Grad School has Begun

Wow, I’m just amazing at keeping this blog. Well to be fair, I don’t write it with the purpose of people reading it so who cares if I post entries regularly haha.
Anyway, I have officially completed about a month of grad school. A year ago, I never thought that I would be in this position. It’s been quite a journey overcoming all of these challenges that I dealt with over the past year. I’m by no means 100% alright now, but I can appreciate where I was last year and where I am now.
It’s been quite a transition moving to a new city and starting at a new school. I had the advantage of already knowing several students through summer programs and other connections, but it’s still definitely overwhelming! There are definitely things I do not miss about undergrad, but things that I do. Things are going well with my teacher here, but I do miss my undergrad teacher a lot. It never really hit me until I got here. He was like a father figure to me, I was able to confide in him and ask for advice (not just on musical things). I feel like I’m missing that here. I wish I could tell my undergrad teacher about all the amazing people I’ve met and all my adventures thus far.
I guess the next challenge is settling into a routine. The master’s schedule is generally more flexible and conducive to finding individual practice time, but I still feel like I’m all over the place. One day I’ll get in a solid 6 hours. The next day I’ll only practice 2 hours. Then the next day I do 4.
Another challenge is finding a peer group. I am fortunate to go to a school with a decent sized viola studio, I luxury I never had in undergrad, but I don’t really have a group of friends that I can regularly go out for coffee with or hang out with. I just kind of have acquaintances that I see in class everyday and people that I make casual, friendly conversation with. I guess that’s better than nothing, but I do sometimes feel a bit lonely. I know a lot of people, but I don’t have a ton of close friends. I guess it’s still early in the year and there’s still plenty of time to meet people and get to know people. I guess it’s somewhat more difficult as a master’s student to make friends because master’s students tend to be more reclusive than undergrads to begin with. I remember in undergrad I didn’t have much interaction with the master’s students until 3rd or 4th year, and even then it was limited.
Anyway, I won’t bore you too much now. I’m sure there will be more things to talk about as the year goes on. I’m a bit tired now and don’t feel like being super ranty. This was more of an update in the off chance there are people who read this blog that might be curious what I’m up to.

