January 17-22 debrief

All things considered, it’s been a great week; somehow mustering the courage and will to record Day 1-4 of #100daysofpractice, including Day 4’s substantial instructional but highly rewarding work, making progress with the Shostakovich, and moving things along with the Mozart.

Physically, it’s been a really rough week. My right wrist has been inflamed and seriously bothering me this entire week. Since the booster shot on Monday, it’s been flaring up non-stop. Even the anti-inflammatory medication I’m taking nightly isn’t really taking the edge off the pain. I’m going to take the biologic injection early this week in an attempt to quell the fiery sting of the inflammation gnawing away at the right side of my wrist.

I cannot negate how much this affects me mentally either. There will be moments of relief and I think ‘oh hey, it’s getting better’, but nope. It’s back. And there’s very little I can do apart from running that doesn’t engage the hands and the wrists.

There’s so much I’m anxious over. But primarily, the Feb festivals deadline is encroaching. The rejections from the Cliburn and the Santander competition were like brutal slaps on my face. I still don’t know whether the Takamatsu competition is going ahead or not. I spoke of uncertainty last time, but there’s a lot that’s gnawing away at me right now. It’s hard to find peace. And I think that’s why I’ve got to write it all down. Typing is currently less painful than writing, but I think typing really helps me so I will hopefully continue this endeavour.

I found some other competitions that have an age limit of over 30 – that instilled some hope. I also have to consider switching gears. I know I deep down want that first prize or want that big win, and most of all, I want so bad to play with orchestras. But I ought not to negate emailing and sending a more modern press kit to small orchestras either. An agent would probably be doing something like that for me normally but without an agent, I have to do that for myself.

There’s so much on my mind that it’s sometimes very hard to focus. There’s content – I want to be and stay consistent with it. And with content, that can grow so much – from weekly podcasts, skits, challenges and fun videos, to educational videos and an exploration into music production, songwriting, and composition. It’s seriously endless. How do all the successful people do it???!!?

Then there’s the music side of it. I believe I ought to have recordings done each year. This could range from EPs to full recordings. And I’ll have to probably produce these on my own. Which hall will I use? Who knows. Will I hire an engineer? Who knows. But I have to start somewhere. This will definitely help my plea to play with orchestras and be engaged with concert venues.

And then of course, there’s the business side of things. I originally thought that I could perhaps do all this AND have a job on the side. Something not too demanding, in the industry where I can meet people, and yet, engaging enough for me to learn something. As much as I would like to do this, I realise that I cannot max myself out. How will I stay afloat with a job AND content AND my own practice and music recordings AND teach AND do performances?

Unless you haven’t realised, it’s a LOT to do. And because of my propensity to say yes to a lot of social engagements (it’s very hard to say no to a close friend’s 30th – nor do I think it’s healthy to be completely isolated), I am left to fend for myself with time, with energy, and with consistency.

I CANNOT begin to express how much I’m going to miss having my Kawai piano when I’m gone. I wish I could take it with me. I really need an instrument that I can trust and I can express myself and this ticks the box. I love the space I get to work in, from my bookshelf to my sometimes cluttered but dependable desk.

There’s also issues with family that I’m chipping away at as well. My wrist is bothering me even now when all I’m doing is typing. Sigh*

Ok. I’m done ranting. I should take a shower, get ready for bed, do my injections, and try again tomorrow. On a brighter note, I discovered the immense joy of play once more. During the birthday party today at Heritage park, a friend brought some wooden paddles and small squash-like balls, and we just played with that for some time and it was SO fun. We also threw a NERF rocket thing around and that was fun. I really missed that. And I hope I have the chance to keep playing and challenging myself physically whilst still having fun.

OH. Another win of the week. 4km run in the rain, 3x up that mighty hill. Mantras that helped? ‘Not done yet’, and the fact that I have to ‘EARN it’. Looking forward to the next run.

On Uncertainty

Part of surviving the last 2 years has been navigating the ever-changing waters of uncertainty, and it’s very much like trying to stay afloat on a surfboard whilst out in the open seas. I received news today that I was not admitted into the Van Cliburn Piano Competition screening auditions today, and although I had a sneaking suspicion that would be so, I was really hoping for some good news. A few days prior, there was news from the Takamatsu International Piano Competition (which I fortunately did get admitted into), that they would be considering postponing the competition in light of the situation in Japan.

With my departure from Sydney encroaching but never quite set in stone, it’s like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet the disc of light remains the same pale glow no matter how long you’ve been in the tunnel. How am I supposed to know how to plan out my future?

In preparing for the competition, I’ve set up a regiment of self-discipline and deliberate rest (more on that later after I’ve figured out myself a bit more), but now that days, weeks, and months seem to come and go like the crashing of waves – constant, uncontrollable, and unceasingly relentless, everything is feeling out of my grasp. Is this normal? Is it normal to feel like my career, my future, and my hopes and dreams to be seemingly out of my control?

And to be honest, I still don’t exactly know what it is that I will do. I’m 30 and I really have not figured it out. Part of it has to do with fear, insecurity, a lack of discipline, and distractions.

Let me give you an example. I have yet to pluck up the courage to post on instagram – the 100days of practice challenge. It’s not that bloody hard but I still haven’t gotten down to doing it.

Another example – and this is the one that’ll take some courage: approaching orchestras around NSW and beyond with my recordings, my CV, my bio, and asking to play with them.

What is it going to fucking take for me to slot out the time to actually get these things done?

Another example: PODCASTS. I’ve been rambling on and on about them, sharing the dream with the likes of dear friends, and I have still yet to get it done.

A wise friend once asked me: am I disappointed with myself? Honestly, no. I am not disappointed with what I have achieved so far but – and a REALLY huge ‘but’ is that, I KNOW I can do so much more. I know I am capable of so much more, and the desire, the hope, the intrinsic hunger to prove myself, to share things of beauty, goodness, and truth with the world, and the thirst to explore, delve, suffer, grind, and refine myself from a lump of Asian Australian coal to something remotely shiny – it’s there.

What will it take?

I keep trying to adopt disciplines, activities, and regiments. I keep trying to learn from the greats (reading this book called Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang), but the hours continue passing me by.

Writing helps – that much I know for sure. And I’m going to go back to practice now. But an image came to mind just now and I’ll try to illustrate it so that it becomes more highly defined.

The inevitable waves of uncertainty will continue to rock the boat (or board) that I’m on. Any pioneer must tread the waters of uncertainty, at times gasping for air, in any adventure. To expect any sort of adventure without uncertainty is to live much too comfortably. I must ride out these waves of uncertainty remembering that:

1. I don’t need to prove myself to anybody.
2. I must keep on keeping on.
3. Show up and do the bloody work.
4. I must find the time to look back on how far I’ve come and plan the journey ahead. Writing helps. Maybe that’s the discipline I must continue to adopt.

And to you, Witt – HBD. May waves of good fortune drift you gently but surely to the shores of fulfilment and peace.