To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
–Chinese fortune cookie, 2005.
I was a cellist. Or I AM a cellist. I don’t know if you can only call yourself a musician when you played habitually or if it becomes part of your character, not unlike an alcoholic is forever labeled an alcoholic even after decades of sobriety. Either way, I used to play the cello, and now I don’t. It’s been six years since I’ve played, sometimes I miss and and sometimes I do not.
When I was a senior in high school, I was first chair cellist. Actually, I was first chair cellist the majority of the time from when I started playing in the fifth grade all the way through high school, with a semester or two of being second chair peppered in there for a quick reality check. I was usually the best, until I wasn’t. I was pretty confidant in my abilities, I was used to being naturally better than the rest of the section without much extra practice being needed. One chair challenge came up in my senior year, a time when I was in two chorus classes and a full load of regular senior classes along with my very active social life, and I just didn’t give it much thought. I wasn’t concerned with losing my chair, first chair was mine.
The challenge came, the challenge went, and before I knew it, I was sitting second chair. To an underclassmen. Horrified and embarrassed, I was in tears. The next block of the day was a study block with my chorus teacher and my friends, and as usual we ordered out for Chinese food. Lunch arrived, as did the above quote in my fortune cookie. I shared it with my chorus teacher, and then walked next door to my orchestra teacher and showed her. I apologized to her for taking it for granted, and promised it wouldn’t happen again, which it didn’t. It was an eye opener, making me realize that I couldn’t give anything less than my best, and if I did I risked losing my place as the best.
I may not play any more, but the quote holds meaning across many avenues as a reminder to not take your abilities and your talents for granted, and to always give it your all!