Coming to Terms with Myself

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a breakthrough, for real this time. Fourth year has treated me rough with numerous breakdowns and questioning of my intentions in music. I seriously thought I was not good enough and inadequate compared to my peers.
I am not inadequate. I am doing just fine. I think the major issue for my confidence issues is merely the fact that I’ve only lived in smaller cities with very few viola players. This forces me to compare myself to violinists, pianists, and other more “competitive” instruments where winning and entering competitions is a big part of what they do. That’s not necessarily a viola thing. Don’t get me wrong, there are some viola only competitions out there, but compared to the competitions made for violinists, pianists, singers, and other instruments, it’s relatively insignificant. And even those competitions that all instruments and voices can enter, the violinists, pianists, flutists, sopranos, and even cellists dominate.
Naturally, when I’ve lived in two cities where violinists, cellists, and pianists rule the world, I will feel somewhat inadequate. Of course I’m going to feel like a bad player when I’m always the one that doesn’t win the competitions when literally everyone else and their dog has. I always felt like I was doing something wrong or something was wrong with me. I didn’t want to think that my instrument choice was “bad” or “wrong” in any way.
Well, in these past few weeks, I’ve come to a realization. These people don’t play the same instrument as me. I know that sounds like a silly thing to say, but it’s so important to remember. I want an orchestral job. No violinist, pianist, or cellist is going to take that away from me; only other violists. Violin and piano careers revolve more around solo playing. Viola careers seldom involve any solo playing. There is no pressure to win or even enter competitions with violinists and pianists, so why was I putting so much unnecessary pressure on myself?
A lot of it had to do with the fact that I was trying to prove something. We all know that’s just the worst mindset to have and I learned my lesson on several occasions. Violists, as I experienced myself, usually get the short end of the stick in life. Yeah, viola jokes are just jokes, but it’s almost like there is an actual prejudice against violists. Sometimes people just legitimately think that violists are inferior to violinists. We have it harder in that sense than other “underdog” instruments like bassoon, bass, or tuba. Since the viola is so similar to the violin and most violists were once violinists, we are just constantly compared to violinists and it’s honestly really unfair and inaccurate. Violists don’t generally win competitions because our repertoire is limited and does not show off the technical brilliance of the instrument in the same way that the violin repertoire does. It’s not that we’re bad players, it’s that for so many years violists were disregarded as the “inferior musicians” and unfortunately, not a lot of good solo repertoire was written. In the modern day, we recognize the talent of violists more, but most of the great works for viola have been only been written in the past 100 years. Twentieth century works, although great pieces, are not always appreciated at competitions as much as romantic repertoire, which the viola lacks.
With this in mind, I felt like since I first picked up a viola, it was my mission to prove to everyone that I was just as good as any violinist, cellist, or pianist out there. I wasn’t going to be one of those “typical” subservient violists who doesn’t try. I was going to get some results. Of course, I set myself up for disappointment. I took not winning competitions a lot more harshly than I should have. I thought I would never get into university because I didn’t win any of these competitions and that the jerks who won the competitions instead of me that weren’t even going away to university would take it away from me. I couldn’t help but feel like I was “behind” for my age. Regardless of that, I pushed myself to do university auditions. I was more insistent on getting the heck out of there than worrying if I was good enough. When I started in university, it was like a second chance. I wasn’t competitive at all in first year, it was actually the first time in my life that I was okay with who I was and where I was at musically. I accepted myself.
This all changed with violin kid. I have actually now come to terms with him and we are actually on friendly terms. I wouldn’t call him a friend necessarily, but we can carry on a friendly conversation like normal human beings. I have gotten to the point where I don’t really care about what he does with his life as it really has no impact on me and my career goals. He wants to be a soloist or a concertmaster. It makes sense for him to put himself out there and win competitions as it will impact his career. For me, I’m an orchestral player, so putting myself out there for orchestral opportunities is what I need. Back then, I saw him as a threat. I reverted back to my high school mentality. It seemed like the whole school was in love with him and I needed to show him who’s boss. It almost felt like the people who supported me in first year had “converted” to supporting him. I became obsessed with the idea of beating him in a competition to prove to everyone that violists are just as good as violinists and that I was a good player too.
As you can imagine, that is just a complete waste of time. It didn’t work in high school, why would it work in university? That mentality never works and I’m glad I learned that lesson now in university and not while I’m trying to get a job or something. I’ve actually “retired” from competitions in a sense. There was a scholarship competition in January that I made a conscious decision not to enter. I feel so much better about myself for not entering competitions. I know that getting an orchestral job is a competition, but I’ve been disappointed enough times in competitions, I think I’m familiar with it enough that I’ll be fine in the real world. Plus, I don’t have to worry about violinists, pianists, and cellists.
I think going away to do my master’s will be the right thing. I know I’ve talked a lot on here about my anxieties with going away and worrying about not being good enough, but I think it will be the fresh start I need. Sure, I may meet more violinists that drive me insane and I may not necessarily be “running away” from problems, but at least I will have more violas at my side. I think being in a school where there are more violists will actually help a lot of the issues I’ve had my whole life. Because there will be more violists, I won’t feel like I have to compare myself to violinists and pianists anymore. Sure, there may be violists that are better than me and winning competitions, but at least I’m not unrealistically comparing myself to people who don’t play the same instrument I do.
Here I am, a fourth year student, about to go off to grad school auditions in a couple days. I feel like I’ve come full circle now. In first year, I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove and I was okay with where I was at musically. I had some ups and downs in second, third, and the first half of fourth year. But here I am, once again, not feeling like I have anything to prove and okay with where I’m at musically. I feel like I’m finally ready to take on grad school auditions.

What am I doing with my life?

The question all music majors ask themselves at some point. It is a career path with such uncertainty and no one knows where they’ll be in 5 years. While you’re in school, you are subject to so much criticism (albeit constructive), but it’s normal to fell like you suck. Today (well yesterday because I’m pre-writing), I had somewhat of a quasi mental breakdown.

