Each semester, the IETF awards four $1,000 college scholarships to students who have essential tremor through its Catherine S. Rice Scholarship Fund. As part of the application process, students are asked to write an essay on the topic, “how essential tremor has affected my life.” The following essay is from one of our fall 2021 scholarship recipients.
By Matthew Peterson,
Virginia Beach, VA
Essential tremor has affected my life in more ways than one. When I was growing up, I remember noticing that my hands were a little different. I knew my Dad had essential tremor, but I never noticed the tremor in my own hands until I was five years old.
Since I can remember, music has always been a part of my life. My Grandma sparked my love for music when she used to sing with me. Family gatherings always involved some type of instrument! My Grandmother had essential tremor and I always felt closer to her because of it.
My tremor never seemed to get in the way until I started playing the piano. I noticed that my hands did not always play the way I wanted them to. I knew I had some ET, but I never realized how much. Teachers would tell me to “calm down” or “relax” and even say, “there’s nothing to be nervous about.” I really internalized these things and felt embarrassed about who I was. I chose to ignore my ET and not talk about it with anyone other than my parents and family.
Years went by and my interest in music and performing began to rise. I knew that my ET would be a challenge, but it was a challenge I could overcome. I spent years on the stage, holding scripts, and dreading the times where my hands would be the focus. Anytime there was attention towards my hands, I got the same questions that I did way back when I was only five. Regardless of these things and the embarrassment I felt, I was still determined to perform.
I found a small community of fellow teens with ET at my school where they supported and encouraged me. One of the piano teachers in my past said that because of my tremor, he did not think that I should play piano and sing at the same time. I proved him wrong when in 2018 I played piano and sang together in a Broadway production called, “A Time to Shine.” I performed an original song and the crowd called for an encore.
It was an absolute honor for me when I was featured on the cover of Tremor Talk Magazine for the International Essential Tremor Foundation, where I shared my experience about being a songwriter/composer/producer with ET. I am now a loud advocate for fellow teens with essential tremor and have made it my duty to bring increasing awareness to the essential tremor community. To this day people bring attention to my hands and still notice my tremor, but I no longer feel embarrassed or shy about my life with ET!
Do you want to help support students with ET during their educational journey? Make a donation to the ET scholarship fund online.