Adequate At Being Inadequate

I play the Guzheng. It is basically a plank of wood with 21 strings held over it that makes it look like the insides of a piano. I play the Guzheng, and have been doing so for 11 years now.

I hated it. When I first started taking lessons at a tender age of 6, I felt like it would scar me forever. My teacher was a middle aged man who had a ridiculously bad temper. Every lesson, he would brandish a wooden ruler which left a red imprint on the back of my palm and on my mind, the mind that then, was like freshly a stalk of freshly grown grass. It was like someone waving a metal brand in your face and sniggering when it met your flesh as he watched you squirming away in pain. Till today, I remember the wave of nausea that would overcome me as I waited nervously waited outside the classroom. Till today, I remember the tears that stained my cheeks whenever he spoke to me directly. Till today, I remember how he made me feel with every snide remark and every nonchalant huff – inadequate.

My mother would tell you that I was his best student, that I got the least of his fury and the most of his adoration. My mother would tell you that if given a choice, he would have chosen me to take over his glorious reputation. My mother would tell you I was gifted in music, and that whenever my fingers touched those strings, I was like a fish in water. 11 years ago, I would have flat out denied it. But now, I have learnt to listen to her sing praises of me in front of distant relatives and family friends and nod in mock humbleness all the while thinking “Mannnnn, I’m good.”

I used to count down till the minute my mother-imposed practice sessions would end (they usually lasted half an hour each time), but now, I practice for hours on end, willingly. In a world that is too quickly spiraling out of control, this makes me feel like I’m actually good at doing something. Better still, nobody cares about Guzheng players (unless you’re one) because of how un-mainstream the pieces are and how oddly oriental and unfashionably sounding it is. There is no need in wanting to remain relevant, because it never was in the first place.  I have no audience, no one to please and no one that actually knows whether I’ve played a wrong note. I can play with my eyes closed (a trick I learnt while trying to catch some shut eye during 12 hour long CCA sessions), I can play with one hand or both, I can play all the notes wrong and it doesn’t matter. For the first time in a long while, it feels like no matter what I do, it’s enough. There are no standards, no lines drawn and no records to beat. Pretty neat right?

But please don’t jump into taking up classes just yet, the perks only apply when you’ve gotten your diploma. Hah, just had to throw in a humble brag. Yes, I’m that good. That’s why it makes me feel like for the first time, I’m adequate.

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