With grad school auditions coming up, I often worry if I will be good enough. I question every thing I have ever done in my life and find myself being concerned with “If I did this one thing differently, everything would be better”. I think about my time when I was in high school and growing up in my hometown. If you’ve read any previous entries in this blog, you’ll know that I have always felt like I got the short end of the stick. I had to watch other people constantly win competitions, even when they didn’t necessarily deserve it. I felt like the classical music version of Leonardo DiCaprio (that awkward moment if you’re reading this entry in the future and he actually won an Oscar). I always had this thought in the back of my mind that I would have a chance of winning these competitions as the people who were older than me graduated and moved away. It turns out the people younger than me took over. I remember very distinctly at the place I took my music lessons at had an awards ceremony at the end of the year where they handed out various scholarships/medals to hard-working students. They had this very prestigious award (or at least that was what I thought it was) that was called the Director’s gold medal or something. Basically, you get your name added to the plaque on the wall and everyone thinks you’re the greatest person on earth. Naturally, I wanted this award more than anything. The things they looked for were attendance and preparation in lessons, a high level of performance, and participation in recitals. I went out of my way to make sure I excelled in those areas. In grade 11, I was up every morning at 6am to squeeze in an extra hour of practice before school. I performed in 5 or 6 recitals that year too. I didn’t get selected and I was initially quite upset because that was the year I wanted it so I could put it on my resume for university applications. I eventually got over it and focused on trying to get it for grade 12. You know what happens next though. I did not receive this award in grade 12. I was just as consistent with my preparation for lessons and work ethic, yet it was not noticed. I felt like all that work was for “nothing”. The part that made it a huge slap in the face was that they had given it to someone who was a year younger than me, had won it in the past, and wasn’t planning to go into music. I was convinced that there were people from my hometown that were just closed-minded and didn’t think I had the potential to succeed in a career in music so they all conspired to make sure that I never won any competitions or awards.

When I did go away to pursue music, I forgot about a lot of this stuff and didn’t let it bother me. At the same time, it was still in the back of my mind. I was convinced that so and so was out there rooting for me to fail and drop out of music. It almost gave me this sense that I needed to prove that I was good enough and that I was doing well. After first year I entered the music festival in my hometown. There were a lot of university kids who had the same idea though, so I didn’t really win anything. It wasn’t as embarrassing though because these people were already older and better than me and it would have taken a miracle for me to play better than them. After my second year, I entered in the same festival again. It turned out that I was the oldest competitor this time so while I tried not to let it get to my head, I thought that I might have a better chance. I did win some of the competitions that I’d entered in for years, but it wasn’t really a satisfying win, it was more or less just expected given I was the oldest, most qualified, and musical candidate. There were a couple times I lost to the “superstar little kids” who were still in high school at the time. Needless to say it was slightly embarrassing, as a music major, to lose to people who were still in high school. I got selected to the provincial festival and got beaten out by a cellist who was a 3rd year engineering student. Whaaaat? That was the last year I did the music festival in my hometown and I can’t see myself doing it ever again in my life.

If you have read anything on this blog before, you know that I’m not exactly having more success at my school currently with respect to competitions. I know competitions aren’t everything, but I still can’t help but wonder what I’ve been doing wrong all these years. Yes, intonation is probably my biggest struggle, but it can’t be the only thing. It’s not my instrument choice either, I’ve watched other violists and other “underdog” instruments like guitar or bassoon win competitions. I would totally be best buds with Leo DiCaprio at this rate, except he has a better chance of winning an Oscar than I do of winning a competition. I’ve given up on entering competitions at my school too. There’s a scholarship competition in January coming up soon and I’m just like f*ck it. I will be out of town for the final round anyway so if I did enter, although no matter how well I play I wouldn’t make it to the finals, I’d still feel like I have to go out of my way to slough it off which isn’t worth it. I’m tired of feeling like a worthless piece of sh!t as this is not conducive to my 4th year recital and grad school auditions coming up. Competitions make me feel like sh!t, when I don’t enter them, I’m fine.

