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Another Competition This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The door creaked shut as I stepped out of the room.
Wordlessly, I walked toward my father, who was standing, hands clasped behind his back. When he glanced my way, he saw the grimace smeared across my sullen face. He didn't need to look twice. In one motion, he turned toward the exit, not waiting for me. I ­finally caught up with my father as we headed toward the parking lot. I waited for him to say something, but he remained silent. He didn't need to ask. After all, this had happened before.

Once again, I had attended a piano competition, only to fail miserably – and for the same reason as always: I suffered from a serious case of nerves. It was a bit silly, in a way. In the competition room, there was just a single judge to evaluate my performance – no massive crowd, no competitors – not even my parents. Still, from the moment I walked into the building, let alone the competition room, my hands were glazed over in a thin layer of sweat, frost, and fear.

Realizing this, I had inwardly laughed, shaking my head at the ­absurdity of getting nervous. It was pointless to worry now; all there was to do was to express myself through music. Yet when I sat at the piano, fingers resting on the keys, my hands went stiff. As I performed, my mind was an abhorrent mess. My concentration lapsed again and again, as I pirouetted between enjoying the music and snapping back to reality. Reality, of course, was that I was in a room with a judge who was watching me, evaluating me; and that I could not, must not, fail again.

During one of these lapses in concentration, I had forgotten where I was in the piece. My fingers danced precariously over the keys, muscle memory acting as the thin strand of tightrope in my balancing act. Suddenly, my mind blanked and I found myself lost in a deafening silence. It only lasted a few seconds as I clumsily searched for the next note; however, it had happened.

My father remained cold and ­expressionless as I incoherently muttered about the mistakes I had made. Finally, he spoke.

“How is it that you can lose focus? You're there to perform; what are you doing, thinking about other things?! If it were me, I would just sit there and pay attention to the music.”

I instantly jumped to my defense. “I was nervous, okay? I didn't want to fail.”

“You should have practiced more. Stop complaining.”

I struggled to find the words to rebut him, to shield myself; but I let it go, ashamed. In the car, I fumed, ­partially at him, but mostly at myself. How could I be so incompetent?

What he had said was true. The past few months, I simply hadn't been putting enough effort into practice. Presumptuously, I had dismissed this fact, reassuring myself that I'd be able to make up lost time with more efficient practice.

My thoughts were interrupted when my dad parked the car. Confused, I followed him and realized we were walking toward the Panera Bread restaurant. My father asked me what I wanted to order. Hot chocolate, I told him.

In minutes, we were feasting on our drinks and talking. An hour passed quickly, as we jumped from topic to topic. My father told me about his work, his family in China, and somehow, ended on an insightful overview of Chinese history.

Suddenly it was time to return and seal my fate. The results would have been posted. As we drove back, I smiled grimly, accepting that whatever happened was deserved. Next time, I vowed, I would redeem myself.

When we arrived, I walked in by myself, stopping short of the wall of fame. Heart heavy, I mentally prepared ­myself. Sheets announcing the first, second, third, and honorable mentions of each competition group littered the wall. Meticulously, my eyes searched row by row until I saw the page with a letter that represented my group.

At the top, stood my name.

First Place. I had done it. I had no idea how, but somehow, I had done it. I rushed outside and told my dad. He took one look at my face, but with quite the poker face, he asked, “Are you sure? You aren't hallucinating, were you?”

Both scowling and smiling at once, I asserted that I most certainly was not suffering from hallucinations.

A grin slowly broke across his face. He beamed, and I, in turn, beamed back. I was overcome by a giddy wave of happiness at his praise and approval. Although he had been the first to criticize and was, in many ways my worst critic, he was also my first and biggest fan.

Then without warning, he tackled my side, laughing: “That's my daughter!” I tripped sideways, and my foot followed, ankle twisting at an awkward (and rather painful) position.

The next day, as I lumbered to school on a pair of crutches, my ­father lumbered to work with a ­sheepish conscience.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 3 comments. Post your own!

greatwriter said...
Feb. 14, 2013 at 11:28 pm:
Wow! The exact same thing happened to me! One minute you're playing, the next you blank out and somehow you find youself at the top! I used to completely forget my performance it was like I went in a trance and my mother would be the one criticizing me for not paying attention. Anyway, great story!
 
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plebeian_dreamer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm:
Nerves are the worst! Great article :)
 
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aladine_98 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 14, 2013 at 1:27 am:
Oh, I can totally relate! Once at a piano recital I completely forgot my piece under the pressure. I had to just walk away. :(  But moving away from my personal experience, you wrote this well. I like how you used very minimal dialogue and still portrayed the situation perfectly. Nice job.
 
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