The girl in the subway, years ago...

One of my first memories of New York, not long after I moved here, was standing on the subway platform by the tracks, waiting for a downtown town train at the Lincoln Center stop.  All of a sudden there was a commotion on the mezzanine above; a young woman was crying hysterically.  We could all hear her getting closer, and then there she was, half running, half falling down the stairs toward us on the platform. In one hand she held a violin case, and she headed straight for one of those big black garbage cans they have every hundred feet or so in the subway.  Without missing a step, she let out a scream and jammed the violin case into the garbage can with utter disgust and despair, and jumped through the closing doors of an uptown train.  Before any of us even knew what was happening, or even thought to retrieve the violin for her, the doors closed and the train disappeared into the blackness of the tunnel. We all stood there, stunned.

It suddenly dawned on me, and probably the others around me as well, that the Julliard School of music was just above us, at Lincoln Center.  Most likely, this girl had just failed a jury. Having served hard time (and been paroled) in a classical conservatory myself, I knew that meant she busted her ass studying and practicing, working at her dream for years, only to have to supposedly prove her worthiness by playing something somebody else wrote hundreds of years ago, and hoping her interpretation would curry favor with a small cadre of elitist academic blowhards who didn't have the guts to go out and lay it on the line themselves, but would rather hold court in the safety of their classrooms and their tenure and their pensions, judging others.

I don't know about the others on that subway platform, but I realized I had just witnessed the death of a dream.  To this day I still think about that girl and I wonder whatever became of her.  I hope she's OK.  I get sad all over again. And I get angry all over again.

Whether your thing is music or something else you love and believe in, don't ever let yourself be measured by someone else's standards.  You will most certainly fail at some point, but at least fail on your own terms.  Then get back up.  And when things get rough and you don't know if you have what it takes, think about the girl in the subway.  I know  I'll never forget her.