It does concern me on a larger scale though. The two cities I’ve lived in are relatively small centres in Canada as a whole. It’s really not hard to stand out, but somehow I am unsuccessful at that. My concern is that if I can’t even get recognized for a silly thing like the director’s gold medal or the university concerto competition, how am I going to make it on the national and international level? There is no “better luck next time” or “keep up the good work” in the real world. I can only be unsuccessful at so many auditions before I have to give up and find a career outside music. I can’t continue this 10+ year “dry spell” that I’ve been having much longer. I need to start standing out and achieving things. I worry that because I don’t have the skills to stand out in small schools/cities that I will not stand out in grad school auditions either. There will be students from all over the country and possibly internationally as well that are competing against me. I may be good enough for my small school (who isn’t, let’s be real) but I’m applying to the big schools in Canada and they may not have so much tolerance for my sh!t. One out of tune note and I’m gone. I’m taking a huge risk too, if I don’t get accepted into one of the three schools I’m applying to, I have to wait a whole year to try again. I should have applied to the school I go to currently for master’s as a backup, but I’m not that desperate to do a master’s that I would attend my school for another 2 years. I’ve had enough of this place. I guess if I don’t get into a master’s I’m not going through all this application and audition sh!t again so that’s the end of the road for my music career. To recap, if I f*ck up with my auditions, I’m potentially screwing up my whole life. No pressure.

But the problem is I have mental breakdowns like these, then I’ll turn around and have the most successful practice session. Now I’m back to feeling confident and motivated about my auditions. Why can’t I make up my mind and just be confident or just be depressed? I figured out this section that I was really struggling with in one of my pieces. I rehearsed with the accompanist and had a coaching with my teacher and it just was not a good time at all, but I fixed it! I really fixed it! I guess the important thing to remember is you always accomplish things, even if they seem futile or mundane to others or yourself. I just sometimes have to ignore all these people out there and winning competitions and focus on my little successes of figuring out a tricky rhythm. The grass isn’t greener on the other side either. For example, I always liked the idea of winning the concerto competition in 3rd year so I could play with the orchestra in 4th year and it would be like a nice “send-off” or “grad gift”. Now that I’m in 4th year, I’m incredibly thankful I’m not preparing a concerto to play with the orchestra on top of all my grad school and recital sh*t! I’m in way over my head with the stuff I have to do, I couldn’t imagine doing much more at the moment!

I’m just keeping my eyes on the prize. Things are so stressful right now with my grad school auditions around the corner. Before I leave, I’m doing my 4th year recital! It’s pretty insane! But I know that in March, I will be so thankful I got all of that done and I can just enjoy the last 2 months of my undergrad. I can learn any pieces I want, do some more chamber music stuff, and just relax. And then this summer, I’m going to learn how to take a real break. I only applied to 2 programs, both of which are 3 weeks (no longer than a month). I will only do one of those (whichever I get accepted to basically). Then, I can do whatever I want with no specific purpose. And then grad school (if I make it) starts. Yay me!

Supporting Your Peers Through Good Times and Bad

I’ve been checking the stats on this blog (more or less out of curiosity). I have never intended to have tons of readers or have this blog discovered by many people just given the nature of it. This blog (well, let’s be real, diary) has actually helped me immensely by putting my feelings and thoughts into words, even if it’s the most irrational, negative, self-deprecating thing you’ve ever read. The more people who read it, the more likely my identity is going to be revealed. I would feel bad if any of the people I said slightly negative things found this blog and called me out on it, even if violin kid found it I would feel bad! Thankfully, I can see the countries of the viewers to my blog and there are very few views from Canada (where I’m from) so the odds that anyone even remotely could have an idea of who I am is very slim and I want to keep it that way.

