There are things our parents make us do when we’re growing up that we completely loathe, like folding socks and cleaning hair out of the bathroom drain. Then there are things they make us do that we pretend to loathe but secretly love.
Running and piano lessons fall into the latter category.
My parents were the cross country coaches that led my elementary school to be awarded team and individual champions for eight years in a row. They were skilled at coaching. But living under the same roof as the coaches meant that my sisters and I couldn’t escape training on summer vacations. We still had to run. On our week off. In vacation land.
Weekly piano lessons started in first grade and lasted through eighth grade in my family. My parents made me practice for 30 minutes every day. I moaned, whined, huffed and puffed every time they reminded me. I got the job done but not with a smile.
Growing up, I saw running and music as chores. I was too naive to see how these “chores” shaped me, how they honed my concentration and kept my mind and body healthy. How my parents knew they were doing a good thing for me despite my complaining.
I am not so naive now.
I cannot imagine my life without being able to read music. It has become integral to my daily existence. It is my escape, my meditation, my exploration, my prayer. As I began to appreciate piano, I ventured out, taking up the drums in a couple church bands and teaching myself to play guitar on an out-of-tune, dated acoustic model with a German Beatles song book in Ecuador. Over the years, I have let my creativity flow, improvising and composing. Lessons I learned from music have carried over to my writing and stage improvisation.
Running now plays a similar role as music. It helps me clear my head, cope with my anxiety and stay fit. I even run races from time to time. I can hear the voices of my parent coaches in my head when I near a competitor in the course: “Speed up around the turns; that’s where everyone else slows down.”
What would I do without music and running, two passions that keep me sane?
I think most of our parents knew what they were doing when they made us check off a list of chores. They were giving us goals and talents, teaching us responsibility and growth. They were preparing us for the real world.
They were setting our mini selves up to be better versions of what we could be.