What Playing An Instrument Has Taught Me

What Playing An Instrument Has Taught Me

Music lessons are actually life lessons.

“Wee Small Bear” was my first piano piece. According to the song, “Wee small bear, [wore] wee small shoes, slept in his wee small bed. He [wore] a wee small baseball cap upon his wee small head.” I learned a lot from the wee small bear, but, as I continued to take piano lessons and enter competitions through high school, I learned a lot more. After 13 years of playing the piano, music is not only a part of who am, but it has made me into who I am. I have music to thank for developing the following qualities.


Each year, my teacher would give me piano pieces that pushed me just far enough past my level that they seemed impossible. Learning new music requires hours of monotonous repetition and practice that often leads people to write off playing an instrument as boring. However, I've learned that as long as I stay motivated, I can nail any difficult passage. I can ace the most daunting exam. I just have to be self-driven.

Work Ethic

If you only put a fraction of effort into learning a piano piece, there is no hiding it when you step onto the stage to perform. It is too late. I've been there. I've blanked out. I have wanted to run off of the stage in shame. When it comes time to perform, all that matters is the work that you put in beforehand. You can luck out and slide by on rare occasions, but true success means hard work in both piano and in life.


Performing on a stage with strangers and experts judging you makes a lot of other things in life less unnerving. Confidence is key (pun totally intended). Intimidating situations can make it feel like everyone wants to watch you fail, but the truth is that there are a lot of people rooting for you.


Playing an instrument teaches you that practice does not always make perfect. Practice makes permanent. It's only when you are completely invested in what you are doing that you can make the best use of your time.


When someone has their favorite piece memorized, they don't say, "I can play it by my hippocampus." They say, "I can play it by heart." We know that there is a difference in playing by rote memorization and by heart. When you play by heart, performing is no longer about the notes and dynamics. It is more about channeling the feeling of the piece and letting the music tell a story. You can learn all of the notes and have all the focus, but your performance will be lackluster without the realization that music is powerful. Music has the ability to reach and inspire others and you can harness its power to do the same.

Goal Setting

Mastering difficult music has taught me that I can accomplish practically anything that I set my mind to. Just as I would divide a piece into measures and subsections to learn, accomplishing big goals means setting smaller goals. It has also taught me that sometimes you make mistakes, but that is no reason to stop trying.

Playing the piano will never just be a hobby to me. Learning to play was the first time that I felt a fire to not be just good, but the best. I did not win every competition that I entered, but, as cliché as this may be, the true victory was in the lessons that I learned along the way. Today, I am not majoring in piano and my competitive career has ended, but I continue to take lessons. This gives me a chance to not only grow as a musician and spend time playing the instrument I love, but also to look for new pursuits to strive to be my best in and work toward with a fire in my heart.

Cover Image Credit: Suzie Higginbotham Photography

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

From an outside perspective, suicidal thoughts are rarely looked into deeper than the surface level. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is that people live in between those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead.

You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Tanya Gold, Your Fatphobic Article Is Uneducated And Arrogant

BREAKING NEWS: Women come in all different shapes and sizes!


Just recently, Nike released a plus-size mannequin at one of their stores in London that showed off their plus-size leggings and sports bra. And, because we live in a world where being fat or overweight or obese is somehow the worst thing in the world to some people, this has sparked a lot of discussion.

Tanya Gold wrote an article for The Telegraph saying that this mannequin “cannot run" and is “likely pre-diabetic" and “on her way to a hip-replacement." Not only is Tanya's article uneducated and poorly written, it's completely fatphobic and embarrassing.

What I would like to know is this: why can't plus-size women work out in Nike clothes just like a size 2 woman? People want to scream from the rooftops that plus-size women are fat because they don't exercise and when companies FINALLY start catering to plus-size women with clothes they can EXERCISE IN, people lose their minds and think that they're promoting obesity.

What are plus sized women supposed to work out in if they can't even wear Nike leggings without being fat-shamed?

Would you rather them wear jeans? Overalls? A parka, maybe? What about a garbage bag?

Let's also discuss the fact that being overweight doesn't equal being unhealthy, just like being at a “normal" weight doesn't make you healthy. Did you ever stop to think that some women have diseases that make them gain weight that they, in return, can't lose? Some women can eat salad for every single meal, seven days a week and they still can't lose weight.

Let's all say this together: SIZE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FITNESS. Being thin doesn't equal being healthy and being overweight doesn't equal being unhealthy.

Everyone (and yes, I mean EVERYONE) should be able to be comfortable in their own skin AND in their clothes.

You can't sit and pout saying that fat people don't care about their health and then when they want comfortable clothes to wear while they're EXERCISING, hell has frozen over and how dare Nike cater to people who aren't a size 2.

Tanya, be honest with yourself. You aren't anywhere near a size 2, either, so where is all of this coming from? Are you self-loathing? Do you have some kind of internal fatphobia?

Pick a side, Tanya. You can't hate people who are overweight because you think that they aren't exercising and then when they do exercise and they get clothes that cater to them, it's all of the sudden wrong and horrible.

We are damned if we do, damned if we don't. As if women (and men) weren't already being shamed enough for being plus size, we're now being made to feel bad because a brand caters to our size so we can wear the same clothes all of the other sizes can wear.

Thank you, Nike, for making your brand more inclusive for all shapes and sizes so we can ALL feel confident in our clothes.

I think it's worth mentioning that Nike released their plus-size line in 2017 AKA 2 years ago... Why weren't you mad then?

Oh, and, Tanya Gold, you might want to stop smoking since you're all about being healthy, right? You don't want to get lung cancer or anything, do you?

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