However, I’ve also noticed that the readers that I have on this blog have also dwindled. Not like I had tons before, but I would get the odd comment or like from people who genuinely enjoyed the content on this blog. One reason is that I don’t post regularly. I used to post every Friday on a variety of topics, and it wouldn’t be just about me. I would talk about topics that there could be a variety of opinions and thoughts on, like a “normal” blog. People like to read blogs that post often and regularly on a predictable schedule. People also like to read grammatically correct and coherent posts. I seldom proofread my entries. For not proofreading, I would like to think that I write very goodly, but occasionally I’ll read an old entry and find errors including spelling mistakes, run-on sentences, or incoherent sentence fragments. However, the way I see it is that this blog is more of a diary for me, would you proofread and edit your diary entries?

I feel like most of my entries for the past 4 months have been negative and self-deprecating, which reflects how I feel, but no one wants to read that. I’m not always a negative, bitter person, but that’s what people have seen in the past 4 months. I can totally relate, I don’t want to be around people who are boring and depressing all the time, but at the same time, those are the people that need the support the most. My last post that was successful was “Beginning to Feel like Myself Again” with 6(!) likes because it was positive and encouraging. Yes there were some ranty bits, but I talked about how I was going to overcome my anxiety about grad school and get back in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way begging for readers or trying to reach out to the random 3 people from Japan, United States, and Turkey who read my blog, but I’m just stating an observation.

I parallel this lack of interest (if there ever really was any) in this blog to my situation in real life. I feel like because November was a hard month for me, it was almost as if people didn’t want to talk to me or support me anymore. I’m not trying to be a drama queen, it legitimately feels like people are pushing away from me. Last year was a much more successful year for me and I felt like I always had a group of friends (albeit small) who genuinely cared about me and were always there for me. Of course, my family and my teacher are there for me no matter what, but the support from peers is just as important. I feel like this year because I had a rough start and a rough November, that people don’t want to be around me or go support me at my concerts. It may seem like I’m being over sensitive about little things, but the little things add up.

For example, I wrote two entries about the Concerto Competition. I know you’re sick of me harping on that (even if this is the first time you’ve read this blog), but I’m only briefly mentioning it. My pianist friend who accompanied me was helping me prepare and getting me pumped up for the performance, as any good friend should. The performance generally went well and there were a few rather noticeable wrong notes, but that’s just life as a performer. When I inevitably wasn’t selected to move on to the final round, it seemed as if my friend was less enthusiastic about my playing. We rehearsed for another piece later that week and she didn’t have as many positive things to say about my piece (nothing negative) but she wasn’t as excited to work on it. After the concerto competition final round, she wouldn’t stop bragging about the guitarist she played for and how well he played (despite not being selected as a winner) and thought maybe he should have won. Last year at the concerto competition after the final (she had won that year), she told me that she would have loved to see me play in the final round and share the winning title with her and that was genuine, she didn’t just say that because she felt she had to. This year, she didn’t even acknowledge that I’d played in the preliminary round and never brings it up. All she talks about is the guitar guy who made it to the final. I don’t like it when people say “You should have won”, but I appreciate the thought behind it. What, am I not good enough to play with her now? Do I really spoil her “fragile” reputation that much?

After the concerto competition, I’d signed up to play in some noon hour recitals. One for some unaccompanied Bach and the other two were with chamber groups. Normally, the issue with noon hour recitals is random people show up (and I’m guilty of it too) because they have to attend so many recitals to get a credit. But I like to go to recitals that my friends are involved in even if I’ve fulfilled all my credits because I believe it’s important to support my peers. I definitely told her about these recitals. I wasn’t going to be super anal about it and be like “You should go”, but I thought since we were friends that was implied. I’ve always gone to every noon hour recital she’s done and if there was a reason that I couldn’t, I told her and said I would have loved to be there. To my knowledge, she did not go to any of these recitals. In fact, none of my friends or supporters were at these recitals that I knew of. Of course, random people who were at the recital said “good job” as I passed them in the hallway, but they were probably just there to get a credit and happened to see me and thought it would be polite to say “good job”, but otherwise would have no reason to talk to me. I hate how music school is basically a “glorified” high school sometimes, people just never really grow up.

