The idea that most of our memories are incredibly embellished--and sometimes downright made-up-- hit me like a ton of bricks as I was cleaning out my old room in my childhood home a few weeks ago. This job was difficult, considering I am a sentimental person. And back in the day I was an unreformed, certified pack rat as well. So, needless to say, the room was filled with an unfathomable amount of artifacts from my past--a past that had apparently been adapted into a rags-to-riches screenplay in my mind.
Ever get the feeling that you might be insane? That's how I felt as I read through a few dusty college acceptance letters that I found in storage boxes under my bed. One from the Peabody Conservatory stood out. It completely negated the story I always tell about how I ended up going to Columbus State for undergrad.
THE BASIC STORY: We had no money for college, so I worked really hard in high school (this part is true). Because I got no scholarship to any conservatory, I luckily ended up at Columbus State,and studied with Martha Gerschefski who completely changed my life for the better.
THE CONTRADICTING EVIDENCE: An acceptance letter to the Peabody Conservatory and an accompanying financial aid statement which showed an offered amount that was just shy of a full-scholarship.
Huh?! I stared at the letter in disbelief and then tried to think back...
I "remember" parts of my audition for Peabody vividly. Warming up in a little room with other, very intimidating cellists. Waiting outside the audition room door while the current auditionee finished playing the first movement of the Saint-Saens concerto, the same piece I would be playing. Realizing in horror as I heard it that the crazy double-stop passage in the first movement is supposed to be actual sets of distinct intervals (and not what I was playing which was the cello equivalent of jamming your entire forearm on the piano keyboard in a frantic chicken-dance of cluster chords). The next part is a blur. I know I apologized to the audition panel for what was about to happen, because I remember the response I got from one of the faculty members, basically, "Don't ever do that." I must have motored through the audition, despite the knowledge that the humiliation would be horrible and great.
I managed to survive that experience--and I THINK all the facts about the audition are true. I know my memory will forever be suspect, but I do have audio tapes to prove how I was playing back then. Ugh.
Somehow I got in. And somehow they decided to give me money. So, why did I remember that part wrong?
- Humiliation? Was it just unfathomable that they could want me to show my face there at Peabody again? So the letter was some kind of mistake--and therefore I just forgot about it? Fixed history with my mind? (For the record, this seems scary. What else have I "fixed?")
- Did I already suspect (what I would find out later to be true) that I am not a conservatory-type of person and felt I needed some kind of external excuse for that fact?
- Did I want to say that my decision was made by fate, so that I wasn't to blame if Columbus turned out to be a bad choice?
Who knows the reason. And it doesn't really matter now anyway (except that I feel like my credibility is now completely shot when it comes to past life events. No more winning an argument about how much it actually snowed back in the Great Blizzard of '93...)
The one thing that I DO remember correctly is that Martha eventually taught me how to figure out and play correctly that passage in the Saint-Saens (and any other piece I sit down to learn), and I have never looked back!
Here are a few of the other artifacts I discovered while sorting through all that stuff:
One last note:
It turned out to be about this same issue! Glad I am not alone...