I’ve had to ponder the subject of this post for a while. The question has lingered in my mind: What makes up a “proudest moment”? Is it a moment of pride for yourself and your accomplishments? Is it the crossing of a milestone in life, the passage from one state to another? I have little doubt that people who have children would say, without equivocation, that a captured snapshot in their child’s life is their proudest moment. Perhaps it would be when their child was born, their first day at school, their first haircut, their graduation, their wedding or a first grandchild that hits that mark in their life. That’s just great. It’s wonderful that people feel that way about their children and the moments from their lives.
Not everyone has children, though. I don’t and never have. Are the times in my life any less than what others feel for those children’s moments? I think back on those same milestones in my life: my wedding day, my first professional job, my college graduation. They were all big moments to me.
It’s the struggles in life that test us, that push us to our limits, that end up giving us pride in what we’ve been able to do. For parents it’s those middle-of-the-night feedings, those broken arms and emergency room visits, those evenings of wondering about fevers and holding a child’s head when they’re puking that pushes a parent into feeling pride that their child “made it.” They were successful in bringing that child to adulthood, complete and in one piece, through those struggles and endless worries, that brings the sweetness of pride to a parent’s life.
My proudest moment is one that came when I was seventeen. I was a pianist who was taking lessons from a tired, stubborn old woman. She was a genius as a teacher and very well respected. She had studied with Rachmaninoff. She saw something in my playing that I didn’t see for myself, and she wanted more for me than I wanted for myself. All along, the piano had been something I did for myself. From a young age, the money for my lessons came from me. I worked and scrubbed and did whatever I had to do to get the money for my lessons. My parents didn’t hand it to me, not that they didn’t support me. It was just something I did for myself. At some point, my teacher arranged for me to audition, via tape, for Julliard. She wanted me to go there and wanted that for me when I didn’t want it for myself.
To humor her, I prepared myself and a piece for that audition. I worked very hard to make it the perfect performance, my piece de resistance, my final lingering glory. I played it at one contest after another and after each and every one, I would bring home first prize. I was adamant and determined that nothing would stop me from beating out any competition with this piece of flowing and haunting beauty. Then one day, my teacher recorded my performance and sent it off to Julliard. I don’t recollect if I even knew she done it. I must have. Why would she have done that behind my back? At one of my regular lessons, she brought out a piece of paper from them that explained that I had been accepted and I sat at her piano and wept. It was my saddest and at the same time, my proudest moment. I’d done it. I’d done what I thought was nearly impossible, but knew I would never do it. I didn’t have the guts or determination that she saw within me. I didn’t want that life she wanted for me, and I gave her back the letter. I knew that I could do it, but also that it wasn’t for me. I was proud that I had done it, though, if for nobody else by her.