My friend never apologized or told me why she wasn’t at any of these recitals. There were 3 of them. I thought for sure she’d come to the third one because I did a piece with a singer and she does a lot of vocal accompaniment, but no. Although I never made it clear that I wanted her there, it was implied. I always went to her recitals whether she specifically invited me or not. And yes, she is the type of person who would normally apologize about missing a recital or concert that I was in. She missed the orchestra concert in October and texted me later that night apologizing that her rehearsal ran late, there wasn’t enough time to bus there, and she was feeling a bit sick and tired anyway. I wasn’t mad about that, sh*t happens. But I was a bit offended that I was involved in three recitals in a short period of time that she knew about and did not make effort to attend at least one. She may not realize that I was offended by this, but it’s too awkward to bring up. She’s playing for my final recital and until then, I don’t want to cause any fights or disagreement between us because I can’t take any chances on my recital potentially being sabotaged. She’s normally pretty reasonable, if I mentioned it, she probably would apologize but then it’s not a sincere apology because she would only apologize because I basically told her to.

It’s little things like that which add up and bother me. Maybe she’s pulling away from me because she senses that I’m not playing as well as I did last year and I’m a bit more depressed,  but that’s no excuse. Honestly, I feel like I could use more support than ever and I’m getting less than I ever did. True friends stick around in the good times and the bad. She’s been going through some tough times too and I’ve been there for her, but I feel like that’s not being reciprocated back to me. Like I said, I don’t want to axe her as a friend until after my recital (if I even need to go that route), but I don’t like the way she has been acting around me lately, and it all started because of the Concerto Competition. If I never played in the competition, I wonder if she would be supporting me and attending my recitals. She wouldn’t have seen how “bad” and “hopeless” I am and she wouldn’t be so embarrassed to be associated with me, well at least that’s the impression she is giving. It’s a general pattern in the music faculty, and just life in general. People tend to flock around people who are doing well and steer away from people who are depressed and bitter all the time.

Whether this blog ever gets more views or not, just know, to the three people who might read this, that it is important to support your friends through good times and bad. I know I may seem like I’ve pushed away people too, but now I feel like after having some space, I am ready to let people back in and I feel like they’re just done with me. I would say I’m glad I’m moving away and going to grad school next year, but moving to a new city is only a temporary solution to your problems. I found that out the hard way when I went away to do my undergrad. My first year was amazing and blissful and second year was a harsh blow of reality. Maybe that’s why people don’t care about me. I’m moving away anyway so whatever, they don’t have to deal with me for much longer.

Anyway, that’s all for today. I’m on winter break right now. I’ve been at home for about a week and I still have about another 2 weeks to relax at home. It’s pretty sweet. Having that physical distance away from school and the people in question has helped me a bit. Perhaps January will be a fresh start for everyone and all this nonsense will be totally irrelevant and not even worth confronting people about.

Beginning to Feel Like Myself Again

I think I may be on my way to snapping out of whatever kind of weird mood I’m in. Please refer to the previous post “Fourth Year Struggles” if you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Monday was not really a good day for me. I have no classes until orchestra in the evening and it’s always my intention to wake up somewhat early in the morning to practice. Even 9:00 is reasonable. That way, I don’t have to stay late and practice after orchestra like I’ve been doing the past three years and I can just go home, relax, and go to bed early. I had my alarm set for 9:00 and when it went off I just couldn’t physically drag myself out of bed. Most of the time it was because a thought or a memory would come into my mind and I’d cry about it or just not be able to stop thinking about it. By the time I’d actually fall asleep it might be 3 or 4am. That wasn’t the first time I tried to wake up at 9:00am on a weekday morning where I had no morning classes, but of course every morning I would hope for something different. I went back to sleep again and woke up around noon some time. Obviously I have to get out of bed now. I couldn’t even bring myself to go practice in the afternoon. I pretty much went to orchestra without having played that day. I went to practice a bit after orchestra but it did not go so well.

