While the Music Continues

This article is a repost from our sister site, Our Life Logs® https://ourlifelogs.com/2020/04/20/while-the-music-continues/

 

Well, let me start my story with a parable:


“There once was a very small girl whose mother asked her to fill up a barren valley with water. Each day, the small girl carried her small bucket from the creek near their home to the valley. Nothing seemed to happen at first. There was nothing but a shy puddle that mocked   her efforts. But she did as her mother said.  Years later, a strong woman poured out the last bucket of water into the once-barren valley, and together, the woman and her mother, now ripe with age, swam in the sea they created.”


Now, what about my journey? Let’s go back to the beginning.


1 | I Loved the Sound


In the narrow river valley city of Lanzhou, China, I was born an only child in the 1980s. My mother was a music teacher and my father a ballet dancer; music was a foundational cornerstone in our family. I should clarify that my father was a ballet dancer until I was born, and then he obtained a high executive government job. Dad loved ballet, but it simply wasn’t going to pay the bills. My parents raised me to love and cherish music all the same.



When I was a little girl.


I started learning the piano and later dancing when I was four years old. My mother had access to an assortment of instruments thanks to her job, so she suggested I learn the guzheng, a traditional Chinese string instrument, when I turned five. As I inspected this new instrument, my young mind was mesmerized by the melody that escaped its plucked strings. I loved the sound; it was like a calming waterfall running down or the waves breaking at the seashore. How a simple pluck of a sequence of strings could create a melody so beautiful!


As I began to learn, my mother kept an eye on my progress, making sure I practiced every single day. She wanted me to develop a habit for playing, thinking that would help me grow as a musician. But you know how it is with parents; many don’t realize that if you force a kid to do something, they’re going to wind up hating it. Although I was in love with guzheng, playing soon became a chore.


I didn’t want to practice for hours on end, but I was a shy girl and never fought back against my mother. I just kept playing, even when I didn’t want to. I still remember the days of my mother cooking in the kitchen, the sharp smell of spices wafting through the house as I practiced in the next room. I couldn’t get away with slacking off. Mom would know if the music had stopped! I wasn’t confident at all in my abilities, but I kept at it anyway because life was easier when you did as you were told.


2 | Something Switched Inside Me


For the next 10 years, I continued practicing, day after day, until I realized playing the guzheng had become part of my life. But it would be another decade before I would truly understand the importance of that realization. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me come back to the year when I was 15.


That year, I was graduating middle school and like my peers, I was looking into options of high school to pave my way to college. I knew I was never the brightest student in the class when it came to academics. I was extremely shy and didn’t have much confidence. But somehow, at age 15, something switched inside me and suddenly, I wanted to be the best version of myself. I told my parents I wanted to go to the best high school so I could work toward getting into the best music college in the country.