by Francisco G. Gómez
It seems to be human nature to see ourselves in light of how others see us; what a hindrance this is for our personal progress and growth! By progress I mean what we can accomplish, things like learning a new language, achieving academic success, painting a picture, wearing clothes that we would really like to wear or learning to sing, play an instrument or how to dance.
As a teacher of the arts for many years now, mostly musical instruments and song, sometimes even dance, I’ve seen many people have an interest in learning the latter, but give up because they see themselves through the lens of other people, who really could care less of failure or success in these endeavors which are outside of their own box.
The difference between success and failure in learning something is to not see yourself as you imagine others see you. Understanding your self made limitations is a way of conquering your fears of failure, and tenacity is the key to success.
This brings me to the reasons why I decided to write this article. I’m not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I‘ve seen and see many people come and go through our arts program, and I’ve come to understand those that will succeed and those that will give up and fail.
Juxtaposing some individuals that came to our arts program, I make my case and point. Recently a woman and her child enrolled in one of our dance classes. The woman decided to have her child learn Caribbean dance; the woman became so enthusiastic about the dancing that she signed up for the adult classes as well. What’s interesting about this is that while she was helping her child overcome fears about dancing in front of other children, she began to dance while her child sat on the chair for most of the classes. I really admired the way she didn’t force or put pressure on her child to participate. Even more interesting than this is that when it came time for the woman to take the adult class the following week, I saw a complete change in her attitude and determination.
Holly Taylor, who came to study drums at the Center over three years ago, was a frumpy, artistically challenged individual, so to speak. I say artistically because she is now one of the members in our ensemble. On the other side of art I immediately understood how intelligent she is; the lady speaks several languages fluently and she has the most incredible voice that she continues to hone; she also has the face of an angel. However, I always felt that I had to walk on tenter hooks when in her presence so I wouldn’t offend her sensibilities. The truth is that she would cry and become offended by my rather blunt and no nonsense way of teaching. Every time she would break into a crying fit I would think to myself “ there’s no crying in drumming…what the f_ _ _ .” Initially I believed she would not make it, damn was I wrong. I would never intentionally get personal with her as I did with Nicole, the other member in our ensemble. I would rag all over Nicole to educate Holly on how it’s done in the real world of music!
Oddly enough, Holly stuck with the program. One day in rehearsal she asked me:
“ why is it that you don’t rag on me the way you do on Nicole? ” I responded, “ why do you need to get so emotional and cry when you can’t get something musically, would you like me to rag on you from now on? ” She said ,“yes! ” I said, “ very well ” and thought to myself that I would rip her a new asshole from that point on when she got emotional; the rest is history.
Getting back to the woman with the child; well, when she came for the adult Caribbean dance class the following week, I immediately saw that her demeanor had changed. She was now conscious about her moves and her self assurance. This didn’t take me aback, I had seen this many times before. Some students get the moves and patterns rather quickly and some don’t. By the end of the dance class I could sense that she was very disturbed, and I found out later that she had been crying. I decided to call her before the next dance class to quell her emotional doubts and reassure her that she did well in the class; she gave me every excuse under the sun why she wouldn’t be taking the dance class the following week. I expect that she’ll not be coming back to the adult classes anymore, but I could be wrong. As one of the instructors in that dance class, I believe she danced well given that it was her first time dancing this genre of music. I can honestly say that her movements were fine and the truth of the matter is that mastering the required dance steps in Afro Cuban dance isn’t easy, it simply takes time to learn. Being self conscious among the other students in the class was her greatest hindrance!
Before anything can be accomplished, it must be visualized in the mind as having already happened. This requires a mental reality that transcends the fiction that we create within ourselves. Tenacity must be practiced in physical as well as mental emotion. Just as Holly Taylor, a valuable individual in our ensemble, continues to conquer her doubts and fears, her tenacity is a testament to how visualizing the possibilities become realities. Oh, I called her frumpy earlier in this piece, well that is no longer the case and she has even learned how to tell me to go screw myself when I rag on her too much. What an accomplishment!
Every time our ensemble meets for rehearsal I feel my own sense of accomplishment and pride of what my friend Holly T. has overcome to become a better musician, singer and dancer. I can’t help but wonder what the other woman might be teaching her child by giving up so easily, when in fact, she had so much patience and tenacity to help her offspring get over her own fears. I sincerely hope that this woman returns to our dance classes, if not for her sake, then for the sake of her child. If she can visualize the possibilities for someone else, then perhaps she will one day see them for herself!