I sat down at the piano. My fingers were dripping with sweat, and my teeth were chattering. I felt like I was going to vomit. I turned my head to look at the audience. I saw the blinding spotlights instead. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t focus. I-
“Julia! Are you ok?”
“Get an ambulance! Quickly!”
I woke up in a hospital. At least, I thought it was a hospital. I couldn’t see anything except blotchy spots of white. I lifted my head up, and I saw someone that looked like a doctor. I looked to my other side and saw my family.
“Hi. I’m Dr. Akshara. I’m going to help you get through this, ok?”
I tried to talk. I whispered, “Get through what?”
“Oh. Well, your anxiety troubles, of course.”
“Yes. Now, I’m going to tell you all some bad news. Julia should not play the piano ever again.”
I broke the awkwardness by saying, “Why not?”
“Your brain connects piano to anxiety. Playing the piano will increase your anxiety, rather than decrease it. So, I highly suggest you start a new instrument.”
After some more silence, my parents simultaneously said, “Ok. Thank you very much.”
After getting home, I ran up to my room and slammed the door. I did like piano. I just had stage fright. Also, I didn’t want to start from scratch again. But, I knew that my parents are going to be insistent. My mom had wanted me to learn the violin from the very beginning, because it was a family tradition. I was so exhausted from all the drama.
The next day, as expected, my mom woke me up bright and early to try out the violin. I groaned and rolled around in bed. I didn’t want to learn the violin, and I’d never been an “early bird gets the worm” type of person. After ten minutes of being lazy, I finally got out of bed. I brushed my teeth and showered for a very long time. Then, I went downstairs. Again, as expected, my mom was waiting for me with her violin. She said, “Julia, I know you’re really sad that you can’t play the piano, but you have to move on. The violin is a very fun instrument too!”
“Ok, Mom. You don’t need to persuade me that much.”
I was in a very bad mood, and my mom is not helping matters.
“Now, I’m going to play a little song for you. Then, I’ll help you learn it!”
“Am I going to get a real teacher anytime soon?”
“I can teach you the basics, and then we can get a teacher. Now, stop stalling. Are you ready?”
My mom played a violin song. Frankly, it sounded really good. But, I knew that I wasn’t going to sound like that anytime soon.
“I understand. You’re good. I’m not. Now, please just teach me the notes.”
“Julia. I’m trying to be patient with you, but I don’t like all the attitude. Now, if you don’t want to learn right now, then please go upstairs.”
I took a deep breath. I knew that I would have to start a new instrument, and my mom was just trying to help.
“Ok, Mom. I’m ready to learn.”
After 10 days, I had learned enough to play a few basic songs. I worked deliberately and hard, because I wanted to get good at the violin.
After 3 months, I was good enough to have a teacher.
After 1 year, I was ready to take the Level 1 test for the violin. There were 10 tests for each instrument. I had been taking the Level 7 test in piano when I had had my panic attack. I was determined not to make the same mistakes in violin. When I sat down to practice, I took a deep breath and told myself that there was no pressure. I didn’t have to be the best in the world in violin.
After 4 years, I had hit a setback. It was the 3rd time that I was trying to succeed in the Level 4 test, and I was stressed. My doctor told me it was bad for me to get anxious, but I couldn’t stop. What if I failed? What would happen? Would people mock me? I was scared.
I decided to take a break for a few months and get my thoughts back in the right place. It was a good idea, because after those few months, I felt like a different person. I wasn’t worried anymore, and I was ready to take on the world! I started to ask myself a crucial question. What would happen if I messed up? Nothing. Nothing at all.
With this mindset, I cruised past the 4th, 5th and 6th level tests. By this time, I was in 10th grade. I had a lot going on, and I didn’t know if I could continue with violin. But, I wanted to. I really, really wanted to. After I had stopped having such horrible stage fright, the violin had become so much more enjoyable. After a stressful day at school, the first thing I did was play my violin. It was a stress remover, rather than a stress maker.
I passed the 7, 8, and 9th levels by 12th grade. But, the problem was that I was going to college the next year, so I wouldn’t be able to pass levels anymore. I only had one chance to pass the Level 10 test before leaving. This was a lot of stress. My doctor advised me not to take the test. My parents said I could do what my heart told me to. My heart told me to try for the Level 10 test.
I passed on the 1st try.
“Hi, my name’s Julia. 20 years ago, I had a panic attack while playing the piano. My doctor told me to try a different instrument. So, I did. I started playing the violin. I thrived in it, because I had adopted a new mindset. I wasn’t scared of what people thought of me anymore. I just wanted to say that playing an instrument should not be a burden. That’s what I did wrong in piano. It should be something that you can let out all your anger with. Today, I am a doctor. But, I also give concerts for the violin too. I have learned that being a doctor is a lot of hard work. It also is a very demanding job. My way of letting out all the stress and anxiety is playing the violin. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy my concert.”