Pre-cursor: If you or someone you know is going through abuse of any kind, do something; tell someone. You are not alone.
In high school, percussion was all I did. During the school day, I had two class periods devoted to it, and had practices after school every day. We would practice all day on Saturdays as well, if we weren't gone all weekend for a performance. I loved every minute of it.
Yet, what used to have such a significant part of my life has now become something I'm afraid to even think of participating in all because of somebody's lack of love. Unfortunately, the idea of abuse in music is all too real, yet never talked about. Similarly to how the movie "Whiplash" plays out, many are pushed to the edge by music instructors who see potential in students and decide to use extreme and harsh teaching methods as motivation. This causes most to quit, but some push themselves farther and farther until they hit a wall trying to impress an instructor who's never quite happy. Others will even go to alternative extremes in order to please.
Because this issue is so well-hidden, I decided to finally speak out. Therefore, this article is for you, who pushed me to the point of constantly fearing what I once loved:
I will never quite understand what I did wrong. I have always wanted to ask why you pushed me so far. Was it because you saw potential in me, or was it because you saw weakness? Whatever the reasoning, it really didn't do me any justice. To this day, I beat myself up if I play one wrong note; have one missed key change; exhibit one moment of dragging or rushing. You have instilled in me a mentality of fearing mistakes and only seeing myself as worthy if I achieve absolute perfection. Yet, since perfection is impossible, I am in this perpetual cycle of beating myself up over and over again, the same way you had done to me for years.
I know I wasn't always the best student. I remember one time that I felt I was being treated unfairly, and I fought back. That's just what I do; but boy did I learn from you that there's always someone who is going to fight back even harder. As someone who's always been so social, I had never felt so silenced. The words, "What the hell is wrong with you?!" still echo loudly in my ears. From then on, I stayed silent. Even music couldn't be my voice anymore. You took that away from me.
I think you forgot how young I was. When someone is only 15, and someone else that is over double their age is constantly displeased, it makes them feel like a failure. I was still growing up and learning how to deal with my emotions in this world around me.
You taught me a lot through all of this though, like dealing with emotions by hiding them and letting them build up inside; by internalizing them and taking them out on myself. You taught me that I should never be pleased with myself because perfection is the only goal I should have, and everything else is just "sh*t", as you would call it. Lastly, you taught me that there's always someone who can replace you. You would constantly take my instrument away from me saying, "you never deserved this", and give it to someone else. Then, when they displeased you, you'd take it away from them and give it back to me, getting my hopes up only for the cycle to happen again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
To this day, I watch the band at Notre Dame, and my heart breaks a little bit every time I see them. I wish I had the life left inside of me to join them on the field. But instead, I chicken out in fear that this will all happen again.
I would like to let you know that I am healing though. Finally, the pieces have recently started coming back together. I have begun playing again, and I don't feel bad about doing so. Though my heart was stone with you around, it has begun to fill up again. I may have a long way to go, but I promise you that I am getting better, and I won't be stopping that now.
My heart is again filling with love and music, and I hope the same happens for you. I hope you see the potential in everyone, instead of dismissing them. I hope you begin to show others how music is a gift, rather than a constant competition with oneself. I hope you give others the time of day to show you that they're really not that bad. I hope that this never happened to you. Maybe it did. Maybe that's why you're hurting others, because of the hurt inside yourself. I hope that self-hate begins to heal for you as well. Most importantly, I hope you know I forgive you.
I will continue look towards my musical future with open arms and a brighter disposition. And I will always remember the most important lesson I've learned at the end of all of this: no matter what happens, play on.