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You 2.0: Loss And Renewal

A young Maya Shankar.
A young Maya Shankar.

As a young girl, Maya Shankar was well on her way to a promising career as a classical violinist. Itzhak Perlman had taken her on as his private student at the Juilliard School. But not long after, she injured her finger while playing a difficult section of Paganini's Caprice no. 13. She tore a tendon in her hand, bringing her musical career to an untimely end.

Today, Maya has reached a new pinnacle in an entirely different field. She served in the Obama administration as a senior advisor at the White House, working to create better policy using insights from behavioral science. Her work in government was far-reaching — helping students get to college, workers save more for retirement and millions of children get access to school lunch.

It's a calling she couldn't have anticipated at Juilliard, where she dreamed of being a concert violinist. What followed in the days after her musical career ended was an incredible sense of loss.

"I was really devastated to lose something that I was completely in love with, and so passionate about, and that had really constituted such a large part of my life and my identity," she says. "I was first and foremost a violinist."

This week on Hidden Brain, we look at turning the page and starting anew. At the end of the podcast, you'll hear musician Aimee Mann read a poem by Emily Bishop.

Special thanks to From the Top for music of Maya's performances used in the episode.

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