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  • My last recital was held in the downtown library auditorium, on a beautiful, shiny black grand piano in front of scores of anxious parents. I had rehearsed the difficult Russian piece on and off for weeks, but now being 17, I was a lot less interested in piano than boys and searching for that acceptance a teenager desperately needs.

    Confidently, I sailed through the beginning but as I got to the middle, somehow my hands were in the wrong place and I was confronted with a fatal truth: I had never memorized the actual music, just the general movements of my hands, like a dance of ten fingers over the keys. But once the fingers were on the wrong foot, I had no idea at all how to correct them. They were in the right position but on the wrong keys. As my mind raced, my fingers continued, desperately searching for the notes like tiny swimmers drowning In a sea of dissonance.

    Start over, I thought. Then maybe my fingers could find the right place to be. It just sounded like a child banging on the keys randomly and fiercely. I stopped, tried to collect my composure and my dignity, and started again. But as I reached that middle section, my courage was nowhere to be found.

    I stood and smiled broadly, trying to convince the audience that every note was intentional. It is a modern, existential piece, I explained with my confident curtsey. The parents sat in paralyzed shock and that gutted embarrassment you feel when watching someone fail onstage. I stared back into a stunned silence until a smattering of clapping rang from the back, probably instigated by my piano teacher, Mrs Hoffelt.

    That must be where I learned it. That day, when I felt I was in the wrong place, I started over. Because when I was married, I felt that same discord, so I started over. A second time. And a third time. Always starting over. Always with the deep, dark fear that at the end, I will stare back into a stunned silence.
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