The case was covered in dust of unknown origin. The handle was held together with painter’s tape. The strings were in a tangle, and one of the bows was stuck in place by its horsestring.
But it was still here—with a spare set of new strings, a quality puck of rosin that had at least another year of use in it, and a metronome that still had charge in its battery.
I had to.
I repositioned the shoulder rest, pulled out a wooden bow that once was an extension of my right hand, and wrestled the instrument in tune, its pegs now twisted in odd angles.
I still knew how to hold myself. I still knew how to draw out a note. But I had fallen far from what I had achieved in eleventh grade, when I had the skill to justify buying the best strings in the store, when I had the blessings to graduate from Wohlfahrt to Kreutzer, when I lost the will to continue with the violin.
Back then, I was still adjusting to the rigors of a magnet school I had transferred to, and I couldn’t shake the sense that playing the violin wasn’t fun anymore—that I was only doing this for the college application.
Sometimes, I wonder what would have become of me had I not transferred to Nerd School four years ago. And every time I play out that alternate history, staring at the mirror next to the front door, an artist stares back at me. Maybe he would have lost interest in school, having grown bored with his Honors and AP classes. Maybe he would have been better at drawing. Maybe he would have stuck with the violin—or maybe he would have doubled down on electronic music production. He certainly would have found more use for the thousand-dollar synthesizer that has sat idle in my dorm since summer.
But I wonder if he would be a better person as a junior in college, majoring in English or music. I wonder if the arrogance that plagued him—that plagued me—in tenth grade would have lingered, festered, metastasized over four years. I wonder if he would still liken the violin to a temperamental girlfriend, or if he would eventually learn, as I did, how to be a better person—a person with a sense of love and joy and care.
But the only thing that remains of that alternate Ajey is this old violin, a violin that pushed what it meant to be “student-level,” that I might have struggled to part with even if I made it to a conservatory.
A part of me wants to bring it back to life: to crack open the peg dope, to return to those arpeggio charts, to relearn how to emulsify vibrato into every weeping note. I would come out a better violinist than the eleventh grader who gave it up—I have dexterity, discipline, and emotional depth far beyond my capacity then. But I don’t need the violin anymore.
This instrument taught me the power of discipline and raw effort. It sparked in me a reverence for music that I still carry today. It was the first thing I truly cared about and took pride in. But I have other ways to express myself now.
And sometimes it’s okay to give something up.