Advice I would give my 17-year-old self:
Stick with the piano lessons! You’ve been studying piano for 10 years already, damn it, and you only have a few more grades to go. It may seem like a pain in the ass, but you’ll wish you had done it. You are so close to achieving something now that will be very difficult, challenging, and overwhelming to even think of attempting years later.
When your high school music teacher suggests you do a co-op placement with the local symphony orchestra, for the love of god, seize the opportunity presented to you! Who knows where it could lead? You have people in your court, encouraging you, nudging you – and all you need to do is be open to it. You won’t always be 17 with your future before you, and there won’t always be people there to give you a push when you need it.
Stop thinking of a career in music as all or nothing. It’s not a game of “Go big or go home.” There are plenty of opportunities for trained musicians. You’re not going to be rich and famous, so let go of that secret fantasy right now. Besides, it’s not about money and we both know that. It’s about building a life around your passion, and connecting with people through music. It truly is the universal language. You’ve seen first hand some of the ways people earn a living (or at least supplement their income) through music. Look at your piano teachers. Look at your music teachers at school. What more proof do you need? What you need isn’t proof, and we both know it. What you need is to believe in yourself and your abilities, and to believe that you are worthy of happiness.
I’ll say it again: Believe in yourself and your abilities. Believe that you are worthy of happiness.
Never turn your back on your passion. Music is the only thing that makes sense to you. If you give up playing and practicing, then you will starve yourself of nourishment you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere in life. Take a breather from music when necessary, and then come back to it with a fresh perspective and renewed energy. Don’t take your skills for granted. They will shrivel if not used and worked.
Loosen up and have fun! Don’t deny yourself opportunities to have fun and connect with other musicians through music. No, you’re not the best. Yes, you are good enough. It is no fun playing music by yourself in your basement apartment. Trust me. Music is meant to be a shared experience.