As a kid, I was no stranger to being bullied. I was as weird then as I am now, only smaller, with a better vocabulary and the optimistic assurances of those around me that things improve once you get older.

Things do get better for many of us, but it’s not for lack of tormentors and certainly not because people grow up. What gets better is our sense of perspective and with luck, the company we keep.

A byproduct of the internet is a certain loss of control of said company. People are free to find and contact you, hound, stalk and bother you- even wage war against you, with enough Twitter followers or knowledge of code. It’s no wonder my inbox gets popped with all kinds of garbage as time goes by. It was worst at the zenith of Blogsanity (circa 2009), when I would be bombarded by trolls looking to vent some spleen between yet another dateless Friday night and their scintillating Monday morning obligation at the plasma bank. As the blog slowed, so too did the bilious outpourings of these deranged asshats. Things returned to the occasional email of gratitude (every one of which touched me), questions about technique, and a ton of Canadian and Russian folks peddling meds, women, and that one weird tip for a flat belly.

As things ramp up for another big push out of internet ignominy, I’ve accelerated my posting across the board. Here, YouTube- heck, I’m even writing in Strings more. This has prompted the return of the Internet Underbelly Asshat, now with 263% more YouTube inbox assault. I’m laughing now, but each time someone lobs hate my direction, it bothers me. Deeply. And then I get over it. Quickly. It’s part of being strange. When you’re weird and mouthy and enthusiastic like I am, people feel compelled to share their distain in no uncertain terms, so you develop good recovery skills. I do some crazy stuff as a cellist. I post videos of myself sounding dreadful to illustrate how practice actually sounds. I flail at high profile auditions and tell you about it in detail. I celebrate failure and frailty like I’m being paid to do it, even though the reverse is most probably the case. I can’t help it. I see such beauty in the human condition, and find so many good people punishing themselves for it.

I even see beauty in the asshats. Being human hurts, and sometimes it seems like all that’s left is to hurt other people. The most recent asshat left a comment (moderated into oblivion, thank you) admonishing me for my latest video and then deciding he had not expounded enough, recorded himself for 7 minutes opining on everything from my aspirations as a cellist to my technique to my July 4th offering a while back. Don’t worry, he assured me that one day I could become an excellent practitioner- I’m just not ready for “prime time” quite yet.

While I could defensively go point-by-point through his rant and pick a cello dork fight, the reason it bothered me is because this is the exact kind of chatter that rumbles around my head when I am at my lowest. Could it be true? What am I even doing right now? Is it time to lurch ungracefully in another direction after 27 years of whatever it is that I’ve been trying to accomplish? If the universe always provides for me, is this just a very direct communication?

In the end, I’m most sure of my picture of how the world works when someone challenges it. I cannot remember a time when I have been comfortable doing anything other than trusting my own instincts, and the most profound failures have come as a result of second guessing myself.

So yeah I’m working on my craft. Of course I don’t sound like an ideal cellist. My videos are rough. That’s the point. Sounding imperfect is wonderful. It’s a symptom of self-acceptance and letting go of ego. It’s the sound of getting to work and expecting no congratulations for your efforts. It’s leaving the vitriol to the haters and perpetually being a work in progress for all the world to see. In the end, my real aspiration is to be good at being human. The cello is just the vehicle I’ve chosen for it, and I am most definitely still working on it. My path is as irregular and uphill as ever. I must be doing something right, though. Fan mail is great and everything, but sometimes you have to look at who you piss off to really appreciate things.


So thanks for that, and nice hat.

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6 Responses

  1. Well said. I tip my nicest hat to you! You will be quoted at our dinner table tonight & hailed as a hero. Now, back to my own messy, harpy humanity.
    Cheers ~

  2. That’s one of the reason why the classical world is slowly dying out… You do get a lot of pompous people in the classical world… No offense to the non-pompous, classical people out there…. I know a violist who gave me great advice on how to get over performance anxiety. He said just know that no matter how well you do, someone will always criticize your performance or think that you stink. If you have Yo Yo Ma giving a performance, someone will say how he played flat on such and such note. And you can see it done routinely in YouTube video comments where someone feels the need to say how someone was flat at time 1:34… Now do you get that sort of criticism in any other musical genre??? Some, but not to that degree….. Insecurities of people exhibiting itself in a superiority complex….

    One of the reasons why the number of guitarists is increasing, in comparison, is because it’s a more accepting crowd…

  3. Emily, you are truly a good person. I perpetually fight the urge to respond to asshattery with the stereotypical “kill it with fire” outrage–except of course when I’m being the asshat, always assuming I’ll have a saving-throw courtesy my own moral indignation. The irony is that in being indignant more often than not launches me well off any moral high-ground I may or may not have been precariously perched upon. You, at the very least, seem to have developed a sense of presences as to your own personal contact with or altitude over the moral high-ground, and are willing change accordingly. So thanks for sharing.

  4. Dear Emily, you have my greatest respect, one flawed and aspiring human being to another. If one’s esteem is dependent on being flawless personally and professionally, then your esteem is at best brittle. If one’s respect for others works on the same basis, then continual disappointment is the inevitable consequence. I love people’s flaws and quirks, and I’m trying to learn to love my own. Maybe you’re not sailing high on the top of the profession, but for what it’s worth, you’re a person and a musician I’d love to work with, because of your honesty and integrity. For that, you’re a star in my eyes!

  5. Hello Emily,

    Your doing fine, and I reiterate my posting from an earlier time. If someone is insulting or (de-constructivly) criticising you. Your likely doing something right.

    All the best!

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