Tuesday is a new day, right? Not really. I had class in the morning, so I dragged myself out of bed at the last possible minute to make it to class. I practiced a bit in the afternoon again with no success. My Pilates class at the gym was starting that evening, so I figured if I went to that I would start to feel better. Exercise is the best thing when you’re feeling down right? I thought I could just jump right back into my regular routine. Last year, I’d go to this cardio/strength drop in class and then go straight into Pilates and I’d always feel great after it. I was fine after the first class but as soon as I got to Pilates I was just so physically drained. I could barely make it through all the poses. I could have curled up into a ball and fallen asleep on my mat. When class was done, I got out of there as fast as I could. The fatigue I was experiencing was overwhelming, worse than the fatigue that hit me when I was out for supper with my parents that time. I also had a headache/migraine. Every time I looked at a light, or even my phone, my head would just throb. To give you an idea of how fatigued I was, the Pilates class ended at 7:10 and I was in bed by 8:00. I wasted no time getting out of there and getting home. I feel asleep almost instantly. I had to lie down immediately as an overwhelming feeling of nausea had taken over. I woke up around midnight and felt a lot better. My headache subsided so I was able to check my phone and catch up on email, messages, and Facebook. I went back to sleep, again falling asleep instantly. I woke up at 9:00am the next morning like I had been trying to do the past month with success. I guess it was kind of cheating though, going to bed at 8:00pm, it’s hard to sleep in until noon.

I attributed the extreme fatigue I experienced to the lack of sleep and the poor quality sleep I had been getting due to the quasi anxiety and depression I was experiencing as well as the worrying about everything in general. I also googled the symptoms I had (because that’s always a good idea), and I got a bunch of pages that said exercise intolerance. It makes sense. I was perhaps a bit too ambitious for my first day back to the gym. I haven’t really gone to a gym since last year as I ride my bike and exercise outdoors during the summer. It’s not that I wasn’t capable of doing a workout like that (I did that exact workout every week last year), it’s just that I should have worked up to it and not done that on my first day back to the gym after a long summer. One good thing that came out of this is that I had the best sleep ever on Tuesday night. I felt so refreshed on Wednesday and it was generally a good day. I practiced for almost 4 hours! That’s the most I’ve practiced this school year.

Thursday was another good day, I got lots of practicing done. I went to a hot yoga class that evening as I had a free drop in coupon. It was super intense but it felt really good. I’ve done hot yoga before, but it wasn’t the authentic hot yoga, it was, as the instructor described, “Yoga in a warm room”. I was taken aback by how intense it was and how much I sweat. I don’t sweat tons when I go to the gym, I don’t usually need to bring a towel or anything, so I only brought a small hand towel. By the end of the class, my mat was a slip n’ slide of my sweat. I couldn’t even do any of the poses in the last 15 minutes of class because my mat was too slippery and the heat was so intense. The instructor said to take breaks whenever you want so I took up on that. I felt really invigorated afterward though, I didn’t experience any exercise intolerance so that was good.

Friday is basically a day off for me (relatively speaking for music majors) so I just slept and guess what. I woke up this morning at 8:50am, without an alarm and I felt refreshed. What is this sorcery? I went on my bike to get some groceries in the morning and did some errands. I was that person and went to a drive thru ATM on my bike. In my defense there was no bike rack or space to lock up my bike. There was no one around and of course as soon as I start doing my banking a line of actual cars appears out of nowhere. Murphy’s law at its finest. I practiced in the afternoon and got some good work. This evening I thought I’d just relax and have some me time so I didn’t practice quite 4 hours today, but I’m finally starting to feel optimistic about this year. Things are looking up. I’m going to graduate and kick some grad school audition butt!

Fourth Year Struggles

Hello again! My postings on this blog are somewhat sporadic but I just haven’t really been in the mood to write anything lately (as you will see later on in this post). I began my fourth year of school two weeks ago and it hasn’t been treating me well.

I arrived on Saturday the 5th. I unpacked some stuff at my place and eventually got too tired so I just went to bed and planned to continue the next day. I didn’t think much of it. I woke up on Sunday and went about my day as usual. I was out for dinner with my parents. They had dropped me off and were planning to go back home the next morning so I wanted to go out with them before they left. I was fine when we got to the restaurant but all of a sudden this wave of extreme fatigue hit me. I was just so physically exhausted out of nowhere, I couldn’t even finish my meal. I was planning to hang out with my parents a bit more but I was just so drained that I had them take me home. It was 8:00pm. I went straight to bed and woke up on Monday morning (the labour day holiday) at noon. Mind you I wasn’t sleeping the whole time, I had trouble falling asleep as I had a lot on my mind and there were some loud hooligans in the hallway. On Monday I spent almost the entire day in bed watching YouTube videos. I would drag myself out of bed occasionally to go eat something but then it was right back to my YouTube watching. You’d think I was recovering from surgery or something. Getting in contact with my friends to see what they were up to was out of the question.

