By definition, I am insane.
Albert Einstein explained that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
I believed him.
I stood outside the stall in our outdated women’s restroom of the church building. The walls painted mustard yellow that matched the glowing linoleum. The door was a dark wood, and mirrors placed too high for me to please my vanity.
My mother was quickly annoyed as I endlessly tapped my foot waiting for her to come out. I leaned against the wall like I had seen all the teenage girls do. I was only ten, but believed I had the aura of a twenty year old.
“Please mom.” I pleaded. “It’s my biggest dream to play the violin, and you know that.” Actually, it wasn’t. Not until the week before when I had seen in a movie, the most beautiful girl with golden hair gliding the bow back and forth across the strings producing a mesmerizing melody. I hadn’t stopped thinking about her and how badly I wanted to be the girl in the flaxen hair.
“I’ll think about it,” she replied. That was protocol—after being of a mother of 30 years she knew not to promise a child anything, even if she was absolutely certain she could fulfill their request.
I rolled my eyes ridiculously obvious. This was only the tenth time in the last week I had pleaded my case for violin lessons.
What I didn’t realize then in my adolescent world was the financial hardships facing our family. Two siblings married, one on a mission, one in college, and five kids still at home—each in their own private music lessons or sports teams. I was just adding on another strain on the already too thin family budget.
She dried her hands, squeezed me in for a long hug, hoping I would forget my distant violin star fantasy.
Weeks later, I anticipated the arrival of my brand new violin. I checked the porch on a hourly basis, anxiously waiting to hear the quick rap on the door of the delivery man bestowing upon me my greatest gift. Finally it arrived. I unwrapped each layer of packaging tape and boxes to unearth the most beloved instrument.
I brushed my hands across the soft glossy chestnut wood. Little did I know that years down the road I would invest hours every day with this instrument. It would be a refuge, and a friend, and tool for good, and for learning.
I began logging in more hours with my violin than I did with friends or social events. Now, six years later, being a violinist isn’t what everyone else was doing and that dream of the flaxen hair girl was quickly dimming.
As soon as I caught myself up to playing at my age level my violin instructor enlisted me in a series of Orchestra auditions. I was convinced I would be easily accepted. That year I tried out for the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. I received my letter of rejection in the mail. I wanted to bury myself under the covers.
But, I knew I was different, and I had to try again. Undaunted, the next year, I tried out for the Oregon Youth Orchestra, and I was cut.
Twice I tried and, twice, I was cut. According to Einstein, I am insane.
I was done. I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I would just settle for those non-audition orchestras where the only requirement is to breathe and show up to concerts. I was agitated. It stirred so much frustration; I refocused, and practiced again and again.
One late night my dad popped his head around the corner as I practiced a challenging section nearly a hundred times.
“Emily, don’t tell mom this, but I will pay you twenty dollars if you just please stop playing that.” His glowering eyes spoke loud enough. I digressed and avoided his gaze.
I am like Nephi in the Book of Mormon. He was a young man who lived in Jerusalem was commanded by his father to go back thousands of miles to retrieve a set of ancient records that contained his families genealogy. Nephi sees it as a task nearly impossible, but with much confidence in Jesus Christ, he knows he can do it. Nephi too was insane. After three failed attempts, he finally retrieves the sacred records that he needs, fulfilling a task commissioned by God.
I took strength from Nephi. I walked into the audition room, for the third time. This time depending on God like Nephi did. I picked up the bow once more, placed the polished black chin rest in its proper position, relaxed my fingers around the curvature of the glossy wood and played. I rejoiced as I played. And found simple beauty in doing what I loved, even if it meant I was insane.
Through my years in life I have come to realize that to be insane means to be successful. Therefore, the opposite of insanity would be failure. Although rational thinking or ideology may disagree, I have done what any insane person would I have remain dedicated to my ideals.
According to Einstein, I am insane.
Because of this, I was accepted into the Oregon Youth Orchestra. I kept my position as first chair violinist for years to follow.
I became a leader, musician, and successor.
I am Emily Lewis, and I will always be insane.