Friday, September 15, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Melissa Pratt

Never Good Enough
Pratt, Melissa
Grade: 12
School: Kindred High School, Kindred ND Educator: Tanya Neumiller
AWARD: Gold Key, American Voices nominee

Sitting in the waiting room, I felt so tired. Children were running around and screaming with runny noses, touching everything in their path, and more often than not, coughing over everything. I felt like I had been waiting here for hours, though it was maybe only about thirty minutes. I had been the first one in the waiting room, but I still hadn’t been called. Sick of waiting I laid my head on my mother’s shoulder next to me. I had tried to pass the time by reading, but the children’s cartoon, Caillou, was blaring on the TV above me, making it hard to focus. Instead, I tried to prepare myself for the many questions that surely awaited me. I grew very impatient. There was a coldness between my mother and me, and that made conversing hard. Not that we had much to say anyway, being we were both tired and exhausted. I had had enough of this. I finally decided to ask my mother if we could leave. Before she had time to answer, I was called. “Finally,” I thought, as I stood up, grateful that they called me, but perturbed that it took so long.

I had been to the doctor so many times before, I knew the whole routine. I would walk in, state my name and birthday as they would lead me to a room where they would take my weight, blood pressure, and temperature. I followed the nurse into the room, trying to figure out a good explanation of why I was here without everyone thinking I was a complete psychopath. I sat down in the chair as she took my blood pressure on my left arm, instead of the usual right arm. I drifted into thought about pointless things, but was quickly awakened from it as I felt that sharp squeeze on my arm by the cuff.
I felt the beating of my pulse in my arm as the blood rushed from the squeezed area. I had never wanted to get out of that chair so much in my life. Thankfully, the nurse finished and motioned for me to follow her into a room.

I sat down in the chair, as she began to ask me all the expected questions. What happened? Are you on any medication? Do you feel safe at home? If you need to use the pharmacy, which one would you like to use? And lastly my favorite...“What is your pain on a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst?” I thought back to the waiting room where I’d made sure I thoroughly prepared and thought out my answer. I went blank. I looked to where they had the laminated card with smiley faces on the opposite wall, demonstrating pain. Seeing as I wasn’t crying which was a number ten, and I wasn’t happy which was a number one, I chose the number seven. She quickly made note of it and told me the doctor would be with me shortly. I knew that in nurse language this meant they would arrive whenever they felt like it, and they were in absolutely no hurry whatsoever.

I sat there thinking. Pain was just pain. We could either acknowledge it or completely forget about it. Pain is what we make it out to be. Yes, granted it’s not a switch that you turn on and off, but you definitely can decide how you feel and how you react to it. Soon, my mind began to wander to various other things, the most persistent being, why I was here. Well, to be honest, it was music that landed me in the doctor’s office today. ___________________________________________________________________
I knew that I should have practiced earlier in the day, but now that my homework was all done and it was, mind you only eleven o’ clock at night, I wandered over to my piano and sat down. I had a lesson in about a week. My lessons were something that I stressed about, not because I was nervous, just because I wanted to excel and prove myself. But trying to prove myself never seemed to be good enough, especially in a professional’s eyes. I had to live up to her standards, and I felt as if I always fell short. I was honored just to be able to take lessons with her, but I never felt happy about them. It was like they were something that I was making myself go to. Unlike before, I had no motivation to be good anymore. I didn’t want to play piano. Heck, I had just started playing again after a month’s absence. I gladly took my own leave from piano and I never missed it. I would look at the piano and feel nothing. The only thing I felt when I looked at it was disappointment in myself, for not missing it. I still don’t know why, and I doubt I ever will, how something could go from one of the happiest things in my life to looking at it and feeling empty. Why didn’t I feel anything? What was wrong with me? 

I knew that I should practice more, and that’s what I intended to do. I began to practice four-octave scales (which is not that easy). I was supposed to learn seven of them in a week, and I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. Boy, was I wrong.

Music is all about muscle memory. Everything you do depends on how your mind and hand muscles work together. I underestimated the time it would take me to find that good relationship between my fingers and my brain. I assumed they would easily work together. I slowly began to practice. I tried it a little bit faster. No. So, I began to search, to root out the problem - my left hand. Any piano player knows that your dominant hand is always better. The fact of the matter was my left hand was weak. I couldn’t understand why. I simply did not have time for this.

I practiced and practiced and I saw no sign of improvement. My left hand was what was holding me back; I knew that. Slowly, I began to feel my frustration build. I glanced at the clock and saw I’d been practicing for well over an hour. Nothing seemed to be working. I tried every remedy that I had ever been taught, that I had ever read about, or even heard about. Nothing worked. If my hands couldn’t do what they were supposed to, it was me. My fault. It wasn’t me doing or practicing something wrong. My body didn’t work. It was all on me. Why couldn’t I do a scale? It’s a simple scale! Why was I such a failure? Why wasn’t I good enough? I would never get better! This is why I had stopped practicing, because it doesn’t work, I was terrible at music. I shouldn’t be allowed to play. I. Was. A. Failure. I could feel my eyes begin to wet with tears of frustration. I’d had enough. Those were the last of hundreds of thoughts that ran through my mind as I felt my fist make contact with the piano bench. However, I didn’t feel that usual release of anger, if anything it broke me inside. I didn’t feel better, I felt worse. I immediately felt the tears once again, but this time they were unstoppable. They ran down my cheeks as I left my piano. I didn’t feel any better. I was an idiot. Why couldn’t I play just a simple scale? I would never be ready for a lesson. _____________________________________________________________________
I heard the door open as the doctor walked in. She hastily sat down and asked me the big question. “What happened?”

“Well,” I began. “I smashed my hand on my piano bench.” She immediately asked if it was because I was mad, and to that, I simply replied, “Frustrated.”

She looked at me just like everyone else had looked at me. Almost disgusted that someone lost their cool. Like they were the perfect ones, and I was some crazy person who couldn’t keep it together. Well, they were wrong. I wasn’t crazy. I knew that for a fact. She looked at my hand, and after further testing, she ruled that it was just badly bruised, and not broken. I was thankful. My hand was going to be okay.

Have you ever been so frustrated with something you love? Years can be spent on paintings, as well as publishing and producing songs. Artists have an eye for perfection. They set the bar at a high level and never stop until they feel they’ve exceeded it. So much is interpreted from art, who can say that something is wrong? There are no rules or boundaries when it comes to this field. You can’t ever make a mistake. We as humans are quick to judge someone when they make a mistake, but never truly give them credit for what they do right. Elbert Hubbard once stated, “Continually being afraid of making a mistake is the greatest mistake you can make.” That’s possibly why it’s the most difficult thing to master, because you can never really truly master it. Honestly, this eats a person alive. I would know.