The moment I sat on the piano chair, I felt my hands froze. They just wouldn’t move. I looked at the piano piece in front of me –four times I practiced it to perfection. I know it by heart, I know it by mind, my hands are able to play it well. And yet there I was, staring blankly at the keys, at a loss as to where to begin. I could feel my hands trembling, my heart beating faster once more. I took a deep breath, muttered a silent “Lord, help me not forget”, and then my hands took on from there. I’ll tell you that I was able to finish the piece –but not without a couple of mistakes in the beginning – and may I say very obvious mistakes, and then halfway through the piece, I went off-key, then off-key again, eventually not playing the right keys anymore. Meryl stood by me, encouraging me to “just go on, keyz, kaya mo yan.” And then I did. I went on –what else was I to do? Everyone’s ears and eyes were on me; I cannot stop now. So I got back on track, hit the right notes, finally finishing the piece.
It’s always this way when I play before an audience. I get stage fright. When my nerves hit me bad, I’m unable to perform well. That has happened to me many times. It happened during my audition in pep squad, during a mini-recital at church, during my second interview with my boss (God forbid she still remembers). And the thing that really upsets me is the fact that I know it, okay! I know that piano piece; I’ve memorized it by heart. I’ve played it countless times without mistake — I am able to finish it. And yet I just never do when I’m in front of a crowd and it’s as though everyone’s waiting for me to make a mistake. And to add to the pressure, our choir pianist was there listening to me. She knows the piece; she’s played it many times before. Man am I so frustrated at myself today.
I wish I could just disappear for a while and come back when everyone’s forgotten about my embarrassing episode. But enough of that –it is past. People will forget about it after this day. It’s just us who never seem to forget our own embarrassing moments. But that’s good for a couple of reasons. One, we have something to laugh about tomorrow, and two, we have something to write about today, both true in my case.
Incidents like these remind me of a question I always ask myself: can I finish well? Though I’m not the most goal-oriented person I know, I still try to reach my goals and finish well. When I get into something, I give it my very best, because we don’t always assume things will go bad. We don’t always assume that in the middle of an audition, we would forget the moves, or that while we’re being asked about our liabilities, we have no answer to give, when in fact we have, and lots of them but we just can’t think of any at the moment. No, we get into something because we know we will be able to complete it. We do something because we know we are able. Period. We seldom plan for what happens in between. I know I don’t, and the seldom that I do, they don’t even matter that much.
But you know what, I knew I wasn’t going to finish well today. Like i said, my nerves hit me bad and somehow I was expecting I’d get into a little trouble because I was already stricken with stage fright early on. But still I went up to the piano, sat there with sweaty palms, and played my heart out (if that’s what it seemed to people who didn’t have the musical ear and couldn’t tell if i’m off-key or not, just because I was “feeling” the piece and moving my body to the music).
Well maybe that’s good enough. Lately, the question has been “why can’t I finish well?”, but after what happened today, I’m putting a period to that question. I finished it, that’s what matters. It was not how i expected it to be; Lord knows it was not how I wanted to finish it. But i finished it. I did not quit. Sometimes, we don’t always finish well, and not because we don’t like to. Sometimes, it’s really just because we can’t. But that doesn’t mean we cannot finish it altogether.
So here’s a thought I’m throwing out into the void for the frustrated pianist/writer/singer/dancer/goal-oriented/people-oriented/introvert/extrovert/lonely/less lonely and whatever type of human being you are:
Finishing well is just a matter of perspective. That people don’t quit means they want to keep fighting, and that in itself is trying to finish well. So smile, don’t fret. We don’t always know the in-betweens. Thankfully, they’re only part of the story.