18 6 / 2012
I have a problem
One of the literary devices that English teachers are quick to point out to the ever absorbent minds of the youth at their disposal is foreshadowing. The poor character is often blind to see the signs of something to come, whether it be good or bad. But as readers, we have the omniscient mind of the narrator on our side (most of the time).
It might sound strange to say, but I distinctly recall the ominous moment of my life that foreshadowed a curse that would silently haunt me… even to this day. The dreaded words uttered by a careless man in a music shop.
I started playing the viola in elementary school. Something about the instrument drew me in. I was sitting on the brown carpeted steps when the teacher introduced us to all the instruments. The violin, of course. The cello, large and bulky. The stringed bass - that would be a joke if I even attempted it (thought it did cross my mind). But then, she picked up a fourth instrument. One she said often went overlooked.
It had deep resonant tones, yet likewise sang out vibrant and sweet high notes (without the scratchiness…at least to my immature ears) of the violin. It was, in short, me. It felt like me. It was neither the lowest nor the highest, not large nor small.
There were so many things I wanted to be when I was young, and so many things I wanted to master. Kung fu? Yes. Music? Absolutely. Physics? Didn’t know much about it, but as long as it would help me defy gravity, sign me up. And behind the scenes, my mother did the best she could to make it happen.
I took piano lessons, viola lessons, and joined the color guard in the school marching band. Because the spring season didn’t have any football games to march to, it was a requirement that I take on an instrument. So, I picked up a woodwind. And more lessons on top of that.
As a single mother, my mom tried the best she could to give me the things that I wanted. One Christmas, my heart leapt into my chest when I discovered that she had purchased me my own viola. Unfortunately, the size was all wrong. Disheartened, we were instructed by my teacher to take it back to the shop.
One family friend, a private music teacher, recommended a small store with an array of beautiful instruments. The grizzled old man who ran the shop watched silently when my mother and I walked into the store with some trepidation. After taking a closer look at me, he grunted an affirmation that unfortunately, my stature was rather small to fill out the large, vibrant violas.
However, he did have one that would be perfect for me. Placing it in my hands, he encouraged me to try it out. I played a few scales and I felt elated. The tone was velvety and smooth. Somehow, the small body of this viola was able to sing with a rich fullness that I didn’t think possible.
“You’re talented,” he said, nodding. Inside, I beamed, always warmed when I felt the affirmation of others. “So what else do you do in school?” he asked.
“Oh, orchestra,” I said quickly, eager to impress. “And band…and I also play piano.”
An eyebrow raised.
“Jack of all trades,” he said. “But master of none.”
Eight simple words, which spoke so many volumes more. To this day, that’s been the crux of my life dilemmas. One moment, I want to learn how to code a website. The next, I want to try to write a book. A few days later, I consider learning how to cook. Or maybe I’ll pick up the piano again…
…and so on.
I can only hope that, much like the characters in many other literary scenarios, this too shall pass. And I can finally take things one day at a time.