If you remember a few weeks ago I posted about my struggles with trying to play the ukulele. I promised to stick it out for the whole six week course and tonight was the last night of the 101 class that I was able to take. Spoiler alert: I don’t hate it and I haven’t cried about it in a couple weeks.
I have a lot of emotion and ego wrapped up into music. My mother was (and truth be told probably still is) a phenomenal piano player. We acquired a piano for the kids (my brother and I) to take lessons, some of her old music was sent by my grandmother and she just sat down and played some Chopin or something like she’d be playing every day for years. That moment is so ingrained in me that I still remember 20+ years later the awe I felt in my mother’s skill that day. My father and brother were pretty good singers even if it was just singing along to the radio.
Me? Seems like most of those skills passed me by; I was never told I was any good and a few times told I was pretty bad. Add in the childhood penchant for not having any patience and not wanting to practice so I just decided I’d stay bad: only singing in church and along to the car radio (mostly when I’m alone).
Therefore, when I say this is a skill that I feel completely inadequate please believe me; I’m not trying to make up (good?) blog fodder. Every time I’m sitting around people who actually know what they’re doing musically I always feel a little less than. It’s one of the areas of my life where my ego HAS to take a back seat and I can’t pretend my way through anything; I am very demonstrably lacking.
So here I am as an adult thinking I found a way back in to the music scene. I found this cute, little instrument that makes such a happy sound that instantly transplants you somewhere warmer (although the Northeast hasn’t needed to be any warmer this summer). And someone was going to be willing to teach me for free! The free part was crucial because if I STILL didn’t like it, it’s ok, I tried something new but didn’t waste a ton of money.
Six weeks later? I know the fingering for 5 chords (C, Am, F, G, and D) and if you need someone to strum a C I’m your woman! I can even transition for some songs but aside from the musical knowledge and growth I’ve been (re)taught a few very important lessons:
- There’s a reason why it’s a cliche. Yes, practice does make perfect. In as little as 15 minutes most days I’ve been able to “master” the chord fingerings and manage the transitions. I’m not really good but once I really started practicing and I got the Kala ukulele app (iTunes and Android) I noticed that it got easier and easier.
- Don’t suffer in silence. I am known for speaking my mind but not in times when I’m vulnerable. I am often hiding behind the armor of ego and DGAF but I was truly struggling with learning and when I allowed the teacher to see that and hear that I was struggling it made all the difference. Even if there were a few teenage moments of “I’m just not going to get it” thrown in for good measure (did I mention I’m almost 40?) she was able to see my struggles and work with them.
- People are trying to be helpful. There were many well-meaning individuals who I came across in these six weeks that attempted to be supportive and encouraging but when you’re stuck in “the goo” (the stage between caterpillar and butterfly) hearing things like “just try it!” or “you’ll get it!” were not always what I needed to hear in the moment. The teenage brain of mine wanted to lash out and yell at them about how “NOT HELPFUL” they were being (insert some really awesome eye rolls for best effect) but at least I was adult enough to remember they thought they were being helpful and to nod and smile. Or maybe sometimes I didn’t nod and smile but at least I didn’t yell at anyone.
- Being the new kid and trying unfamiliar things is a huge area for growth. When you get to be almost 40, you think you’ve got a lot of this life thing down but when you decide to try something completely foreign to you it reminds you that it’s not always easy to start something or change something. I have gained a new respect for anyone trying something unknown to them. Again, including my precocious three year old Munchkin who’s just trying to learn how to be a person in this big world.
Ultimately this was something that was supposed to be fun. I spent some of the time wallowing in my misery, wondering if I was going to continue it and thus sapped some of the fun out of it. There are definitely some days where the 15 minutes still feels like a chore and I’m so happy when the timer goes off because I can put the wretched thing away for the day.
However, overall, I’m still glad I took the class and I’m glad that the teacher was able to create a safe space for me to be pretty bad at something and not give up on me. I ended up buying my own uke so I can keep playing it even if I’m still only ok and I have to come to terms with being “ok” with it. I’m allowed to be ok. Nothing is riding on me playing my ukulele other than having some fun and if I never perform in public that’s just fine too.