Anniversary Season

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll be upfront with you right off the bat: this will be a long, wordy, and reflective post, but there will be fun pictures at the end so you should keep reading :P.

That being said, it’s anniversary season! This year I have several special first anniversaries of sorts – the anniversary of my move to Boston, of my job with the Boston Ballet School, and, most importantly, of my marriage. It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Boston for a year – in a way, it feels more like 10, and yet it also feels like it was just yesterday that I lived in Princeton. City life has been a big adjustment for me – I tend to like a quieter lifestyle, so the boisterousness of a bustling city has a tendency to take its toll on me. I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of it, though – as long as the next winter isn’t as bad as the last one!

The ballet school just began its summer intensive program this week, and it was this same time last year that I jumped on board with the music department team. Looking back, I now realize to what extent I truly had no idea what I was getting into! The summer program was a real “baptism by fire” – I was immediately thrown into playing for advanced-level classes, and it was sink or swim! My boss and colleagues were always supportive, and were happy to let me observe their playing or ask questions. Nonetheless, I remember many days last summer when I went home to my husband crying because I honestly thought I wasn’t qualified for the job.

This job has been by far the most challenging professional pursuit of my life, but it has also taught me so much about what it means to be a musician. During the entirety of my musical education, I kept waiting for a professor or private teacher to tell me that I was truly talented – that I was “allowed” to be a skilled and intelligent musician. I felt that I couldn’t consider myself a “real” musician until someone with authority gave me the go-ahead. However, this job literally forced me to realize that you never need permission to be talented.

After many months of feeling like the world’s worst ballet pianist, I took a good, hard look at all of the brilliantly talented dancers and musicians around me and noticed something rather astonishing – they didn’t need anyone’s permission to excel. They gave themselves that permission. And now that I am learning to give that permission to myself, it is transforming my music making. For the first time, I feel real confidence in my abilities. Not an overblown, egotistical attitude, but just the quiet strength of knowing that, while I can always learn more, I do have some idea of what I’m doing.

And of course, during this first year in Boston, sewing reentered my life! One thing that has always frustrated me about music is how ephemeral it is – all of your hard work practicing lasts for only minutes in a performance, and then it’s gone forever. The ability to produce concrete physical creations with my hands acts as the perfect antidote to that transience, and has helped me redefine who I am as an artist. Ever since graduate school, I’ve been trying to figure out what my “main identity” as a musician is – am I a singer? Pianist? Composer? Bringing sewing back into the mix reminded me that I am an artist – I’m all of those at once, as well as a seamstress and designer. I don’t have to choose one identity; I am happiest when I have them all!

Whew, that was a lot of reflection! Now for the fun part – the wedding anniversary! My husband and I decided to get married “on the fly” last June, and we had such little notice that there was no time to put together a big celebration. So, this year for our first anniversary, we threw a big party for family and friends! I’ll be writing several posts about the details – tutorials for the decorations as well as in-depth info on THE dress – but for now, here’s are some fun pics to reward you for reading such a long post!

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10 thoughts on “Anniversary Season

  1. It’s a lovely dress! And I enjoyed reading your thoughts on your music career– that’s always been a struggle for me, too. I spent most of my college years feeling like I was always playing catch-up to the other people who had a better background in performing experience and general music/composer knowledge than I did, since music wasn’t really what I planned to go into. Even now, I still have trouble feeling like a talented musician or flute teacher, even though I’ve been out of school for nearly a decade. (Freaky.)

    • Thank you! And I know exactly how you feel about thinking you needed to “catch up” in college – I always felt that I had never learned proper technique, and it took me years to take myself seriously as a pianist. The high pressure of the ballet school job forced me to confront so many of the “inner demons” from my college years – every day at work, I had to make the choice not to listen to the voices of low self-esteem. If I didn’t, I found I just got stuck in a downward spiral of negativity. But I think I’m finally climbing out of that spiral!

  2. It looks like you had a wonderful party! That seems like a great way to do things – no “perfect day” stress and pressure. I know what you mean about waiting for approval.

  3. Congrats on all the one-year accomplishments! And as others have said, I totally feel you on waiting for permission to feel competent. I have a friend who always says to “own your knowledge,” ending your sentences with a period instead of a question mark. I’m better or worse at it depending on who I’m talking to and whether I think they’re more experienced than I am.

    Anyway, congrats on the party, the dress, and surviving that intensive summer program!

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