October 29, 2011

The following post is a sequel to this post about perfection and improvement.

I began my musical education when I was just a bambino, with musicians for parents, and it continued (more officially) throughout grade school, my (6) years of college, my internship, and professionally, to this day.  I’m a singer by practice, but at this point, I’m more of a practical musician than anything else.  I’m a decent rhythm guitar player, a good pianist, I can play various hand drums and auxiliary percussion instruments (woohoo!), and I can play most songs by ear to some extent.  I have relative pitch, so I can stay on key easily, but I don’t have the nails-on-a-chalkboard aggravation when someone changes the key of a song, like people with perfect pitch sometimes have.  I’ve gotten pretty good at some things over the years, and am still improving every day.  I’m not a virtuoso, and that’s okay (hey – that rhymed!).

I’m not trying to impress anyone in this work, right?

Right.  Unless I’m trying to impress myself.  I hold my music-therapist-self to high standards usually, so I try to do my best.  My best, though, is NOT playing everything perfectly, and always making the right choices, clinically.  It IS challenging myself and taking risks as often as possible, which means that I also have to have a lot of patience with myself when it comes to making mistakes.  It’s important for people in any job to take risks and chances, and if we don’t, we’re really not learning.  Patience is a virtue that helps us improve, not one that wants us to be perfect.

I have forgotten the lyrics to a song, and had to instead lead an impromptu improvisation exercise.  I have said the wrong thing to clients, and I learned not to say those things again.  I have asked questions with confusing wording, and have had to change the question numerous times in order to find just the right one for certain clients.  I have started songs in difficult keys for my clients, and had to transpose into a different key for the next time.  Just two days ago, I gave someone an instrument that ended up being very distracting for him, and I had to do a switcheroo.  It happens all the time. Oh well!  No harm done, and I learned something new about that resident.  The list of things I have done that I would do differently the next time goes on and on and on.  And I’m glad.  If I expected everything to go perfectly the first time, I would end up being sorely disappointed.  If I’m not able to make mistakes and learn from them, I’m really not doing my job effectively.

Most importantly, it takes time to learn.  We dont pop out of the womb knowing everything.  We learn new things, little by little, step by step.  When we’re babies, we learn how to turn over, crawl, walk, talk, and socialize (among other things, of course) at different stages of our infancy, and some of those take longer than others for us to achieve.  Some of those things are a constant process, like language (which unfortunately some adults still don’t have a good grasp on :P) and socialization (with every new person we meet, we learn new rules of that game).

With each stage of our lives, we learn different things, and it’s important for us to really experience and marinate in each of those stages in order to be present and self-aware.  It seems counterproductive to place pressure on ourselves in learning situations, especially when there is sometimes a scheduled process that our progress is dictated by.

As is with any process, whether it be playing piano, practicing yoga, learning to cook, re-learning how to use computers with each update and technological advance, or becoming a therapist, there are stages and milestones, but we’re really always improving ourselves and learning new things.  Which takes patience.  What concert pianists do you know who have stopped challenging their dexterity and musical abilities, and have decided that the most difficult piece they can play is “Rhapsody in Blue?”  I could make more comparisons, but you get the point…

You (and I) are NEVER going to be perfect, and we need to have patience with ourselves wherever we’re at in order to progress.



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