In September 2018, I patted down my tears, breathed out one last long sigh and bid my final adieu to the world that had welcomed and cared for me.
For the past seven years, I had been in a relationship with Mason. He was my closest companion and the one I could always depend on. We made music together, traveled to Europe during the summer and held each other close in times of hardship. And yet, I decided that it was time for a breakup.
It didn’t make sense to everyone — I myself had a hard time convincing myself that I was sane when I made my decision to part ways with the smooth, polished Italian wood and rich chocolate tones of my cello. I was bombarded with questions asking, “But… why?”
For as long as I could remember, I had never had trouble in school. It was all too simple for me: work hard, get good results. But then, cello entered the conversation in fourth grade and challenged the formula for success that I had so religiously adhered to.
In the beginning, it all worked out perfectly. Regardless of how busy I was, I made my way to the practice room every day and eventually learned how to transform my notes into eloquent songs and stories. But after a certain point, my calloused fingertips, Biofreeze-scented arms and sweat-stained chairs were not enough to produce the effortless tones and technical passages that I had envisioned — I found myself unable to overcome my plateau.
Every weekly lesson turned into an uphill battle, every competition became a futile attempt and every audition remained an embarrassing memory. I constantly deprecated myself, frustrated at my lack of progress and desperate for an escape from the seemingly unending failures. As I pushed myself into isolation, my friends and family members became distant figures in my life, and my only motivation for playing the cello was to win competitions. I became obsessed with this idea, and soon, I was no longer married to my cello, but rather to the addictive nature of success and recognition. The unique voices that I had learned to express dissolved into an empty collection of notes that I played not for myself, but for others.
Yet I still unconsciously gravitated towards routine and comfort despite knowing that it was taking a toll on my own mental health because the idea of breaking up — and essentially accepting that playing cello may not ever give me the results I wanted — created an uncontrollable fear within me.
I’ve had people tell me too many times to never give up, to persist in the midst of hardships — almost as if calling it quits is something forbidden. And I believed them. I told myself to grow up and to just learn to endure.
But after stumbling and falling here and there, I finally realized that being able to self reflect and recognize my needs is just as brave as persisting through difficulties.
Parting ways does not always mean a messy farewell — for me, it symbolized a graduation. So after seven years, I decided to say goodbye to the world I was immersed in and turned my page to the next chapter.
I continue to carry the discipline, perseverance and expression that I learned and revisit the community that embraced me with open arms — from my teacher, who watched me progress from a timid child to an experienced cellist and responsible individual; to the lifelong musical siblings that I was able to find along the way; to Elena, my best friend and soul sister.
My cello journey gave me the opportunity to find a family of the most passionate, caring and fun individuals. It is to these priceless relationships that I owe my most memorable moments and personal growth.
While these graduations are terrifying, they propel me into unexplored galaxies — so I continue to chase the extraordinary beauty of uncertainty and risk to be able to add to my personal constellation and write my story until the time comes for me to flip the chapter again.