One day, my piano school reached out to us and encouraged us to write something about our music journey. It triggered me to think about what piano means to me in my life.

Time goes fast; I did not realize that I had been on the piano learning journey since September 2018.

My Music Learning Story

Going back to the beginning of my initiative. One day, before my son’s piano class ended,  his piano teacher asked me to assist him in practicing piano at home.

He said: “Could you just play these 3 notes when John is practicing for the concert?”. He played in front of me, but this sudden request made me dizzy.

His tone sounded like everyone who has a normal IQ could play the 3 notes like a breeze, but I became worried. He could not imagine that the keys on the piano seemed like a big maze that was full of mystery to an adult who had never touched any musical instrument for several decades. I could not imagine how to put my clumsy fingers on the piano as my son plays really well. If I joined him, I guess what I would do is interrupt his beautiful music, just like someone working on a tug of war, or the sound I would make is going to be like nails on a chalkboard.

One day at a social party, one of my friends said she had registered for a piano class. I heard that, and I knew that it sounded like an opportunity in front of me. I know I had to deal with my worries when I needed to accompany John’s piano practice at home. 

However, worries come to my mind at the same time. I heard so many people say it is way too complicated for an adult to learn piano from zero. I had to boost my self-confidence; I told myself, “There’s nothing to lose if I just start to try”. 

My past experience jumped into my mind. I remember when I told my friend that I was going to get an MBA in Canada, I received the same comments from my friends. “Lots of Chinese students fail to finish their university degrees in another country.” I knew that my friends had good intentions, and they meant that some smart, 18-year-old Chinese students even failed to get a university degree in another country. The challenge to me is even higher. But…no matter what challenges I went through, I made it and graduated from my MBA program in 2017. 

So, after I told myself that I had the learning capability, I gathered up the courage and went to the piano class one day and registered for the first 10 classes. 

I clearly remember when I announced that I started to learn piano. I received all kinds of reactions.  

John joked with me, “Are you sure, mom? How long can you insist on learning?”

My husband said: “You just added another new stuff to your plate restlessly. Let’s see…” 

After 4 classes, I could play ” The 10 Little Indians.” on my piano! I was super excited, and I invited my good friend and my family to sit around me and listen to my first piano piece. 

I played carefully and proudly. That was the first music I could play!! Yeah!

However, my good friend could not stop laughing. 

“What do you think?” I looked at her and waited for an encouraging answer.

“Not bad, not bad.” She giggled. (Now, when I listened to that recording, I know why she giggled. It was a song for the daycare children. It just seemed funny I played it so seriously.) 

“Tell me the truth”. I insisted.

“You are just like pressing the keys on the piano. It’s not a music.”  She said with an honest expression.

I asked my family and son, “What do you think?” 

They were too honest and said: “We hope you can continue after 3 months.” ….

Fast-rolling back to now. My friends and family all witnessed that I was still on the piano-learning journey after 5 years, and I could play some classical music, such as ”Mariage d’Amour “ and  Beethoven’s Fur Elise, and so many other classic music. I have a YouTube channel and a WeChat Video channel for me to post my piano assignments. 

My Music Therapy

Fast forward to 2024.

When I have time to relax, one of my choices is to go to my piano.

There were some pieces that were very difficult for me. When I was learning the “Mariage d’Amour,” I practiced 100 times one night but could not overcome one sentence. I went to my room and felt so sad. “Maybe that was my limit. I could not reach that level.”

The next day, I practiced 100 times again. On the 3rd day, after dinner, I worked on that sentence again. That night,  I could play that sentence fluently. I am glad that I insisted. This gives me so much confidence in insisting. 

After learning the “Mariage d’Amour,” No matter how difficult a music piece is, I treated it with patience and insistence. I know after I practice and play it well, it will become my spiritual asset. The music brought me so much joy after I played it for myself. I also had a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment through my piano playing.

The music flows from my fingers from different songs; it becomes music therapy for me.  According to different songs, it flows from rivers to forests, to flowers to oceans, to beautiful love stories, to beating the challenges in one’s destiny…. It moves me from one world to another, from one song to another. Staying in my music world helps me relax, unwind, and find peaceful space from my busy life.  Music has indeed become a form of therapy for me. I could stay in my music world for hours and enjoy my music therapy with my full mind and soul. 

There’s one specific song, “The Butterfly Lovers,” also known as “Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai,” or simply “Liangzhu,” is a famous Chinese legend and love story that has been adapted into various art forms, including music.

This song connects me so well, as I used to listen to it thousands of times when I was a child. My dad liked this song very much, and he listened to it very often.

