Grade 7 was amazing.
I'd failed grade 7 piano as a teenager, and that stuck in my gizzard for years - I'd always wanted somehow to redress the balance. I knew I had musical instincts, but there was no outlet to realise them, because I never was much of a pianist, and never will be; the oboe was really out of reach for financial reasons, because there were no funds to upgrade my instrument - when I took up the recorder initially it was to have something - anything - to play, and I got well and truly stuck trying to teach myself.
When I was 38, my husband found me a teacher, and the stuck recorder player was able to learn at last - it was like letting the cork out of a bottle of fizz. I'd never improved my playing so quickly before - helped massively by the fact that I was also sitting in on my kids' piano lessons, and absorbing practice techniques and tips from their teacher as well as having my own inspirational teacher to guide what I was doing. When he suggested I do a grade, I was stunned - I'd really not thought such a thing to be possible any more - and when he suggested grade 7 I was gobsmacked. (and even more surprised that I agreed to give it a try!) Despite failing the scales, I got the best mark I'd ever got in any musical exam, and was on a high for weeks afterwards.
Grade 8 was a dream.
This one took place in a bit of a haze because I'd been having to adjust to a family member having developed a chronic medical condition just the week before - I thought "what the heck" and went for it, playing well because I knew there were more important things in life than exams - and when the result came through, I was on air again, having done what I had never dreamed of - not just grade 8, but a good grade 8, two years after starting lessons.
Even doing ATCL, and getting almost the same percentage mark as I had for grades 7 and 8, felt absolutely fantastic - I've certainly not got complacent, and I don't regard myself as a wonderful player - doing this has made me so aware of just how far there still is to go. The ceiling goes on rising, you see - each of those steps has been exciting to take and exhilarating to succeed in, but there's more to do. I like that - it means music isn't going to get boring any time soon. But in the meantime, I'm learning still, I've not "arrived", and I have the same worries and insecurities that all musicians have, especially those setting out after adulthood. As far as dcmbarton's comment goes, about unnecessary categorisation - I have to say that since we do get judged by the rule that kids who've done well are talented, but adults who do well - well, we expect it don't we? - it is important that we can be described as adult learners, and our achievements acknowledged for what they are. I understand the reason why the adult learner concerts seek to keep the dip level players out - but it still does rankle a bit, I must admit.
Splodge: what a wonderful definition - and I fit it perfectly