I didn’t really think much of it at first but I began to think that maybe there was something wrong. Normally I’m as motivated as ever to begin a school year and then later on I lose my motivation. Never have I began a school year wanting to lay in bed all day and not talk to anyone. Why the lack of motivation? Part of it was the summer program I was in. I had done the exact program in summer 2014 and it was amazing. I began third year more motivated then ever and I worked incredibly hard that year in all aspects. I do the same program again in 2015 and it has the opposite affect. I come back to school feeling defeated and inadequate. The level of playing at the program was exceptionally high this summer and I just felt like I didn’t belong musically. I’d see all these amazing people doing amazing things that I’ll never get an opportunity to do or be able to do and it just made me think, “Why do I bother?”

Also, what comes with being a fourth year is the looming thought of what I will do next year. Of course, there are the societal pressures to go to grad school. Ever since I was in grade 12 I knew I wanted to go to grad school. There was no question about it. Now, I’m not so sure if I should even continue in music. I really want to, it is something that I love doing and I can picture myself having a career in, but I am concerned if I am disciplined/skilled enough and have the mental fortitude to pursue it. I mean, if I get so offended and heartbroken from losing some meaningless competition at my school, how would I handle losing an audition at a professional orchestra? I can’t sit around in my room crying for days every time something doesn’t go my way in the real world. There is also the option of taking a year off but that is also frowned upon by people. The more years you spend working, the harder it is to go back to being a student.

I was always so opposed to and disturbed by the idea of taking a year off, but now I honestly think it might be best for my mental health. After two summers of doing programs, I feel like I’ve been in school nonstop since the beginning of second year. I haven’t had a real break. As sad as it sounds, I’m at a point where I need a break from music. The pressures of being a music student/musician are getting to me too much. But then again, maybe the summer is all I need and I can have a fresh start next year at grad school. As much as I want a break, if I start grad school right away after my undergrad, then I can be done and take as long of a break as I want. If I take a year off, it will be nice but I will only be prolonging my schooling. Why is life so hard?

I thought once classes started and I got into a routine I’d snap out of whatever this was. Not really the case. I haven’t had any days where I spent the entire day lying in bed, but I haven’t exactly been in the practice rooms for my 4+ hours a day either. If anything, this is the year where I need to get my sh*t together and practice more than ever. But no. It’s not that I haven’t practiced, I’ve made some good progress on the Clarke Sonata and my unaccompanied Bach, I’ve just been dragging my heels on my concerto and my other recital rep which I haven’t even confirmed yet. Yay me. I have to have all this rep learned by January/February if I’m going to be doing grad school auditions and I’ve wasted most of September moping around. I mean, it’s not too late to turn things around. There’s still 9 or so days left in September and at least 3 or 4 months left. I thought I’d gotten myself back on track last week, but then I fell back into my moping again. It’s kind of concerning, if I don’t start getting my act together soon, then I won’t be able to learn my rep in time for grad school auditions and I’ll have no choice but to take a year off. At least if I can push myself through the auditions, I have the option to change my mind or defer it for another year.

I guess if it’s any solace, I’m probably not the first music student, and won’t be the last, to feel like this in fourth year. It’s a stressful time. I’m so close to the end of my schooling and the beginning of my professional life. There are so many options available to me both in music and not in music. I guess I just have to take things one step at a time and get through this year first. I’ve gotten through 3 years of university, why should this one be any different? I have to find that sense of motivation and determination within myself. It’s there, I know it. I wouldn’t have made it this far if it wasn’t. I need some more positive self talk, rather than focusing on negative things.