Before I realized it, tears flowed out of my eyes like water pouring from an open faucet. The sound of the salty liquid hitting the wood played a more beautiful symphony than my frozen fingers could at that point. The notes that I had played over and over again for the past three months were suddenly not just lifeless black dots on lines. They made sense to me. They spoke to me. I dropped to my knees in agony and cried for all that I had been holding onto for the last three years.
Our first formal introduction was just a few months after I immigrated to Canada. Being in a foreign country surrounded by problems that I didn't understand and didn't know how to solve was trapping brightness and creativity inside of me. I held it up from the case and carefully examined its intricate wooden structure. With a pluck of my finger against its metal string, a note bounced out. It was not at all beautiful - perhaps it could even be considered a horrible sound - but it brought out something that I had longed for in the gloomy days that seemed to follow me around. Violin. That's what they told me it was. And it was one of the first English words I learned since coming to Canada.
I treated my violin as a friend. We went from being awkward around each other at first, with me holding it in an extremely awkward posture and making traumatizing noise from it, to friends that could talk about anything. My happiness and passion sprang from its bouncy bow strokes. The legato melodies sang out my melancholy and nostalgia. Everywhere I went, I searched for the pieces I want to learn with it and asked for techniques to perfect the sound that I made. Looking back, it was probably one of the happiest periods of my life. I found a match to light my internal fire that had been nearly extinguished.
Then things went downhill again, and I am still not sure when it started. Some of the English words that I could finally understand were not the ones I wanted to hear. "Fat," "ugly," "annoying," "weird;" the list could go on and on. They thought that I couldn't understand, but I could. And it poured a bucket of water onto the flame that I had just barely restored.
I went to my violin for comfort at first, but it was like a friend that had suddenly gone mute. I couldn't hear a solution to my problems or a comforting encouragement in the notes that I played. I tried over and over again, but it was just bow moving against metal and finger tapping against wood. No meaning. No emotion.
As ironic as it was, people actually appreciated my playing during that time. To me, it felt like nothing but the habitual movements of my fingers and wrists. But to them, all that mattered was the right notes at the right time. Suddenly, I began to play in competitions and win rewards that I didn't think I deserved.
I also began to make changes to my appearance to gain back at least some control of my life. The exercises and thoughts that I was "improving myself" seemed to be the perfect excuse to pull the curtains to the big show the negative comments were putting on in my head.
As the infamously cold Canadian winter arrived, it brought its icy winds deep into my heart, where the fiery passion had once ignited. I was freezing. Inside and out. The world around me turned into different shades of grey as I let all the colours in my life fly away with the fallen leaves of autumn.
I was numb from the physical and emotional lack of warmth when I picked up my violin to practice on that unforgettable Sunday night. I didn't like the pieces I was learning for my upcoming exam, but I felt too exhausted to care. Why would it matter if I couldn't hear anything in my playing anyway? I went through the same mechanical process of tuning, practicing scales, and then finally to the pieces.
Suddenly, a feeling rushed into my head. It was so familiar, so healing, and so welcoming. I felt the world of music had opened up its door to me again and let me bathe in the warm sunshine that had disappeared from my world for so long. The notes flowed out of the instrument and resonated in the living room. They were the same notes that I'd been playing all along, but now with real meaning to me. Even though my fingers were frigid and stiff from malnutrition, the notes finally sounded beautiful again.
I cried. I cried harder than I ever did before. But I felt like I wasn't alone. I was in the embrace of my long-lost friend, who was clutched tightly in my arms.
After the realization, I knew that I had to reach out for help and solve the problem entirely. Running away from it had cost me too much. It took away my friends, my passion, my energy, and even my health. Today, while looking at the marvelous instrument shining so purely and breathtakingly even under the yellow artificial light, I know I've found myself again. I found her through music, through art, through friendship, through love, and most importantly, through confidence. Music is a way for me to express emotions, a shelter that I can hide into from the storm, and a friend that guided me out into the sunshine again. It has taught me that beauty is not perfection. Today, I stand here proudly, and beautifully broken.