April 9, 2014

Tonight, Instagram sent me an “on this day” notification from a post I made 5 years ago. It was a photo of two of my friends and I with our orchestra teacher, after our spring concert. April 9, 2014, I was a sophomore in high school. I was 16, and honestly, a completely different person. You don’t think you change at all until you look back and realize how different everything is. When this photo was taken, I didn’t even have my license yet. I hadn’t taken an AP class or even thought about where I might go to college. If you think I’m quiet now, you should’ve seen (not heard, lol) me then. Going anywhere alone or talking to someone I didn’t know terrified me.  If you had told me then that I would be living in a city (DC of all places) or about to go to law school after finishing college a year early, there’s no way I would’ve believed you. I didn’t even own any Lilly!

Until I saw this memory and got to thinking just what my life was like just 5 short years ago, I thought I really hadn’t changed. I’m still the confident, crazy, intense, hardworking person I always have been, but nowhere near the person I am now. My perspective has really shifted. There was so much I didn’t know and in the past five years, from 16-21, I’ve grown into myself so much.

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While it feels like an eternity ago, I remember this night like it was yesterday. It was the last time I performed a solo for an audience and I can confidently say that this is one of the last moments I loved playing violin. Most people don’t know, but from age 8, I’ve played. I was good and I loved it so much, until I didn’t. After my solo, everyone in the audience was shocked and impressed with what had just come out of my instrument. It was one of my favorite songs, I’d practiced it for months, and I had fun performing.

So what happened? At some point along the way, I stopped playing for myself, because I loved it, and started playing for other reasons: for the orchestra, for a line on my resume to get into college, for a competition. A few months later, my junior year started which meant 3 AP classes in addition to my honors ones, endless activities and assignments, a cultural exchange program, and more stress than I should’ve put myself under. I didn’t have time to breathe or practice, and when I could play, it was for school and just not fun at all. Literally everything in my life, including violin, became competitive, and I couldn’t handle all of it. Violin was the easiest thing to let go. Eventually, I stopped going to my Saturday private lessons and my instrument started collecting dust.

Looking back, I wish I quit orchestra and continued to just play for myself. I would have been so much happier, and it would have been a good outlet for my stress. I was actually good, and I wish I didn’t just throw my skills away.

They’re still here, though. Occasionally, I still pick up the violin and play for myself when no one’s around. I know now that to love it, it has to be just for me, at least for the time being. Ironically, I always start by playing the same song I performed 5 years ago in 2014. It’s still my favorite, and I still, somehow, have it memorized. I think 2014 Cashel would have been sad that I’m not still playing like I used to, and that makes me a little sad too. However, 2014 Cashel would be thrilled to know that I made it into a good college and law school. Since elementary school, that’s all I’ve wanted. Knowing I would make it would have made the last 5 (or 10) years so much easier, but what makes it hard is knowing that I didn’t have to lose something I loved to do it. I guess to win some things in life you have to lose others, but it’s never too late to get them back.

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