I applied to three music schools. Ithaca College was the hardest to get in to—one of the reasons I chose to attend. I feel like I don’t quite fit in there because I’m surrounded by such outstanding musicians every day. Sometimes I wonder why I’m in music school since I’m so terrible, but I have to remind myself that I’m surrounded by the best. It’s amazing how strange I feel when someone from outside the music school, even someone I would consider a good musician, comments on my skill as a pianist. Really? Oh yeah, I guess around most “normal” people I’m actually quite good at what I do. Even though being surrounded by the best often makes me feel like I’m bad at what I do, I’m so glad I chose Ithaca College, a place where I would be in that situation. Why?

High Expectations Stretch You

Because I came in to Ithaca College on the bottom rung, I had a lot of room for growth. Everyone around me is so much better than me, or so it seems, so the expectations are high. I’m expected to perform at their level at the least. These high expectations stretch me to my limits and cause me to grow. I can’t get by. I have to work. And I have to work hard.

If I had chosen a school where I was at the top, I don’t think I would have been pushed as far beyond my limits, and so I would not have grown as much. Complacency sets in really easily when everyone around you thinks you’re great.

It’s important to remind yourself of this though. You’re not terrible. You’re just around people who are better. No matter how good you are, there’s always going to be someone better. Strive to improve, but be okay with that.

It Humbles You

Realizing that you’re not the best and not the greatest humbles you. And that’s good. No matter how amazing I am, I don’t want to be proud and stuck up. I’d rather be an agreeable, humble person. Most of what I can accomplish doesn’t depend on me. It’s a gift that I was born in the United States. It’s a gift that my dad was able to go to college and get a decent job. It’s a gift that I had the opportunity to study piano with excellent teachers as a child. It’s a gift that I am able to afford college. It’s even a gift that I can focus to practice on any given day. Yes, I work hard. But most of what allows me to be as good as I am is not my own doing. I am blessed.

Being surrounded by the best is a helpful reminder that I’m not the best. And that’s okay. I am growing leaps and bounds.

What other benefits do you see to being surrounded by the best in your field? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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