When Dreams Die

I laid on my bed sobbing uncontrollably. I’m generally an emotional person, but this was different. It felt like my life, my identity, my future, was all gone, and I didn’t have a clue how to get back up and keep going. Mononucleosis had been relentlessly ravaging my body for nearly a year. I spent that year fighting with every ounce of strength that I had. I didn’t take “no” for an answer and saw taking time to rest as failure. But at long last, it all caught up to me. I am not a superhero and I don’t have control over everything. —-

I started taking piano lessons when I was eight. I have an unmatched passion for music — every aspect of it. It is a vessel that God uses to bring me immense joy. I knew from the time that I was eight that playing piano, being involved in music in whatever capacity possible, was my dream. The May of my first year playing, I witnessed my first Senior Recital. I beheld the seniors playing as unobtainable, as perfect, as my life goal and dream. And I set out to make that dream a reality.

I was never a naturally gifted pianist. There’s things I’m good at, such as memorizing songs, or picking things out by ear, but technique was never my strong point. I practiced twice as long as it should have take before I could learn some basic things, but it was more than worth it to me. I set crazily high expectations for myself, and did absolutely whatever it took to achieve them. That taught me discipline, perseverance, and hard work that have stuck with me through all of my life.

By my freshman year of high school, I was practicing for about two hours a day, and starting to consider pursuing music as my college major and career one day. I talked with my teacher about what that would take, and was willing to do it. Anything to achieve my dream. That year I also got to know another senior pianist that reinvigorated my passion to be able to play like he could. I was willing to push myself to even more hours, even harder music… Anything. I had intense back pain, but I fought through it, all the while believing I could do anything with enough hard work.

Fast forward to fall of my junior year. I contracted mononucleosis in August, but thought that maybe I was just extra tired because of school starting and so I didn’t go to the doctor. By the time I finally went to the doctor three months later, I was beaten to a pulp. My body could hardly handle going to school in the mornings, much less practicing piano for several hours a day. I fought the impeding verdict for an entire year. Each day straining myself to practice as long as possible, but it was never enough. By last summer, the summer before my senior year, God made the truth painfully clear.

My dream of having a senior recital was over. My dream of a piano performance major was over. There was physically no way my body could withstand that kind of pressure and commitment. My dream that I had striven after for nine years seemed pointless. It seemed wasted. Why would God have let me spend thousands of hours doing something that was going to end in what I considered failure?

Slowly but surely, God began chipping down my walls of bitterness. He began revealing to me that my dream might be dead, but it wasn’t wasted. Spending so many years working so hard towards a goal taught me perseverance, taught me hard work, and taught me discipline. I learned to work with other musicians, and at the root of it all, I spent thousands of hours doing something I love. Those hours weren’t wasted. There were hard days, sure, when the last thing I wanted to do was practice. There were songs I despised playing. But there were so many more good days. So many more times that music was my therapy. So many more songs that I loved playing.

Music and piano are gifts God has given me. His intention wasn’t necessarily for me to use them as my career, but that’s okay. His intention was to bless me, and also to enable me to serve Him through something that I love. I’m never going to stop playing in whatever capacity God allows me to. I play for church, I play for fun, rarely does a day go by that I don’t sit down and play just because it makes me happy. My dream may have died when I realized I couldn’t have a Senior Recital or a Piano Performance degree, but my dream was not wasted. I don’t know exactly where my future leads now, but I’m confident that He does, and that’s more than enough for me.