Hey all! My course is drawing to a close, and I thought I would check back in one last time before the official results of this military course are in. My final exam performance is Tuesday morning, and I’ll admit I’m really stressed out about it. As the only non-music major doing the toughest music course the military has, I’m feeling really overwhelmed once again with the prospect of what’s coming up. Still, I’ve been putting everything I have into this course, and I hope it will pay off in the end. It’s a long weekend, so I have an extra day to practice my face off. My instructor has assigned me to do at least 5 hours of practicing each day this weekend. Well, there goes my weekend plans. But hey, if 5 hours (or more) per day is what it will take to get through this course, I’ll do it.
I’ve come to the realization that now it is all up to me how I will do in this course. My instructor has taught me everything she could think of to try to help, and is now gone for the weekend. I won’t see her again until the morning of my exam when she will be sitting at a large table surrounded by high-ranking officers who have dedicated their lives to music.
There are only two ways this could end: pass or fail. This course has been a journey for me, though, and it would be unfair to oversimplify this experience into only those two options. Even if I don’t pass, I’ve learned a lot about music, playing my instrument, and about myself. I’ve never worked this hard for anything in my life. This course is one thing that has certainly not come easy to me, but I’ve done absolutely everything I could to not let that hold me back.
With only two days left, how I will do in this course is entirely up to me. It’s not about whether I know the scales, know how to sight read, or can play through my pieces. No, it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about whether I believe in myself enough to really believe that I deserve to pass this course. It’s about knowing that even though it might not have been easy for me and it isn’t what I do all year round, I’m good enough. I’ve put so much of myself into this, and I hope they see past the nerves and see the person underneath in my music. In the end, I will lay down all that I have, and can only hope that that will be enough. So right now, I just need to remember that I’ve done everything I can. I need to remember that I deserve to pass this course, and that I’m good enough to be a soloist.
And most importantly, I need to remember the one thing I wrote outside my practice room to inspire others who are having as hard of a time as I am:
“Never give up on yourself.”
Hey there, loyal readers!
As you know I haven’t been posting lately because I’m on military contract doing a music course on saxophone. Well, two weeks of four done, and I’m home for the weekend. When I first arrived, I had an initial assessment with my teacher to see where I’m at. And that performance was… less than stellar. Out of 100 I probably got like a 10. It scared my teacher enough that they decided to step in and tell me exactly what I need to do to have any hope of passing this course.
After playing music from 7:30-4 everyday, and going back to practice from 6-9 p.m., I quickly wore out my face. “Play until you bleed” isn’t just an expression in my line of work. Still, I knew I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to get through this course, and 4 weeks isn’t really a lot of time considering some people spend years in school for this stuff and still struggle with the difficulty of the course I’m doing. My confidence was down, so I wrote a note to myself and pasted it on the wall across from me to watch me practice. It says:
You can do this.”
Fast forward to today. Midterms. I was so nervous my stomach was in knots all week long, and this morning I simply felt sick. Not to let that hold me back, though, I did that midterm. How did it go? Well, I played as confidently and as musically as I could, given the time I’ve had to work on this material. And…. I failed by 1%.
You’re probably thinking, “Ouch, what kind of jerk fails someone on a test by 1%?” Well, my instructor, apparently. That being said, I’m not mad about it, or even upset anymore. I had my moment of tears, and then I realized that she did this because she wants to help me. I talked to her about it afterward, and she said she was really conflicted on whether she should raise my mark slightly so that I pass, or lower it slightly so I’m not failing by just 1 mark. In the end she decided to stick with her gut, and kept it at 59/100.
It wasn’t easy to accept, but now I understand. She failed me because she wants me to be better. She failed me because she refuses to spoon-feed me this qualification level. I told her that I’m glad she kept the mark as it was. If I’m going to pass this course, I want to earn it. And that’s exactly what I plan to do over the next two weeks as I work towards my final test which I will perform in front of a panel of high-ranking officers in a big music hall. And you can bet I’ll give it my all as I prove to her that I refuse to let this setback slow me down. I’m going to earn that qualification. That, or I’ll fail it, but walk out of that room with my head held high knowing I did absolutely everything in my power to try to pass it, and will come back next year to pass it for certain.
Don’t let failures get to you. Use them as opportunities to try harder, to prove them wrong, to show yourself what you are capable of. And remember that the things you really want won’t always come easy, but you have to be willing to put in the effort to obtain them.
Did you know that you can schedule your posts in advance so that WordPress publishes them exactly when you want them to? Simply pick the date and time, and click “Schedule”! Just click on “edit” next to the “Publish immediately” calendar icon above the publish button. Now if you want to be creepy you can schedule all your posts to arrive at midnight. Or 11:11. Or whatever suits your fancy.
I actually wrote this a week ago. So in case you’re confused, I just scheduled a post about scheduling posts.
Is that cool, or what?
