All of a sudden, my mind went blank, and the musical notes that were running through my head disappeared. I stopped playing my viola, and stood in the middle of an abandoned stage, frozen in the light. My eyes filled with tears as I looked at the judge, who was the only other person in the theater.
My voice quavered, “I can’t remember what I’m supposed to play next.”
“The next note in the song is A,” he said, encouraging me to continue.
I resumed, but without the passion and confidence I had moments before. I was only twelve years old, but I had already won a number of viola competitions, and I knew this would be my first loss. My spirit was instantly crushed. As I left the stage and saw my mom, I told her, “I can’t play the viola anymore.”
Change can be devastating. When it came to music, I wasn’t used to losing. When it came to sports, losing seemed to be a way of life, and I longed for things to change.
The sweeper of my soccer team yelled, “Would someone mind actually running?” I glared at her. My knees had been in pain all day, and I would not stand for her abuse of the team. It was mostly her fault we were two goals down by halftime. Before I got the chance to complain, Coach Jeff spoke up. Finally, I thought, give us some inspiration!
“My other team would never have a fight in the middle of a soccer game,” he scolded. “They’re united! That’s why they win.”
I glared at him. It was always about the other team he coached. They won every game; they did team bonding every weekend; they were winners. Well, I brooded, we were his team too, and we were losing all of our games. In Palo Alto, soccer seemed to be all about politics. Half of the girls on Jeff’s other team didn’t even know how to play, but their moms were friends with the director of the club, so they were on the better team. I knew I wasn’t the best player, but I was tired of being part of Jeff’s neglected team. So I quit.
I didn’t know that this decision would be followed by the biggest change of my life. “We’re moving.” These two words throbbed in my head and sent sadness circulating through my blood. My parents assured me everything would be all right, but for the first time in my life, I felt completely alone.
The atmosphere at Palo Alto High School joyously proclaimed the arrival of summer. The sun’s rays splashed across the pavement, and students lazed on the grass, wearing cool new aviators. I was miserable, however, sitting in a circle with the six girls who had been my friends for nine years. Together, we’d been through broken bones, crushed hearts, and one too many shoe emergencies. Each time I tried to tell them I was moving, a knot in my throat prevented me from speaking. Eventually, I was able to tell them of my impending departure. Tears welled up in the eyes of the girl sitting beside me. Those were the last tears of hers I ever saw. Soon I was on a plane, heading to the East Coast, leaving behind the failures and frustrations-but most importantly, the friendships-of my life in California.
When I arrived in Westport, Connecticut, it felt like I had nothing. No friends, no viola teacher, and no soccer coach. Losing that viola competition had been devastating. Now, I realized, I would have a chance to compete again-in a new venue-and play soccer away from the unfairness in Palo Alto. Things turned out great. I competed at the end of summer to be part of a local principal orchestra, and I was successful. Then I tried out for the school’s soccer team, and I made it. At first, moving to a new home seemed like the end of my life, but it forced me to start over, and the change was actually all for the best.
If I have on philosophy it is to never let frustrations or disappointments stand in my way. I believe that if I fall, I just have to get up and try again. I believe that change can be experienced as an opportunity to start fresh.