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Sometimes interspersed in my teacher's explanations to me is the comment, "Well you could do this arrangement instead; it all depends on what your goals are."

Oftentimes my mother (she turns 61 this year, and I turn 36), in response to my complaints about stress at work, tells me, "Stop music lessons."

She knows I can spend more than 60 hours at work a week. So I wake up at 4.45am each day just so I can spend 30 minutes at the piano before I go to work. I spend two hours at music lessons (practical & theory) every week. I've tried to cut down the commitment a few times (stop lessons/ have fewer lessons/ have lessons fortnightly/ learn easier pieces/ learn difficult pieces but play them horribly/ go without theory lessons/ go for "easier" theory lessons/ sign up for online theory lessons), but all of those alternatives only made me restless and wanting more.

Both comments have been heard frequently enough to start me thinking about what my goals are, what would constitute a goal in the first place, and whether the time, energy and money I'm putting in makes sense. It made sense, and still makes some sense to me, but now, I'm wondering if I should really stop and be pragmatic and put the money in a savings plan for retirement.

I'm not chasing a certificate, and I'm not intending to quit my job and pursue music full time; I just know there's so much to learn, and although my progress is slow, I'm getting so much joy out of this that for the past two years I haven't questioned the cost of this investment.

But now that age is catching up, work is getting more demanding, and the obligation to save for retirement is weighing more heavily on me (I feel I'm growing old very quickly these days), (and I've no goal!) I'm starting to (the horror!) feel the urge of quitting entirely.

Has anyone been through this... phase? My first piano teacher who took me through the lower grades did quit abruptly while pursuing his diploma--he sold his piano, gave away all his music books, and started a bakery. Maybe he felt he wasn't progressing. Maybe I feel I'm not progressing too, or that, at this age (when I should be saving or spending it on something more pragmatic), I don't deserve or shouldn't indulge in this hobby.

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Hi Athdara,

I think that if you work more than 60 hours a week, you can certainly indulge in a hobby that you enjoy very much. However, I cannot judge your economical situation, and my guess is that your lessons cost quite a lot. So maybe, as a kind of compromise, you look for an online video piano school, that costs so much less than a teacher for two hours per week, so you can use the money that you save in a savings plan for retirement.

About the goals, I don't have any specific goals other than learning to play as beautifully and expressively as I can. I don't need any other goals than that one.


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Hi Athdara, I’m sorry things are causing you confusion right now. I think everyone has probably found this last year to have been particularly stressful, and I’m sure that things beyond piano, your work, and retirement considerations are also coloring your feelings. Work is so different, life is so different, and I’m guessing that your music lessons have also changed quite a bit in this last year. The world still feels topsy turvy.

I’m a firm believer in hobbies/avocations and feel that they add a great deal to my life. I also understand feeling like you want approach your hobby with a certain level of rigor; that without the rigor, the experience is not as satisfying. But ultimately, I think that for those of us who are not professional musicians (and even maybe some of those who are), piano should be a joyful part of life.

So I guess my advice would be to think through right now what is it that’s really bothering you/making you unhappy.
Is it the time? Specifically, is it waking up at 4.45 in the morning? (You can change this!) Is it that the finances are really not manageable for you? Is it that the piano is keeping you from other life/avocational activities that you miss? Are you frustrated because you feel your progress has been slow? Do you dislike virtual lessons (or feel that they are not worth the cost?) are your frustrations not really related to anything about the piano but a reflection of frustrations from other parts of your life?

I think I would try to think through this a little because it could help you figure out what you need to modify to make the piano experience better for you.

Regarding goals, I do think that having a set of short, medium, and long term goals can be very useful. But I worry that at this point in time, setting goals might end up just stressing you out more. If you need one, I think it should be re-finding your joy in music and music-making. The trick is to define the concrete steps that will get you there.

Please don’t quit! But maybe it is time for a break? Sometimes we need a little space, even from those people and things we love dearly!

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Do you actually want to quit? Have you lost the desire to play? Or are you just unsettled by offhand comments from other people who, incidentally, are not YOU and have ZERO right to be throwing their i̶d̶i̶o̶t̶i̶c̶ extremely unhelpful comments your way. You specifically said “I'm getting so much joy out of this that for the past two years I haven't questioned the cost of this investment.” So why are you questioning it now??

