(Photo Details: Doug is the opposite of me. Here he is when he found a guitar at a coffee shop in Italy, entertaining whomever happened to be there.)
I often hear people say that one of the advantages of getting older is that you stop caring what other people think of you.
How old do I have to be to get to this point?
Sure, there are some areas where this is true: I don’t care what people think about what I am wearing. I don’t care what people think about my political views. And I no longer concern myself about what people will think when I tell them I’m retired.
But I still get very nervous when I play piano in front of people. And that’s because I really do care what people think.
If I stumble and can’t remember the rest of a song, are they thinking, “Wow, she’s been playing for six years now and she can’t even finish a song?” When I sing are they thinking, “This is as bad as the pre-qualifying rounds of American Idol?” And this is just informally performing in my own living room. I would never let friends come to my recitals!
My Uncle Jim used to tell me not to worry about these things because “They can’t do what you’re doing.” (Although he used a little more colorful language to make his point.)
Even without actual people I know in the audience, the nerves aren't any better. Because at a recital, where several small jazz combos are playing a couple tunes each, the other piano players CAN do what I’m doing. And much better than I can do it. I care what they think.
The funny thing is, I have several friends now who play musical instruments, and I NEVER think any of those things I’m worried about them thinking about me.
My friends Kim and Jeff are learning to play ukulele. I’m always delighted to hear Kim sing along with her playing—it’s lovely! And Jeff finally played for us recently. He says he hates playing in front of people because his hands don’t move as easily as when he is practicing by himself. Yes, I know how that is! He apologizes when he makes a mistake—much of the time I didn’t really even notice there was a mistake. And even if I did, I see that it’s NO BIG DEAL. It’s really fun to see his progress and I’m so proud of them both for taking this on.
So maybe it’s not a matter of trying not to worry about what people think, but being more generous about what they might be thinking. Maybe people are actually thinking nice, supportive thoughts like I am thinking when my friends are playing.
I’m just not sure how to convince my shaking hands of that.
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