Playing music is like riding a bicycle but riding a bicycle is not like playing music

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One of the things that I wasn’t prepared for in midlife is how difficult it would be to adjust to life without a passion.

This isn’t to say that I have never had passion. It’s just that the time commitment involved in nurturing a passion is severely diminished. Work, commute, house, 5-month-old baby — it’s seems so cliche, but finding the time for yourself really is difficult. And when you try to fit it in with any level of regularity, something else usually suffers. But does it have to?

I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14 years old. I never took lessons, but when you’re alone or unemployed or broke or all of the above, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands to noodle around and nurture it. What I lacked in knowledge, I made up in pure creativity. I’m not saying I was some sort of guitar god - that would be douchy as hell. But I loved playing so much and it was an escape from sometimes difficult reality.

Fast forward almost 25 years and I’ve been trying to get back into it. For too many years, my guitar collected dust. I’d pick it up now and again, and it was sort of like riding a bike. But there’s a big difference between taking a leisurely roll around the neighborhood and competing in a triathlon with it. Dedication, education, persistence, passion - you have to want it. And even then, when you’re a cyclist, rarely do people ask you to perform for them on the spot. There’s an implied prerequisite to share your passion with others through performance when it comes to music, even when you treat it as something personal.

Playing guitar for me still is a meditation, but it was more on the leisurely roll side of things. I had fun, sang some tunes around the house, and blacked out the work day stress or nonstop baby puke. However, I’d been feeling like my life was missing an opportunity for growth and to get me out of my shell. .

I started taking lessons for the first time a couple of months ago. I wasn’t sure how I’d like it, but it’s been incredible. It’s every other week, so not a huge commitment, but I already find myself getting to a level I’ve never reached before. I’m still rusty as hell, but it’s nice to be challenged in a way that is not in the form of a traditional education, or work or family related. It also gives me some much needed time to myself. I missed that.

All these years I feel like I’ve been coloring with 3 crayons. Learning the fretboard and scales (however slowly) is opening the palette up and making the creative process easier.

I’ve also made a friend in the neighborhood and we’re getting together for the first time tomorrow night to play acoustic guitar. I haven’t had a friend to play music with regularly in years and I’m actually pretty excited about it. I’m even more excited to have someone in my neighborhood instead of making the trek into Portland all the time.

At any rate, my goal by taking lessons and playing with others is to get better at improvisation and to become a better music writer. I harbor no illusions (or desires) to play regular gigs or becoming known in any way. But I would like to finally start making and recording music and honoring that part of myself that I’ve neglected as other parts of me grew. I’m setting that intention now and I’ll revisit this post in the coming years to see how I’ve done. Who knows, maybe I’ll even post something here someday.