Don’t let other people make your life for you. You’re 36 years old. Do what YOU want to do. You don’t deserve a hobby? I’m sorry but that’s preposterous. And no, you’re not old, LOL. I’m almost 20 years older than you and saving for retirement, AND just bought a grand piano. Why not both, LOL? Music is life to me. Everything else is background noise, LOL.

If you have a stressful job working 60 hours a week, it sounds to me that you don’t need to quit your hobby, you need a less stressful job. Do you want to be working this much? There’s a whole lot more to life than working yourself to death.

Live your own life, it’s the only one you have. ❤️


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This isn't about piano. You're having a mid-life existential crisis. shocked

In the wild, humans would've procreated at around 20, and be dead around 40. Evolution has not prepared any of us to live so long. You're looking for meaning and purpose behind the labor investment in piano. For adults of our era it's not as simple as it used to be, you have to invent your own reason to continue living and doing.

Think in relative terms, you could be eaten by wolves, whatever you got now, it's alot better than that. grin

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When you do retire, you will be so happy you stayed with it. Gosh, by then (30 years later?) you will be quite accomplished. Otherwise, you can start again after you retire. And like some of us late starters, find that it is more difficult to learn at that age. Progress is slower. Meaning a somewhat intermediate level is all you can expect to achieve. Online lessons. Thirty minutes once a week for the next 30 years may bring you a great deal of satisfaction. Especially in retirement.



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Hi Athdara

You deserve the hobby, and are certainly sane.

I had a similar experience in the 2000s, where I was doing a pretty stressful job, trying to finish off my OU degree, playing in 3 bands and having private Jazz Piano lessons. I couldn't continue it all.

Like Lisa music has been my life. I was never a workaholic. I worked to live, rather lived for work. Unless you get an immense amount of satisfaction out of your job, and enjoy it, carry on with the music.

I made it to retirement just before the pandemic (which was very odd!) and am continuing with music to this day.

Cheers


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Simon- thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb !!!

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4:45am is an inhumane time to wake up.

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I started piano a decade ago without a teacher. I do have some experience reading the treble clef from violin playing before although reading the bass clef is slower.

"Expensive" hobby is relative to how you're spending your money. Have to assume the majority of your money is going to music lessons. When it comes to repertoire, there is a lot of Classical pieces that are in the public domain so I can download for free.

Besides downloading music regularly, the pandemic lockdown gave me more time to arrange my own version of pieces on computer (some written for other instruments). My lessons are not as intense as yours. I'm with an adult group class moving along at a lower intermediate level. A few years ago I downloaded a Waltz with a lot of jumps for the LH. The piece was a bit advanced for my level but after a few months I got through the piece. I don't think anybody in my adult piano group played a similar piece except my teacher.

Having access to music is not the problem. We all learned to read and have access to different reading materials. It's a common perception that the reason for people to practice music is for their teachers. Without a teacher they have no use for the piano at home. I play the pieces from my teacher as much as my own arrangements. I have access to church hymns and learned a few pieces out of a hymn book.

A few years ago I was going to a conservatory once a week for my lessons. Last March the lockdown started. At first there was uncertainty I may not be getting music instructions for at least a year. A month later the conservatory administration got the teachers to connect with the students through Zoom. I have enough books & sheet music to last me for a few years. The piece I'm learning is my own arrangement from an orchestral piece (not something assigned by the teacher). I'm working on it on my own for myself. It's an advanced piece in 3 pages but not overly difficult. Even without a teacher I wouldn't stop playing & learning.

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Originally Posted by ebonyk
Do you actually want to quit? Have you lost the desire to play? Or are you just unsettled by offhand comments from other people who, incidentally, are not YOU and have ZERO right to be throwing their i̶d̶i̶o̶t̶i̶c̶ extremely unhelpful comments your way. You specifically said “I'm getting so much joy out of this that for the past two years I haven't questioned the cost of this investment.” So why are you questioning it now??

