“You have to get to the point where you realize there is no correct thing – there is no right way to do this, “ says poet David Rivard. 

I lift the words off the page of Boston University’s online interview, write them in my journal and reassure myself. So interesting to me that I have to take this lesson from academe – the purveyors of right, of correct. I still do. Yet I remember a sweet, musical time in my life in the hills of West Virginia learning how to fiddle. 

The teacher, a master of fiddling, almost didn’t teach at the workshop because the offer came on college letterhead: he didn’t think he was college material. A retired coal miner, he left his hollar, brought his hunched over body – and probably diseased lungs – to the college. He also brought his fiddle and gave me the chance think, “The person is doing exactly what they were made to do in this life.” 

He listened to my fiddling, and fielded my questions – was I getting the tune correctly? the bowing? the stresses? the IT? – and assured me that there was no right, no correct way. He encouraged me to love the sound, have fun, enjoy the journey. 

Forty years later I still grab affirmation from wherever I can find it, let it wash over me, feed my soul, and then pick up the bow or the pen and live. 

Richmond, VA

Nan is a poet and musician who lives in Richmond, VA.

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