I remember one day, I rushed home sweaty from school and wanted to quickly drop my school bag and grab my badminton as my good friend was waiting for me outside to play badminton. However, my home was quiet. I saw my dad had his head buried into his arms and sitting there quietly listening to the “Liangzhu.” I tiptoed across my dad and picked up my stuff slowly.  When I rushed outside, that piece of beautiful music was still playing in my mind. That was a love story in China; it’s a Chinese version of “Romeo and Juliet.”  Here’s the story for us to understand what this song is about.

“Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai are the two major characters in the story. Liang is a young and talented man, while Zhu is a determined and intelligent woman. The story is that Zhu disguises herself as a man to attend school, as women were not allowed to pursue education during that time. Liang and Zhu meet and study together, and they become close friends. They share their dreams, aspirations, and pursuits. Over time, Liang becomes increasingly fond of Zhu, unaware of her true identity as a woman. Eventually, Zhu’s true gender is revealed, and Liang realizes he has fallen in love with her. However, their love faces lots of obstacles, including societal norms and Zhu’s arranged marriage to another man. Tragically, Liang dies of a broken heart. After Liang’s death, Zhu visits his grave, and a strong wind blows her bridal veil onto his tomb. This transforms her into a beautiful butterfly, and Liang also becomes a butterfly from the grave. The story symbolizes their enduring love and the fact that they can finally be together.”

The story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai is often referred to as the “Chinese Romeo and Juliet” due to its themes of forbidden love and tragic sacrifice. It has been celebrated for centuries in Chinese culture and has inspired numerous artistic interpretations.

When I played this music, I saw the two young faces; they were classmates and enjoyed their friendship at school—talked about their dreams and aspirations. After Liang’s death, they turned into two butterflies flying and accompanying each other under the blue sky. Nobody could separate them ever again. I also feel across the decades; I saw my father sitting by his workstation on a quiet afternoon, listening to this beautiful music. I saw that day; I was a middle school student and did not know how to appreciate the music or understand love at that time. I tiptoed into the room, quietly and slowly passing by my dad without interrupting him. I know my dad worked very hard for our family. He must be using this music therapy to relax from his hard work.

Lots of things get connected together. The legendary love story, the butterflies flying, and my dad’s back figure. My happy childhood was all from my parents, who were hardworking, caring, and loving.

 Fast forward to date, and I am now playing the music, remembering the story, and enjoying my dad’s favorite music. 

Even better, my son can also share his passion for music with me. Before, I knew very little about music; now, I could listen to the same Bethveen song together. 

Piano not only becomes my therapy. It also enhanced my confidence. If I could learn piano from Zero, what else is too difficult for me to learn as a new subject? 

In the future, I would love to take piano playing with me in my life journey. It is like a very good friend; it helps me relax, helps me to rewind, and enriches my life. 

Everyone could have their own therapy. 

After sharing my story, I hope to pass one the most important message here. Everyone needs to have their own therapy, no matter what that is. In today’s fast-paced world, mental well-being becomes even more important. Therapy can help individuals manage stress, anxiety, self-discovery, self-care, and depression, leading to a happier and more fulfilling life. Therapy can also help the relationship-building and emotional healing.

There are so many ways outside can become a therapy. Here are some common ways:

  • Meditation and Mindfulness: Engage in meditation or mindfulness exercises to stay present and reduce anxiety. Apps and online resources can be helpful for beginners.
  • Exercises: Regular physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural stress relievers. Activities like walking, running, yoga, or dancing can be particularly beneficial.
  • Music: As I mentioned, playing or listening to calming or favorite music can have a soothing effect on the mind and body. 
  • Reading: Getting lost in a good book can be an excellent way to escape from stressors and relax.
  • Nature Walks: Spend time in nature, whether it’s a hike in the woods, a walk on the beach, or simply sitting in a park. Nature has a calming influence.
  • Cooking: Some people enjoy cooking, and they have cooking as their way of relaxation
  • Journaling: Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. This can help you process emotions.
  • Socializing: Talk to friends or family members about what’s bothering you. Sometimes, sharing your feelings can alleviate stress.
  • Art and Creativity: Engage in creative activities like painting, drawing, or crafting. The act of creating can be therapeutic.
  • Aromatherapy: Use essential oils or scented candles with calming scents like lavender or chamomile to create a relaxing environment.
  • Time Management: Organize your tasks and prioritize them to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Sleep: Ensure you get enough quality sleep. Lack of sleep can exacerbate stress.
  • Movie: Watch a good movie to trigger inspiration or laughter, which can release tension and bring joy
  • Warm Bath: A warm bath with Epsom salts can relax muscles and promote a sense of well-being.
  • Pets: Spending time with pets, such as dogs or cats, can be comforting and reduce stress.
  • Volunteering: Helping others can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, reducing stress in the process.

What therapy might be good for you? Think about what areas of your life you would like to improve, no matter if it is to reduce stress, improve relationships, or help with self-exploration. I hope you can have your way to have your own therapy.