The day I stopped playing violin I thought I could never smile again.
It was tragic.
It was surreal.
It was my worst nightmare unleashed.
Imagine giving up something that you’ve poured blood, sweat and tears into. Something that makes you feel beautiful, strong, and powerful. A career opportunity, a passion, and a part of you that you never imagined could stop being a part of you.
It was devastating.
I stopped when my practice became too intense, and I injured myself beyond recovery.
My orchestra conductor used to tease us saying, "Practice until your fingers bleed." Could I ever imagine that too much practice would lead to such a detrimental estate? Before my injury, I was at the point in my musical journey when my instrument had become an extension of my body.
It moved when I moved,
breathed when I breathed,
and served as my fountain of my emotional expression.
So what happens when you stop playing an instrument? Not by choice, but by force.
When a doctor tells you to stop playing because the intensity is too much for your body?
Let's just say I cried every day for three years.
Night after night I sifted through memories, longing to hold my beloved instrument again. I would rub my thumb against my soft, fleshy fingers and sigh in dismay that my calluses from playing were gone.
It felt like I was in a movie, one of those dramas about someone who gets injured and has to overcome it to pursue their passion.
But my reality was not stuff of fiction.
So, I sulked, and depression got its way. And, every moment I spent longing for my violin again I lost sight of what was in front of me now.
The day I regained a smile was the day I realized it was my choice to either move on or linger in the past.
I was sitting in the prayer chapel at my university. Snow fell outside and I watched it descend in huge wet flakes. My face too was wet with tears. I cried long and hard, hoping God would take pity on me and restore my ability to play music.
It was in this moment I heard beside me the tears of someone else. She was just across the wall in the next prayer room sobbing quietly. I held my breath and listened to her. All at once my sorrows seemed to melt like the falling flakes. And I wanted to go in and put my arms around her. What did it matter that I was suffering when so many others were suffering too? What was I doing wasting time with pity parties for myself when I could be sharing my story and encouraging other people to be strong.
A few months laters I was eating vanilla ice cream in the cafeteria with my friend Jana who was telling me about her new faith in God. When I explained to her my battle with depression and longing to play music again, she noticed my eyes brimming with tears.
"Julia," she said, setting down her spoon and smiling. "Have you ever considered the years God did let you play music? Aren't you thankful that He allowed you so many years to enjoy that?"
She was right. From ages six to 18 I was able to enjoy hours of practice and performance. My tears retracted as her words sunk in and helped me see that sometimes when life doesn’t go the way we planned, we begin to waste precious hours wishing it was different. Or running in the wrong direction trying to retrieve what we’ve lost.
I’m not saying life is easy without playing violin, and I’m not saying I’ve given up hope of playing again. But it’s better to live in the present than in the past. Don't be like me and squander three years of your life wishing things were better. Count your blessings now and your blessings then.