Don’t let other people make your life for you. You’re 36 years old. Do what YOU want to do. You don’t deserve a hobby? I’m sorry but that’s preposterous. And no, you’re not old, LOL. I’m almost 20 years older than you and saving for retirement, AND just bought a grand piano. Why not both, LOL? Music is life to me. Everything else is background noise, LOL.

If you have a stressful job working 60 hours a week, it sounds to me that you don’t need to quit your hobby, you need a less stressful job. Do you want to be working this much? There’s a whole lot more to life than working yourself to death.

Live your own life, it’s the only one you have. ❤️

This.

When I first started to read the OP, I thought, hmmm, maybe not liking the piano so much any more and looking for a reason to quit. Then I saw "I'm getting so much joy out of this" and thought, aha, something else going on here. I don't know where you're from, but "unhelpful comments" translate here to a "guilt trip." Don't let that rule your life. Look at it this way--just as you can never get back time--once it's gone, it's gone--the joy you forgo by quitting lessons now is something that is lost forever. Yes, you can take it up again and enjoy it later in life, but you've lost all that time and joy. Don't let that happen to you.


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Originally Posted by Moo :)
4:45am is an inhumane time to wake up.


It depends on everything.
How do you feel?
When do you get to go to sleep?
Is it useful for you to practice at that time?


My suggestion is to learn how to quit taking your mom's point of view to heart.


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The source of your confusion is probably 60h/week. With this schedule, it is very difficult for to find some time to think about your life or yourself. Especially the trend is increasing work time for the same/less money. Sometimes, someone keeps doing that because this is a walk around to those very tough questions.
If this job is a sprint that you can have your comfort retirement in very short time, you maybe drop piano and go back once you are retired.
Otherwise actually the piano lesson is something to keep your identity and it will help to forget the 60h/week.


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I strongly suggest you find time to watch once "The Shawshank Redemption" movie. Compare your life with their and think about sometimes....


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Originally Posted by EinLudov
This isn't about piano. You're having a mid-life existential crisis. shocked

In the wild, humans would've procreated at around 20, and be dead around 40. Evolution has not prepared any of us to live so long. You're looking for meaning and purpose behind the labor investment in piano. For adults of our era it's not as simple as it used to be, you have to invent your own reason to continue living and doing.

Think in relative terms, you could be eaten by wolves, whatever you got now, it's alot better than that. grin
Jean Christophe by Romain Rolland

“Most men die at twenty or thirty; thereafter they are only reflections of themselves: for the rest of their lives they are aping themselves, repeating from day to day more and more mechanically and affectedly what they said and did and thought and loved when they were alive.”


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I have been here too. I often thought to cut or drop piano lessons and I would think of the time and money I’d save but the truth is that the time and money will definitely get burned somewhere else, like drinking, TV, shopping... I highly suggest not to quit and make sure you have a teacher that you look forward to spending time with. If you want to save more for retirement maybe try to cut costs somewhere else but the value from piano and music lessons is worth it and so valuable. It helps with far more than we often think of such as mental health, patience, coordination, and so on. I know all situations are unique but I imagine 5-10 years you won’t look back and think “I should have worked more” but if you keep at piano you’ll have so much progress to be proud of. Overall my suggestion would be to make sure you take the time to continue to play and learn piano put yourself before your work as much as you can. I know what you mean with progress I always feel I’m the slowest learner but truth is we need to be grateful we have the opportunity to play and really when you look at how challenging music is and you see how far you’ve come I bet you are not a slow learner at all.

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Originally Posted by Athdara
Both comments have been heard frequently enough to start me thinking about what my goals are, what would constitute a goal in the first place, and whether the time, energy and money I'm putting in makes sense. It made sense, and still makes some sense to me, but now, I'm wondering if I should really stop and be pragmatic and put the money in a savings plan for retirement.

I'm getting so much joy out of this that for the past two years I haven't questioned the cost of this investment.

Maybe I feel I'm not progressing too, or that, at this age (when I should be saving or spending it on
something more pragmatic), I don't deserve or shouldn't indulge in this hobby.
If you don't get any joy - or sufficient joy - from your hobby (like another poster recently, who has presumably left PW and got rid of his piano), I'd say without a blink: stop lessons, stop piano and go do something else more interesting instead.

