As a 5 year old I recall being dragged to piano lessons kicking and screaming. Once I resigned myself to taking piano, I quickly (aka, as soon as I got home) sat down to study my lessons. If I was going to be forced to do it, I might as well do it well.
I did very well at piano. I have perfect pitch, which means I can hear and ‘sing’ a given note in tune. That plus years of piano made it easy for me to pick up other instruments when I hit my teens. I dabbled in flute, clarinet (still play from time to time, mostly jazz), bagpipes (I miss them tbh, hard as fuck though), violin, mouth harp, and penny flute.
Violin is my second favorite instrument. I got the opportunity to play in a talented youth orchestra. It let me experience Nietzsche’s Dionysian, not something I normally experienced, not being into sports or anything. The 3 cornered hat was my favorite piece we played.
Coming up on college, I got a scholarship to go to Tulane, with the plan to transfer to Juilliard after a year. But piano was always easy for me. I could play on the same level as my peers without practicing as much. I wanted to do something hard.
I was homeschooled during high school, so how I experienced class material was not standard. But I did suck at calculus. I failed my first attempt, in fact. So it seemed like something sufficiently challenging. But I couldn’t see myself as a mathematician. I thought of mathematicians as (male) geniuses. That belief was so subconscious, it took me years to realize it.
So I went into biology and took calculus my first semester. Turns out a college teacher is much more effective than trying to teach yourself out of a text book, and I got an A. And now, I do applied math and coding for my job 🙂 if I’d known I’d be where I am now when I was 17, I would have gone straight into math. Oh well.
Being and non being produce each other. Difficulty and ease bring about each other.
Therefore the sage produces without possessing, acts without expectations, and accomplishes without abiding in her accomplishments.Tao te jing. 2
Many people believe that things can be inherently hard or impossible. As the Tao says, what is first hard becomes easy, by its very nature. Although I know I would have picked math if I hadn’t been burdened by gendered expectations, I wonder what I would have picked if I understood the uselessness of chasing difficulty. Maybe I would have studied music?
I’m not sure, but the way things are is good. I still have knowledge of these things, although it’s more shallow than it might otherwise be. And I got into philosophy because I was looking for meaning and beauty in an analytical setting. If it weren’t for my biological drive for self preservation, I’d be a philosopher.
Getting older might bring wrinkles and gray hair, but it also brings self understanding. Alternative versions of “me” might have different careers, but in any universe I would be a huge nerd.