Letter to my first year self

Dear first year viola major,

I’m glad things went really well for you this year! You’ve met so many great friends and improved so much as a musician. You’re so much happier with your life right now in general. I told you it would be so much better when you didn’t have to see people you don’t like every single day. It almost feels like you have the perfect life right now; supportive friends, family, teachers, and you’re doing what you love. 

Don’t get too comfortable. Your first year of university is always deceptively easy, for you anyway. Yes, there are some people who can’t handle it, but it is designed so most people will make it through while still weeding out those who can’t.  Second year is going to throw some curveballs at you that you may not be prepared to deal with, but I know you are a strong person and that you will make it through even when it feels like you want to drop out.  As I like to say, second year is the year that kills. If you make it through second year, you’re set for the rest of your degree. 

First of all, you’re going to meet this violinist who thinks he’s the greatest thing on the planet since sliced bread. He is very good for his age, his technique is virtually flawless and he’s accomplished more before he started in university than some people do in their whole degree. You’re going to feel very threatened by him. Everyone in the music faculty is going to be in awe of him and worship him like he’s some kind of God. You’re going to feel abandoned, like you’re “so last year”. Remember that people still care about you and support you just as much as they did before. Just because this kid exists doesn’t mean that you all of a sudden suck. 

This violin kid in question is going to win lots of the competitions around the school and community. You’re going to feel a bit of resentment as you didn’t even enter these competitions in first year and here he is, winning them with ease. If there is nothing else you get out of this, don’t let him live in your head rent free. He is not any more inherently powerful or better than you as a human being and you can waste a lot of time and energy by obsessing over every little thing he does. It seems like the whole used faculty is in love with him and enthralled by what he’s doing. Why can’t people be equally enthralled by what you do, you ask. Well, consider this, Do you want hundreds of people who barely know you fascinated by what you do? Or, do you prefer the small group of people who you know very well that are genuinely supportive of you whether you win a competition or not? I think you know the answer. 

The important thing to remember about this violin kid is that he lacks a lot of intrinsic motivation. I bet any money that if one day this kid stopped winning every competition and people stopped liking his Facebook posts, he’d just quit. You are a much stronger person as you keep practicing every day regardless of the outcome. One day, your hard work will pay off and this violin kid will get put in his place once and for all. I know it’s frustrating to see people like this, but don’t let them get to you. You’re going to feel like you want to drop out, on account of this kid. That will be the most irrational thought you will have all year. You’re not in music school to impress him or try to be better than him. You’re in music school because you are passionate about music and you want to pursue a career in music.  Never lose sight of that. 

This kid is going to get into the same music program as you. That’s going to be initially a frustrating as you worked really hard for many years to be accepted into that program, and now you have to share it with violin kid, of all people. It still may seem like people care about him more than you, but don’t let that get to you. You know you worked really hard to be accepted and tried many years. It may seem unfair that he gets in on his first try, but I bet he wouldn’t have been as persistent as you if he didn’t get accepted the first time. 

Congrats on a good first year! Second year will be very challenging, but never give up. I know you can do it! 


Your 2015 self

Letter to my high school self

Dear prospective music student,

It’s been a tough four years; it’s definitely not easy to pursue music at a high level while enrolled in a public high school. You did a great job, even when it was tough. You made a lot of sacrifices, especially in your social life but it will all be worth it in the long run. I know it was hard to see all the kids in your class have friends to talk to and hang out with everyday. I know it was hard to look on Facebook and see all your classmates doing fun and simple things like going out for supper, going on a weekend road trip, or just simply grabbing coffee after school. I know you wanted and tried to be a part of that but got rejected several times. You were always that “weird music kid”. 

In particular there was that one group of girls you always sat beside at lunch on those rare days you didn’t have  rehearsal and couldn’t go home for lunch. You wasted so much energy trying to fit in with them. They had no idea the amount of commitment and passion you have for your music. They would never understand the amount of hours you put in to pursue music at the university level. The moment they called music “stupid” to your face is when you should have just walked away and stopped speaking to them. I know the reason you passively sat by those girls is so that judgy passers-by wouldn’t see you sitting alone and call you a loner. Honestly, little things like sitting alone in the hallway seem like a bit deal to you now, but in university no one cares or notices if you eat lunch alone. 

I know you feel a small sense of regret that you didn’t get the full high school experience. You never got to go to a party or really try alcohol outside of the odd glass of wine. You only went to school events like dances in grade 9 and 10. Frankly, with the schedule you had, there was no way you would have had the time! You were at school everyday at 8:30am, crammed in as much homework during your spare and lunch hour, probably had a rehearsal after school, went home to grab supper, possibly off to another rehearsal, and then finally home at 10:00pm. By the time the weekend came around, you needed that precious time to sleep in and catch up on all the homework you didn’t have time for during the week, and even then, you were still juggling rehearsals and concerts. Somehow you magically fit in 1-2 hours of practice when you had the chance. It wasn’t as much as you would have liked, but given the schedule you had I’m surprised you practiced at all. 

You will definitely make up for all of this in university. Yes, you will be very busy with classes, lessons, and rehearsals, but it’ll be a much more manageable schedule as it will be all music related commitments. Any student that goes through public school while trying to pursue a musical instrument at a high level to get into a university program honestly deserves some kind of award. Because of the superior time management skills you cultivated in high school, you will find time to not only get all your homework done and practice, but you will have a bit of a social life too. You will get to experience parties, bars, university sports games, road trips, dates, and simple hangouts like coffee and lunch. Trust me, it’ll be much more fun than any high school experience you missed out on. 

Yes, I said social life. I know it seems crazy to think right now that there are people out there who want to talk to you, but university is a much more welcoming and accepting environment than high school. You will be surprised at how many people will want to talk to you and be your friend. When you live on campus in your first year, you will have tons of friends outside the music faculty. You’ll also meet a lot of international students, which is always an eye-opening experience. Despite the fact that a lot of these friends you will meet have never played a musical instrument, they will be 100% supportive of your music and think you’re the coolest person ever that you can play an instrument at such a high level. And of course, you’ll meet tons of people in the music faculty who are supportive of your pursuits. 

Graduating high school is probably one of the most liberating experiences in life. You’re finally out of the prison-like structure of the public school system and you can go out and do what you’re passionate about. You don’t have to speak to any of these people that you’ve known and hated since kindergarten. You can forget about those girls you tried so hard to fit in with and they will certainly forget you. It’s hard to have to see these people every day and talk to them simply because there’s no one else to talk to. Another awesome thing about university that you don’t get in high school is each year of university, you will make new friends. That never happens in high school, once people get their friend groups figured out in grade 9 or 10, they don’t need any more friends. Moving away to a new city after high school is honestly the best decision for you and you will benefit from it in more ways than you already see. 

Congratulations on graduating high school, it’s only going to get better from here. I’m excited for you!


Your 2015 self