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Listen, and listen good. See that piano in the living room? Don't ever touch it. I'm serious. It's evil. I know you're six and the ivory keys look so pretty with the small ebony ones in between. And when Grandma plays, her fingers just dance over them gracefully and I know it makes you want to chime in with a “May I have this dance?”
Call me weird, creepy, strange, whatever you want, but truth is, you're too young to understand. That vile, poor excuse for an instrument is what will ruin your life if you go near it.
Once you touch it, you'll discover that the music just bursts forth from some mysterious place in your mind. It's something you won't be able to control, like a second nature. Sounds cool, doesn't it? But after Mommy and Daddy hear you and sign you up for a few lessons, they'll exploit you. In other words, they'll show off your talent, not because they love you or because they're proud of you, but because it makes them look good. You'll eat, breathe, and sleep concerts, performances, recitals. 88 keys will become 88 teeth of a raven beast that swallows you whole.
Eventually, all of these activities are what will run your life.
“Do you want to hang out at my house after school?” You'll have a cute friend that will smile and tilt her head, expecting an answer as she asks this question. You kind of like her but you just sigh and give the age-old excuse you've been using for years now:
“Sorry, I can't.” A slanted mouth will appear on your face as you start to turn away. “I have practice.”
But of course, even something like getting the chance to spend time with one of the prettiest girls in school isn't the worst of it. I can assure you, it gets much, much worse.
Imagine a sweltering afternoon in the middle of August, made cool by the large air-conditioned auditorium. The relaxed atmosphere is deceiving, because behind the stage, tensions run high. Everyone has to prove that they are there for a reason, not just your average run-of-the-mill singer or entertainer. This is not some silly school talent show. It is beneath you to be wasting your time competing with kids that have “mediocre talent, at best” as your parents would say. Oh no, this is one of those generic “America's Got Talent”-esque shows. This thing is going nationwide. Yup, that's right they're going to broadcast this to every TV in the good ol' U.S. of A. You're the youngest one there, the one everyone is calling a “piano prodigy”, the underdog that everyone is rooting for. Friends, families, even complete strangers have all given you words of encouragement and praise.
Mommy and Daddy have spent almost all their resources just to get you here. Their prodigal son is finally going to be showcased for the whole nation to see.
How can you let them down?
Suddenly it feels like forever crammed into a few seconds as the show host with the nasally voice introduces you to what feels like the world. All you can think about as you walk on stage and sit down in front of the piano is how annoying his voice is.
Crack your knuckles. You've been doing this for years now. Look out into the audience. Can't see anyone, as usual. Lights are too bright. Somehow Grandma's smiling face comes into your mind, her eyes small but bright like there's a laughter she's trying to repress. Then you remember her dancing fingers, the fluid movement of flesh over a black and white dance floor. It's as clear as crystal...
You realize those are your hands that you're looking at.
Surprised, you make one mistake.
The small misstep of a finger, but it's enough to shatter the whole world.
You can't believe it, you've never made a mistake before. Not during a performance.
Grandma never made a mistake...
Keepplayingkeepplayingkeepplaying... But all you can focus on is that one tiny mistake.
You freeze, just like a rabbit. What else can you do in the presence of this ebony predator?
You look out in the crowd again, imagining a suspenseful look on everyone's face.
Can't even remember the song...
Humiliated, you run off the stage trying to lose yourself in a meditation of tears.
The point of all this?
Your parents kick you out, friends become embarrassed of you, family becomes distant and strangers laugh and point. Do you still believe that no matter what, family and friends will always be there for you?
It's a horrible thing to imagine, isn't it?
But this will all become a reality unless you listen to my advice.
In the end, doesn't the best advice always come from yourself?