I found this piece of writing that recast the Benedictine manner of living for the 21st Century somewhere at the very beginning of the pandemic. Amid feelings of loss and disturbance, I sought calm and peace, and found myself slowly, but surely, searching within myself. Being alone at home for the better part of six months changed me. It has left imprints I rediscover everyday. That journey of seeking calm is one I remain on even today.
Even when we fail, always we begin again.
If you search “piano” in the archives of this blog, you will find a series of posts meandering the better part of six years since I began writing the blog (I’ll save you the trouble, see this.) If you search my life for where my relationship with the piano began, it would add easily another ten years to that. While searching for things to grasp onto while struggling with my identity, music called out to me in a way not much else did. So it was, then, that in 2020, I really thought I had gone back to it all. Going for piano lessons, learning the guitar from my best friend, passing some music theory examinations; it validated this feeling externally. On reflection, it allowed me to clasp what I thought of as making a success of myself at the time. I took comfort in saying I knew something, and gained authority for that statement with these yardsticks. I never really reflected on how much I enjoyed it all. Not for a lack of trying, it must be said. I tried a whole bunch. Look at what I said toward the end of 2020, sitting in Cambridge:
Whenever I feel like I’m pointing outward for how I think about things, I’m going to look inward instead and see how I can better influence how I think. I’ll put in the yards and the time, and then decide if it’s worthwhile or not. Music, and the piano, isn’t something I should let go of so easily when it’s been such a big part of my life till now. For that I’m grateful.
That was a pipe dream. I let go of it all through 2021. Then I tried lessons at the start of 2022, to really get back into it, and gave up in less than a month.
I spent a month at home in December, soaking in the comfort of being in my parents’ company once again. We frequently have joked about how my visits prompt an opportunity for an appraisal of how they are doing. Taking stock of 2022, we shared our joys, but we also shared collective disappointment in how our relationship with the piano had developed. The winter was a good time to ameliorate it. Not as a new year resolution, but rather as just another thing we wished to do. It was easy enough for my parents. As beginners, all I had to do was find them a teacher they gelled with and would look forward to meeting. As for myself, I couldn’t see how I was to manage on my own.
A lot of who I am as an adult is shaped by who my parents brought me up to be, and the child I was. I don’t rely on them as a crutch to defend some of the decisions I take, as I might have during my one rebellious year in law school, but I would be remiss in acknowledging their decisions have influenced me tremendously. I knew what I was searching for: I wanted to reclaim the joy I felt with piano lessons; but I had no place to look. Two weeks of silence followed.
It makes sense, then, I turned to the people who made my decisions for me when I was younger, who found me a piano teacher as we relocated to India. I asked my mother if she had my piano teacher’s number, the one person that stuck by me through my tantrums and trained me relentlessly, every Friday evening for 4 years. She did. It took one WhatsApp message to reconnect and fix time for class. It has been three weeks since, and I have built-in an hour of practice into my schedule since I came back to the UK. In this moment, I am happy.
In my first lesson back with Sir, I talk with him about how our paths diverged. I stopped lessons because I could not find the time of day to practice, and grew frustrated with learning the same pieces over and over again in an attempt to master an examination syllabus. I thought I would keep things going myself, and trusted myself to go on. I did not. He does not expressed disappointment or regret. Each time I go back to how I wonder about what could have been if I had stayed on, he points me to the gratitude I should have for what has been since. Even over Zoom, he guides my hand over the keys I play, over the sounds the instrument produces. He asked me yesterday not to say sorry when I made a mistake, reminding me I was just learning. I tell him of past failures, of sheet music purchased but not worked through. He smiles and says life is like this, that there are too many pieces to play, but not enough time.
Even when we fail, always we begin again.
In good faith, I suppose, I am beginning again. I am once more, a student. To quote Piscine Molitor Patel, “and so it goes with God“.