to not only learn, but test my learning by taking the structured exams that are a part of the curriculum.

I recently took such a piano examination with an examiner.

I arrived at the examination site and was greeted by the proctor.

“Hello, Mrs. Marques, and where is little Clarissa?” inquired the courteous proctor.

I patiently explained that I was Clarissa.

He politely responded that I had misunderstood him and that he wanted to know about my daughter, the examinee, as he consulted his clipboard of names.

I equally politely explained that I was the examinee.

He replied that he didn’t see many adults and seemed to wait for me to produce my missing daughter.

I tried to get control of my performance anxiety as I sat with the other examinees, all clutching our music in our hands, desperately hoping that our fingers would not fail us.

After I completed the examination, I left the testing room and met a fellow student waiting for her examination with her family.

Her parents seemed surprised that an adult was taking the exam.

Her father asked bluntly why an adult would subject herself to the examination process.

I wondered myself as my anxiety had left me feeling drained and a bit disoriented.

I simply smiled and my fellow piano student returned the smile knowingly.

As I drove away, I reflected that I needed to keep learning, testing myself to keep myself honest in my efforts, stripping myself of the adult complacency that makes me feel that I’ve learned all that I can learn, and to experience the humility that comes from knowing what I don’t know.

I failed the exam.

I must confess that I had never failed an exam … this is a new experience.

I am learning to learn and it makes me feel alive.