I don’t usually write when I’m on vacation. Partly because this is the internet and there are creepers everywhere, but also because I like being at least somewhat unplugged while I’m away. But after tonight, I have to break my rule and write.

I’m currently spectating at an international piano competition, one I’ve always dreamed about attending. It has been spectacular so far; I have had a total blast attending the almost 8 hours a day of piano recitals (not consecutive hours, they let us out to eat and use the bathroom once in a while). These pianists are, in a word, fantastic. Of course there are some who are clearly more polished than others, but these guys are the best of the best.

Anyone who has been in my house and/or who has heard me complain about my weird tiny living room knows that I have a piano. It’s not the concert grand I dream of, but it is in good shape, holds its tune pretty well, and was a bargain on Craigslist to boot. I love love love it. See, once upon a time, the only thing in the whole world that I wanted was to be a concert pianist. I wanted lessons so badly that I started to teach myself how to read way before kindergarten because the teacher who taught my brothers would only accept students who could read. I started accompanying choirs when I was in 3rd grade, not because I really enjoyed accompanying choirs, but because I LOVED being on the stage under the lights playing my heart out.

Why am I writing about this tonight? Well, during the second of the three performances tonight, the pianist played a sonata that was the last piece I learned in its entirety before I stopped playing. Not surprisingly, he played it better than I did. But he is also 8 years older than I was when I played it, and he’s received formal, conservatory level training for all of those 8 years, something I never got the chance to do. I always thought I was pretty good at playing the piano, but I don’t think I ever thought I was really that good…good enough to play whole pieces that real life, actual professionals played in competitions. But watching him nail that Beethoven tonight and knowing how well I actually did play it** made me feel like I was watching what could have been my life.

I cried during his performance…partly because he really played the hell out of it and partly because it got me thinking about what my life could have been if I had been able to keep playing. If I could have afforded the medical treatment to fix the problem I had which made (and sometimes still makes) my left arm numb after too many repetitive motions. If I had been more proactive with finding teachers who could connect me with professionals. If I had believed that I was good enough to warrant the expense and the time.

I’m not unhappy with the life I’ve chosen. I have an interesting job that may turn into an interesting career. I have a wonderful, supportive, and sexy husband who I can’t imagine life without. I have great friends near and far, many of whom I would never have met if I had chosen another path. But I just can’t help but think that I gave up something fundamental in myself when I quit playing the piano competitively. And now that I know that that piece is missing, I don’t know how to continue on the path I’ve chosen without at least trying to get part of it back.

**I’m not just tooting my own horn, I swear. I competed with that sonata at both the county and state level and both times I received almost perfect marks.