Anecdotal evidence that perseverance is key
As college students, we face a lot of hurdles, from the small tasks of daily life to the semester-long pressures of classes, jobs, internships, volunteering, and student orgs. Occasionally, the constant stress is overwhelming enough to discourage us from the idea of trudging through yet another taxing day. Recently, I witnessed an event which really struck a chord – pun intended – with me and motivated me to keep going, so I would like to share it with you.
It’s just a regular Wednesday- I’m preparing the art room at work, the streaming natural light illuminating the brightly painted walls plastered in kids’ artwork. When the kids, laughing, spill out of the bus, they’ll come running in and devour a snack: today it’s clementines and pretzels.
After setting up the craft of the day, I check the clock; there are still 10 minutes before the bus delivers chaos to the now-peaceful room. In fact, it’s so quiet the piano lesson down the hall is clear as day, the keys plunking along in time with the metronome. Listening closely, I can tell the student is learning to play “Ode to Joy.”
She plays the first few notes at the beginning of the lesson and messes up. I hear a groan, hear her raise her voice. Silence. Then a scale. She misses the last note. Slowly, much more slowly, she plays the scale again.
Hitting every note, she picks up the pace, speeding through the “Do-Re-Mis…” and flubs the whole second half. More raised voices. Silence again. Three slow, perfect scales in a row. One more, much faster, hitting all the notes.
Finally, another attempt at “Ode to Joy.” It’s slow and robotic, with occasional pauses and missed notes. A one-person round of applause. Some joyful laughter.
The piano keys patter out a few single lines of music, amending the segments of the score that were previously misplayed. A glance at the clock tells me the music lesson ends in about 5 minutes. The tick, tick, tick adds suspense and I wonder if Beethoven’s classic will be done justice before the lesson concludes.
A dissonant, aggressive chord jars me, and my attention is jerked back to the studio down the hall. Instantly, I picture my early days in music lessons, striking the keys of the piano at random in frustration when a certain piece wasn’t coming so easily to me. I was never a very good piano student- my practice habits were laughable. I would obfuscate in response to my teacher’s questions and consistently resorted to the “fake it till you make it” strategy.
That’s not the conviction of this piano student, I can tell. Her diligence shines through as she strives, over and over, to execute this piece. Though we don’t have the love of this instrument in common, her commitment reminds me of other endeavors I partake in. There’ve been many times in life when I’ve been knocked down and had to get right back up, both figuratively and literally (high school soccer, anyone?).
All of the sudden, a strong, on-pitch rendition of “Ode to Joy” sings out into the hallway. I wait with bated breath, fingers crossed for the success of this young pianist. As the last few notes fade out, I smile, so proud of this stranger with whom I’ve become connected over the past 25 minutes.
My eye catches movement out the window: the bus has arrived. As I grab my coat to meet the kids at the bus stop, I snatch a glance into the hallway. The music studio door opens and my colleague and her student exit, both wearing beaming smiles. Heading toward the bus stop, I pause as one final statement summons my attention:
“I wanted to give up, but I remembered what you told me: if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again!”
Though it was a simple sentence, the weight of the young student’s confidence in her abilities to meet challenges head on and persevere revitalized my spirits. That night, returning to my dorm, I finished an essay I’d been putting off and finally did my laundry. These small wins really evidenced the power of simple determination, and I hope that the next time you are stuck in a rut, you bear in mind the potential you truly have.