Have you ever felt as if, in spite of loving something dearly you find yourself unable to admit to doing so?
For a long time, music has been the embodiment of that forbidden desire for me.
I have always cherished the presence of music in my life, be it memories of gleefully stumbling upon certain pieces of music, genres and artists; or moments of tinkering with a musical instrument, finding myself beholden to its dulcet tones.
However much music captivated me, I invariably relegated myself to enjoying it as an appreciative listener. I felt self-conscious about not being able to sing in tune and my proclivity to over think only added to the rationale that if I cannot replicate what I hear, I must not be capable of understanding it. Whilst feeling this disconnect with music on a cerebral level, I continued to be moved by it on a basic emotional level. My attempts to learn the harmonium and the guitar in childhood were not terribly successful either. A couple of heartless remarks from teachers further internalized my belief that I could not be musical and sure enough, I eventually abandoned all efforts to pursue music.
So the years rolled along for me in the musical twilight zone until much later in life when my kids started taking piano lessons; and I found myself sitting in on their classes, hearing the lilt beckoning me once more, feeling the desire rekindle inside of me. These furtive trysts with the piano continued until the day that I finally worked up the nerve to scour for teachers who would be willing to teach a beginner adult like me. Luckily, I found a good match and proceeded to show up nervously for my first lesson.
Two years have passed since, and looking back now, I do not regret having taken that plunge. The delight of learning a new language of musical notation, practicing scales on the piano, reading up on music theory and history and playing classical and folk music pieces is quietly fulfilling for me. I love the time spent on the instrument and find that it has enriched my enjoyment of music as a listener as well. I like being able to relate to my kids through this musical education.
I admit that I am not always diligent about practicing and those weeks that I slip up, I feel like a truant kid in class. However, the encouraging irreverence of my teacher and his constant reminders of how ‘this is a hobby for you, do not subject it to perfectionism’ provide the impetus to plow ahead.
This journey of coming back to music has been strangely liberating for me –
- It has helped me get over the fixed mindset that our ‘talents’ are set in stone. Boxing and labeling ourselves into categories of haves and have-nots thwarts any possibility of real growth.
- I realized that sometimes the very things that unnerve us are what we need to pursue the most. Also, it may take a few false starts before the engine gets going!
- It brought me back to a beginner’s frame of mind- focussing on the learning process and not so much on my self-image or the social persona that I inhabit. It has grounded me to the moment- the present.
- It has reinforced the lesson that what matters crucially is showing up at the instrument every single time- the joy and the craft will follow accordingly.
- I am thankful for the exciting yet nerve-racking experiences of playing for an audience of co-students, most of whom are much further along in their musical journey than I am. I found that the kinship of pursuing similar interests is much more powerful than the fears of being judged are.
- It has made me deeply appreciative of teachers who encourage the pursuit of the arts for its own sake and not necessarily as a competitive skills game.
I am happy that I was able to break free from the shackles of preconceived notions about myself and could reach out to this abundant treasure that had been mine for the taking all this while. I had just needed to step up and claim it.
So here I am now, in my late thirties, finally admitting to how much I love music and love learning to play it. I still cannot sing in tune but am learning to not care so much about that.
Yes, I am a beginner-almost intermediate-piano player.
There, I have laid my claim to that.