My most embarrassing moment was a few months after I turned 18, halfway through my last year of school. I did a lot of dumb things back then – as we all did. One of the more stupid things I decided to do was try to take units 3 & 4 in Music, after only starting to learn guitar a couple of years before and not being very good…mostly because I hated practicing. I didn’t take any music units at school prior to deciding to do it in my final year (well, not since the mandatory lessons back in Year 8, which was a long time before). I’d been taking guitar lessons for a couple of years, and that had given me an unhealthy confidence that I could take on the challenge. The music teachers didn’t think it was a good idea either, warning me it’d be very difficult, but like the naive teenager I was, I did it anyway. How hard could it be, right?
It it hard.
Really, really hard.
First off, because I’d been taught guitar in tabs, not sheet music. Music class was all about sheet music and the theory behind it. Add to that, musical theory and maths go hand in hand, and I’ve always been terrible at maths, to the point I wasn’t even doing it in my final year. Still, I scraped through class by class, barely passing but not failing either.
Now, you’d think this would force me to take things more seriously and focus on it more. You’d think I’d get my gameface on and try. After all, I’d been the one to defy what the teachers had told me to do it anyway. Instead, I didn’t take it seriously at all. I guess in my defence, I’d already done two final-year classes the year before, so I knew if I really bombed in Music, then I had those results to fall back on (at the time, only the top five results counted towards your overall mark so the worst two classes for me would drop off and not count). Also, about halfway through my final year I was accepted into film school, which in turn led me to be even more relaxed about school and my final marks.
Anyway, aside from theory, there were also practical exams for music. Like I said, I’d only been playing guitar for a couple of years and I wasn’t great. I wasn’t awful either, but I certainly wasn’t anywhere near the standard I should have been to be taking the class (I know that now!). As part of the lead up to our exams, the teacher decided it’d be good practice to have a performance night in the school hall, where parents and friends could come and watch how everyone was going.
Again, you’d think that’d make me knuckle down a little. I mean, it’s a freaking performance in front of people other than peers. Instead, the date kept creeping closer and closer, and I’d practice in class and at my music lessons. Even though I wasn’t nailing it, I thought “it’ll be fine”. Having never had to play an instrument in front of anyone, I didn’t really get it. I just assumed it’d somehow – magically – come together.
So, the night came. I went out on stage with the other people I was performing with. The hall was maybe half-full, so it wasn’t a huge crowd, but it seemed pretty big from where I was standing. The music started, and I froze up. I missed where I was supposed to come in. Then I tried to overcome that by joining in, and missing the timing, then having to stop and start again. Then, stressing more, I started to forget the notes. The longer it went on, the worse my performance was, until by the end I’d basically stopped playing so I wasn’t ruining it for the others on stage.
I’d never been so humiliated in my life, and I knew I had nobody to blame but myself. I hadn’t put any serious practice in and this was what I deserved. I’d been lazy, overconfident, naive, dumb. My face was burning as I left the stage. I collected my stuff as quickly as possible (which isn’t that quick when you’re lugging a guitar around), expecting people to pay me out. Nobody said anything, which I guess was the best I could of hoped for. I got out of there quick smart, and was thoroughly embarrassed for about a week.
At least one good thing came out of it. By the time my real practical exam rolled around, I’d practiced so much I could almost play it with my eyes closed. I wasn’t going to so stupid again. I knew it wasn’t just going to come together, it took real work. I still didn’t get great marks in the class overall, but at least I didn’t totally stuff up the practical exam. Phew!
This was inspired by the prompt ‘your most excruciatingly embarrassing moment. We’ve all got one.’ which can be found here.