How can there be moments that produce sorrow for one, and yet bring happiness to another? As I stare at my hands, memories flood my mind. These hands are my life. Even now, as they automatically click the keys and create the sound I love, my hands form this very moment.
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These are the hands that carefully grasped a pencil to practice cursive writing at age seven. Blistering from the unaccustomed feel of a shovel, they placed concrete bricks that created the foundation of a schoolhouse in Mali, Africa. These are the hands that sort and recycle sticky pop cans every Wednesday.
My hands include my right pinky, which has taught itself to stand beautifully curved on a violin bow; an index finger that has taken countless photos for a treasured scrapbook; a right hand that has mastered the direction of magnetic force. The slender fingers are tipped with nails that are polished year round. Are they perfect? No.
A closer look would reveal my left pinky in its mangled state, the result of a two-year-old’s curiosity to look out the car window that collided with the driver’s desire to close the window. After 15 years of healing, a finger truncated by two centimeters remains with its deformed nail.
The truth is, I have always hated this finger, the flaw on my most treasured feature. And I hated the pain caused by nail clippings – this mundane activity produced tears in my five-year-old eyes because the skin that my nail grew attached to had to be clipped away with the nail.
My dream of playing the violin like my brother vanished because certain notes were always flat and my vibrato was pathetic. I dreamt of a lefty violin, something only a desperate eight-year-old could think of. Over time, I developed the habit of folding my hands and tucking away the deformed finger.
It was only much later that I realized it wasn’t the finger that was a mistake, it was my attitude. I have no idea how I ever managed to disregard my parents’ pained expressions, who took the blame. I placed the blame on myself for being so selfish and cowardly.
Staring at my left hand now, I am comfortable with imperfection. It may be a bit foolish to ask others whether they’d like to see my “chopped-off pinky,” but my frank query represents a new attitude – I’m proud of who I am, including every weird quirk. Plus, it is the perfect conversation starter. It’s true: I’m still far from mastering the art of vibrato, but I’ve been fairly successful in fine-tuning my own outlook on life.