(For some reason, that's reminded me of an old BBC children's TV program presented entirely by children grin:


But as it's giving you joy, why should you give up? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as a sage once said (and is still saying).

I've never begrudged spending time and money on hobbies or activities that I'm interested in (and I have lots of interests) - running, climbing & mountaineering, kayaking, adventure-racing etc: all very time-consuming and costing money (I was doing lots of races as well as travelling afar), in addition to music. But I have a stressful job (think life & death of others - and since the pandemic, of myself too), and I credit my pastimes and activities unconnected with my job for the reason why I never came close to burnout, unlike many of my peers. When I return home from a stressful day or night at work, I can just sit at my piano and play something - anything that comes to mind, or whatever score is on my music rest - until I'm ready for my meal, by which time all my work worries will have been forgotten. Whereas my colleagues who suffered burnout (- some of whom have taken early retirement) lived only for their job and families.....and the latter often took second place.

I never did have any long-term goals for piano, other than that I wanted to be the best I could be. So, that meant that I kept on with lessons non-stop for a decade. And I'd say that I've achieved more than I ever thought I would when I was a student, considering that I had all the musical talent of a gnat: simply by sheer obstinacy (- my parents did their best to dissuade me from continuing lessons after my older brother stopped, but I persisted) and perseverance, and not worrying about how long it would take (though I admit that it's easier for a kid to have that mindset than an adult). Ever since my first teacher introduced me to classical music, it has been my constant joy, and if I wasn't playing it or singing, I'd be listening to it (as I am right now while I'm typing this: Zemlinsky's Op.13 songs, in case you're interested wink ), unless I'm at work or engrossed in an outdoors activity. If I felt I still needed them, I'd be having piano lessons these days (just as I had instructors for my other activities), but I'm teaching piano instead - which is also de-stressing for me, as I enjoy instructing kids who want to learn.

Piano playing is my not-so-secret hobby that very few of my work colleagues know about, because I never talk about it; and none of my family cares either, except my youngest sister. I only talk about music, and perform for people who are interested. Which suits me just fine.....


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Originally Posted by Animisha
Hi Athdara,

I think that if you work more than 60 hours a week, you can certainly indulge in a hobby that you enjoy very much. However, I cannot judge your economical situation, and my guess is that your lessons cost quite a lot. So maybe, as a kind of compromise, you look for an online video piano school, that costs so much less than a teacher for two hours per week, so you can use the money that you save in a savings plan for retirement.

About the goals, I don't have any specific goals other than learning to play as beautifully and expressively as I can. I don't need any other goals than that one.

Thank you, I thought so too--isn't the goal of wanting to play beautifully and mprove, however slowly, sufficient? Hearing a few bars played differently--more clearly and expressively--across the course of a few weeks is just a wonderful feeling.

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Originally Posted by Sebs
I have been here too. I often thought to cut or drop piano lessons and I would think of the time and money I’d save but the truth is that the time and money will definitely get burned somewhere else, like drinking, TV, shopping... I highly suggest not to quit and make sure you have a teacher that you look forward to spending time with. If you want to save more for retirement maybe try to cut costs somewhere else but the value from piano and music lessons is worth it and so valuable. It helps with far more than we often think of such as mental health, patience, coordination, and so on. I know all situations are unique but I imagine 5-10 years you won’t look back and think “I should have worked more” but if you keep at piano you’ll have so much progress to be proud of.

Thank you all; the comments here (and from other replies) are helpful. It's true the money might get burned elsewhere haha!

Yes the teacher plays a part too. And lessons are in fact keeping me sane. Yes zonzi, the lessons do, as you said, give me some form of identity. I've never thought of it that way. it's... for lack of a better word, interesting to realise that.

I sometimes wonder if I should work less or find a new environment to work in (though I have an understanding boss, my colleagues can be slave drivers) so I don't always have crazy weeks (they're not 60h every week, thankfully!). But instead of running away from a job I think what I should do is care less about how others define their lives and be confident in how I'm defining mine.

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I think everyone needs a hobby just to keep sane. To meddle with a well known quote - don't put off today the enjoyment you are planning in some distant tomorrow.


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