One thing nobody knows about me.
I grew up in a reasonably musical family. I started learning piano when I was 7 or 8. Apparently I really wanted to and pestered my parents for a time until they were certain it wasn’t some passing wish. I don’t remember any of that. My teacher lived about 5km away. I would have been driven there initially but then rode my bicycle most of the time. I must have enjoyed it as I kept up with lessons and examinations for the next 8 years.
But I remember the frustration.
It was learning something new that involved intricate coordination between the mind and fingers.
I had always been very smart at school, something to do with having two older brothers and wanting to do what they did, read what they did, enjoy what they did (my curiosity coming into play), so I guess I stretched myself ahead as much as possible. But with this piano playing there was no other goal to focus on. I was on my own, stumbling and fumbling (maybe perfectionism coming into play) frustrated at my lack of skill. Expecting to be able to do this as easily as everything else in life came to me.
I remember days where my frustration at practicing and “getting it wrong” led me to tears at the piano. (Crying for myself at a time when that was still possible.) Hating the difficulty. Wanting to just be able to get it right. Wanting to give up. Not wanting to go to lessons because I felt like I was so bad at it. I was probably made to go sometimes. I just remember feeling like a failure unless I got it (mostly) perfect.
I generally did well at exams.
The theory tests weren’t a concern, it wasn’t difficult to learn those details just as learning at school was quite easy. The practical tests: playing set pieces; sight-reading; and general musicianship, generally received high marks. My ear and understanding of music were excellent. So incentive to practice and do better were not high, I probably did the minimum I could to get through. I wonder what might have been had I practiced more, but that was never where my head was at, so it is just another “what if” thought.
Somewhere early in there I think depression crept in. I now realise I have always had food intolerances that have at times left me very sick. As a child such things were not understood by myself nor anyone around me. What must have started back then is what I now know – that low health creates a very negative mental situation that also feeds back into reducing my physical health.
Not a traditional mental health depression treatable with cognitive behavioural therapy. More of a body & brain chemistry is haywire, “normal” thought patterns are not possible depression.
Intertwined with a delayed social understanding that created much awkwardness interacting with anybody outside my siblings, although I always got on with “older” people such as my brothers’ friends or family friends that took an interest in me.
Consequently I struggled at High School. Other people’s smarts catching up with mine. Some-sort-of-depression and frequent physical-incapacitation holding me back from fitting in socially and learning as quickly as I used to. I would hang out with the geeks, because we always had something in common, and personal computers were just starting to arrive (Apple IIs in school and then Commodore 64s at home).
I remember being sent to some sort of day group with other boys from around the city. Some counsellor would spend time in a quiet room asking me questions and I don’t think I ever said a word – I just didn’t know what to say. Socialising with the others at the centre and at some other locations, I witnessed them acting out and being upset at what I considered strange little things, I started to recognise witheld anger. One day I learnt how privileged I was, when one of the boys arrived without any shoes on even though we were going out crabbing that day. He said he just forgot to put them on, but later I heard that he had jumped out his bedroom window and run over without them because his dad was drunk or angry that morning and he was too scared to stay any longer.
So maybe not just one thing. But it started with wanting to share the story about my piano learning and the cries of frustration therein. Because that ties in with some other comments shared with other ‘pressers this morning, as well as how I am currently approaching my growing creative output. I also lied, I think one other person knows all this – albeit in a more scattered framework – but they don’t count at the moment.
So if you, my ‘pressing friends, have managed to reach this point on the page, you deserve congratulations, and my sincere thanks for
No poetry. No philosophy. Just something I need to write out. And, just, maybe, to let it go.