1. Fundraise, without shame, the remaining $16,000 balance on the cello that is currently lying on its side next to me. It’s taking a long time to edit the video the fundraising site requires, and I find it hard to ask for money so directly, especially so much of it. I’m going to donate 250 hours to a few different charities as a give back, but it doesn’t eat into my discomfort much.


2. Find an accordion player to gig with. Ideally, we’d play Radiohead and maybe some Irish tunes in low light conditions, encouraging people to sit in, sing along, and maybe tell a story or three.


3. Accept the frail and imperfect sound of my singing voice.


4. Manage my studio schedule such than I can write the next book and set of études, as well as collaborate with the growing rebel alliance of musician-teachers to get this thing back to a more authentic and inclusive culture. Enough already with the pissing contest. Music is for all of us. Get good at it, great! Most importantly, get good at loving it.


5. Be better.

I’m still learning how to be. To tell the truth, I haven’t the foggiest idea from day to day. Each morning, it’s like I’m a different person but with the same set of memories, email password and fixed appointments on the calendar. There’s this overwhelming sense that I could be doing it all wrong all the time. Maybe I shouldn’t look for an accordionist. I’m likely eating too much ice cream. Should I have kept my mouth shut when that guy pushed it too far? What’s with your blog lately?

Strangely, these thoughts do not amount to being riddled with self-doubt. It’s more of a sense of improvisation. I suppose that’s the truth: like it or not, we’re all making it up as we go along with goals and expectations as a framework to serve as an indicator of our trajectory. I think the main difference lately is that I’m trying to be happy even if I am nowhere close to my goals. I’m pretty crap at it for the time being. But I’m working to try not to add the extra layer of awful that happens when you fail, feel bad, and then feel worse for not bouncing back quickly.

When my students struggle with something and get disheartened,  I chastise them: “Why would you not stink at this? Every cellist has been terrible at this as a student. Do you think you have some gift that the rest of us do not?” It’s a shock to the system, and hopefully a readjustment of perspective: play the long game.

So maybe I’ve just been shocked into this new truth. The long game means working to be happy without falling into thoughtlessness, trying to avoid black and white thinking, contributing more good than bad, and forgiving myself as best I can when I can’t do those things.

Perhaps I’ll try to find that accordion player after all. With them, I’d like to brokenly sing and play, grateful for another day alive to just, well, see how things go.

I’m coming to believe that the only guaranteed way to be wrong is to believe that you’re 100% right.


Though I could be wrong.




Painting “One” by Jackson Pollock.

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4 Responses

  1. Emily,
    I like this entry.
    We miss you out in So. Cal.
    I’m thrilled to hear you have a cello by your side. ‘Tis important.
    Hey, go with that accordion plan. Accordions, so uncool in the 1980s, so hot right now.

  2. Thanks for this. I’ve never commented on your blog but I’m a faithful reader and find so much encouragement in your stories and confessions. Every time I practice the cello I cling to the words at the end of A Modern Cellist’s Manual: “You’ve already come so far.” It is rare that I’ve heard warm and loving words like those in my many years of studying this instrument. Thanks for everything Emily!

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