This morning I got the message that I’ll be doing that really hard sax course I mentioned in my post “Unsettling Uncertainty“. I leave tomorrow, and for the next 3 1/2 weeks, I’ll be devoting every waking moment to my art, making music until my mouth bleeds. I’m excited, but horribly nervous. Still, I’m glad someone decided to give me a shot. Somehow the stars have lined up for me this time, and I really want to prove that I’m capable of such an accomplishment when I put my all into a challenge.
That being said, I won’t be posting for the next little while. I likely won’t have internet access where I’ll be living, and since I’ll be practicing so much I won’t be able to go to the place that has internet. I guess for now this is a brief goodbye. Don’t worry, though, I’ll be back and posting as usual after my course ends on May 24th. And you can bet there will be an update then on whether or not I passed the course.
I hope everyone has an awesome May! And thank you to everyone who believes in me.
All the best,
One thing I’ve learned over the course of this exam period (well, actually this whole highly stressful year), is that you need to put yourself first sometimes. Not all the time necessarily, but sometimes, definitely. It doesn’t make you selfish. It doesn’t mean you care any less about the people close to you, or that you aren’t good enough to them. If you took as good care of yourself as you take of everyone else, you’d be a super-person. In fact, you are so great to everyone else, you owe it to yourself to spend some time appreciating yourself. You’re no good to anyone else when you’re burnt out. So take some time for yourself, and do what really makes you happy.
We might all be having very different experiences, but I’m pretty sure this is something everyone knows all too well. That feeling when you get home from a long day and don’t have it in you to make a salad and some rice, and opt for a grilled cheese instead. When you planned to go to the gym in the morning, but your body refuses to let you get up, telling you to stay here instead where it’s warm and safe. When you’re at work trying to do your job, but all you can think about is what else you could be doing with this time, and it’s eating away at you inside.
Maybe what you want is to go shopping for shoes, or a fancy coffee. Maybe you need to get away for a bit, clear your head. Go for a hike, sit by a waterfall, relax on a beach. Or maybe you just want to spend a few hours on the couch with no one around to tell you to put pants on or to go empty the trash, no crying baby or nagging parents. It can even be just taking 15 minutes to close your eyes when you’re feeling drained. We all need to relax sometimes, and even though sometimes life feels like a never-ending stress spiral, it’s important to step back and refuel every once in a while.
This is your chance to show how much you appreciate your body, mind, and spirit for holding up this long. After all, without those things, you’d literally be nothing.
What will you do to treat yourself?
I’ve always had close friends who are significantly older than me. One awesome advantage to this is they generally treat me to lunch when we go out. (There is such a thing as a free lunch! In your face, Milton Friedman. Okay, obviously the lunch isn’t technically free but it’s free for me and that’s what counts.) Anyway, the other great advantage is I get a lot of tips and tidbits of good advice about how to enjoy my twenties and be independent and all that good stuff.
Bear with me for a bit while I explain what it is that I do. As a musician in the military, I’m constantly competing against others. Yes, we’re a band. And yes we are working together to make beautiful music, which can only happen if our sounds mesh well together. Still, when we are trying to get work, like the 2.5 month summer contract, we are being graded against each other. This means that although we are friends most of the time, we are rivals when trying to get contracts. Big factors that affect our contracts are our merit, skill level as a musician, leadership potential, and QLs. QL’s stands for qualification level, and we get higher ones by doing military courses that centre around music.
There are 4 QLs, and they range from about high school level to 4th year university/master’s level difficulty. We need QLs for promotions, but a lot of people take harder courses so that they can be seen as better musicians when trying to get contracts, and one QL level can mean the difference between 3 months of summer employment and zero. Once you reach the third QL, you can learn a new instrument, and they’ll pay you to learn it. I have the third level on sax, and the first level on bassoon. Yeah, they paid me to learn to play bassoon (well, I had played it in high school, but never thought I’d play it again).
Anyways, I was supposed to be leaving next Wednesday to do a 4 week course for level 2 on bassoon. I got a call the other day from one of my supervisors, and he told me there was a chance they might be able to get me to do level 4 on sax instead. Still, I don’t know if I’m ready. I don’t know if I’m good enough. And I don’t know if I’d be able to handle the disappointment if I don’t pass that course. Music has always been something that I’m good at. I’ve been playing piano since I was 5. Music is my stress reliever, my piano has always been my sanctuary.
[If anyone is curious, here's a video of the piece I'm slaving away at trying to learn. She's phenomenal. I won't have piano accompaniment.]
Right now I’m just waiting for that call saying I’ll be doing the harder course. I’m terrified. I want this so bad. Not to be competitive, or to be better than everyone else. Not to have that level just because James does (that’s where I met him, he plays clarinet). No, I want to do this for me. I want to have a goal that I really need to work towards. Something I’d be willing to devote 4 straight weeks of my life towards attaining. And I want to know what it feels like to know that people understand how much music means to me, how much of myself I give in my music. Like my writing, music is a way of baring my soul.
I’m just worried I’ll put my all into it, and they’ll shun that piece of me that wants so badly to be heard.