better /ˈbedər/, adj.

My late violin teacher often used to say to me in my lessons, “Practice makes better.” Of course, at the time, he meant for me to practice violin more, but these three words ring true for just about anything — baking, communicating, and breaking old habits.

This weekend, a close friend and I finally got around to baking soufflés together. We’ve been baking together for two years (!!) now, and every subsequent time we meet up, there’s always quite a bit of discussion beforehand of what new restaurant or baked good we’re going to try.

For the past four months, our conversations have always touched back on a soufflé date, so this plan has been a long time in the making — though for good reason. During our first baking date, we made lemon meringue pie and completely messed up our meringue because we got yolk in it. It was a tragedy saved only because a friend had extra eggs and didn’t mind having scrambled yolks, but then the pie peed, so it was just all bad. We were scarred.

Now, two years later, with many more successful baking projects under both our belts, we finally embarked on our next egg-separation-required baking project. Yes, the lemon meringue pie fiasco was mentioned.

Photo by Courtney Cheng

If you haven’t already figured — no, we did not have a repeat disaster. Practice separating eggs and baking does, indeed, make better.

It’s easy to recognize improvement in skills where results are actually visible. Playing an instrument and baking both have a “final product” to enjoy at the end, so you can actually measure and compare how you’ve done in the past with how you’re doing in the present.

When it comes to something as intangible as communicating with another human or just learning how to process your own emotions, realizing you’ve become better is harder to figure out. It doesn’t help that life throws you things — like a new Ed Sheeran album — that make you start crying randomly in the car, so you’re left wondering if all your efforts over the past few months have been for naught.

In other words, there isn’t a cut and dry method of grading yourself on your ability to work through your emotions in a healthy and constructive way. But I can say from personal experience that these words hold true: “Practice makes better.”

Photo by Courtney Cheng

It’s difficult for any person to adjust habits and temper their reactions; no change ever happened in a day. Acknowledging and recognizing your efforts to change, however, is an important [first] step. An equally important [second] step is not mentally beating yourself up for not seeing any “tangible” results in how you respond to events, words, and people in your life.

Be gentle and trust in yourself. There is no “good” way to measure your emotional progress, but practice will make better.

If you don’t trust me, then at least trust my teacher. He fought in WWII, played in pit orchestras at movie theaters, and taught violin for almost 40 years. I’m certain he knew what he was talking about.

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