Boomerang Blessings

That’s what I say when I find myself back in the same situation.

Boomerang Blessings.

When I was eight years old, I taught myself how to read music and play the piano. My mom had a little 66-key Concertmate keyboard that I would tink-tink on. I read the book, matched the notes to the stickers she had on the keys, and used my 4th grade math skills to understand time signatures.

Soon, my parents put me in lessons and I started playing and participating in state-wide programs which ranked your level of musicianship and knowledge of music theory.

Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin – I played them all. I was a perfectionist about it, too.

 

When I was 15 years old, I put down my sheet music and started learning how to play by ear.

What. A. Change.

Think of it like driving an automatic car your entire life and then learning how to drive a stick shift.

I remember struggling to exchange the rigid structure I learned in the classical world for preacher chords, flashy chops, and shouting music.

I felt caught in between two worlds. Many church musicians couldn’t read music and many classically trained musicians didn’t improvise with emotion. I felt like I was on a constant teeter totter that never leveled out.

However, I continued to push through.

I taught lessons in college, played for my college Gospel choir and jazz band, played in church, and was set to declare a double major in music business my junior year.

Bradley University Gospel Choir Spring Concert

But then something strange happened…

I noticed I kept playing the same songs over and over again.

I didn’t have the desire to push myself as I once did.

I wasn’t growing in my musicianship anymore.

I’m not sure if it was because I got exposed to leadership development or became enamored with the business of the industry, but after a while, I just got frustrated. I knew it got bad when I started placing my laundry on my keyboard bench.

After playing for nearly two decades, I went mute a little after moving to Music City (ironic, right?). I took both my keyboards to my parents’ house to store them.

I didn’t play for THREE years.

Then one day (like Forest Gump) I felt like playing.

I recently got back in classical piano lessons this year, and it’s so surreal. My teacher is around my age and is a beast.

For the first few months, it was like conditioning in any sport. She spent so much time teaching me how to not just read the piece, but interpret it – a key element in the art of music that I forgot about. I had to unlearn bad habits. Italian and French words I hadn’t uttered in a long time started coming back to me. The dexterity in my fingers began to awaken.

But this time, it was different. I didn’t feel the perfectionism.

While talking to me about a musical event for 2020, my teacher said something that surprised me: You’re very gifted, you just don’t practice.

The eight year old Vannesia would have immediately placed an unrealistic expectation on herself in order to practice extensively. There would have been pressure to be the BEST and she would have used the competitive aspect as a motivational factor.

But on that day, my grown self simply said, “Girl, you think I’m gifted?! Okaaaaay, let me get it together!!” and we cracked up laughing.

I share that story with you because I had my first piano recital yesterday in years.

Even though I had 10-20 years on some of those students, my parents still came, I dressed up in a Christmas outfit, and when I fumbled a bit I said in my head, “No one knows but you and your teacher – keep going.” We picked a jazz interpretation of “The Christmas Song” (one of my faves!). Since we didn’t like the ending, we arranged our own version, and I threw in some pentecostal riffs I had learned over the years as a Gospel musician.

My worlds came together and the entire vibe was different. I really had a lot of fun (something I never used to do during a recital).

See? Boomerang Blessing.

I don’t know if I’ll double down on piano again. Right now, I’m just excited I get to treat myself with a 30 minute lesson each week and that my teacher is awesome. I think the lack of expectation is really what is making this experience so great. And the discipline of simply practicing is slowly starting to spread into other aspects of my life.

And maybe…just maybe…that’s why God allowed me to be drawn to music in the first place? Who knows, but I’ve added that my list of #WhyGod questions.

Don’t ever be afraid to release something. Like a boomerang, know that if it’s meant for you, it will come back. And as cliche’ as it sounds – what God has for you IS FOR YOU.

When it returns – whether it’s a job, your health, or a hobby you once put down – that’s your opportunity to approach it with a fresh start.

Kick any negative self talk to the curb and know that you needed who you were to be where you are. Honor your younger self while simultaneously allowing your future greatness to shine through.

Always speak life,

Vannesia Darby

 

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