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Jess Just Wants to Play Piano



“I just want to play the piano!” Jess exclaimed. “I’m tired of putting everyone else first and sacrificing myself.”


“I just want to play the piano,” she said again.


This was Thursday morning. I had been running just a tad late due to an unexpected frozen water bowl problem down at the chicken pen. I’d logged onto Zoom precisely two minutes early, only to find my first student, Jess, wasn’t there. A quick glance at my text messages revealed she’d texted to say she was running five minutes late. Whew.


The Zoom doorbell rang after a bit, and Jess appeared, coffee in hand, a little out of sorts. She’d worked through the night. It seems we’ve had quite a lot of lessons like this. I don’t know how she does it.


Jess started lessons with me just about a year ago. She had left her well-paying, comfortable career in Boston to move back to Cape Cod and work with special needs individuals. She’s lovingly committed to her work, a gentle soul willing to sacrifice her time -- and income -- for those in need.


But she’s not willing to sacrifice the piano. That’s what Jess realized yesterday morning.


Today we made up a lesson she had missed a few weeks ago when she was called into work. That’s how I know the way things played out after yesterday’s lesson.


In full disclosure, I asked Jess if it would be alright to write a blog called, “I Just Want to Play the Piano.” I told her I would change her name, if she wanted, and that I wouldn’t share the part that I’m about to share. But Jess told me to share it all. So I will.


Right after Thursday’s lesson, Jess went into work. Yes, you read that right. She worked all through the night Wednesday, got home just in time for her lesson Thursday morning, and then went back to work with no sleep. That’s because one of her coworkers has Stage 3 cancer and so Jess was there to cover the shift so her coworker could go to medical appointments in Boston.


An interesting thing happened after that day’s shift, which I’ll call The Real Shift.


In the Real Shift, Jess found her voice. Sometimes the piano speaks out with something other than piano tones, and yesterday it spoke in the Voice of Jess.


“So, what happened?” I asked her.


“I called a meeting with my boss,” Jess said.


“And?” I asked.


“I told my boss, ‘Yesterday you ruined my piano lesson! I was already tired from working overnight and then I came back in to cover because you don’t have enough staff to help out.’”


Jess continued, “I just want to play the piano.”


That’s all she said. That’s all it took.


Then, Life stepped in, like it so often does, to help Jess with this obstacle that was getting in the way of her piano practice. Her boss was transformed, right there on the spot. She concurred that piano was important, and she apologized for the disruption to Jess’ day and the way she sabotaged her lesson. OK, so maybe those weren’t her exact words, but this is pretty much how things went down.


Her boss went even further, giving Jess a week off from work with pay. Lovely. What a great outcome. Voice of Jess, job well done.


That should help immensely with finding practice time next week.


Jess told me to share that she also received a call on this same day from a prospective employer who was more than sympathetic to her piano priorities and who asked her to come for a job interview next week. This job respects piano lessons and pays a higher salary. What’s more, Jess will be able to go to this interview during her paid time off. What a perfect outcome.


Had she stayed quiet and allowed piano to remain second tier, nothing could have changed. Even as a beginning pianist, Jess takes her time at the piano very seriously. It’s not just a hobby to her. It’s something deserving of her respect -- and that of others. I think it doesn’t matter so much that her boss responded to her demands (things could have turned out differently, of course). What matters is Jess acknowledged these things to herself, and that made all the difference.


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©2019-2020 by Melissa Harris