I’ve been told that an instrument is like a language – the older you get, the harder it is to master.
When I mentioned to my friends that I wanted to play the violin, I received a few chuckles in response. I don’t blame the chucklers – I know what they’re thinking: aren’t you a little too old to start playing an instrument now?
I admit, at twenty years old, I may be “past my prime.” I mean, there are two year olds who can play the violin better than I can. Two year olds!
But that’s not the point. I’m not expecting to become spectacular. I’m not expecting to be the next Lindsey Stirling, nor am I hoping to one day serenade the President with my rendition of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. Are you kidding? I barely learned how to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by the end of winter break. By no means am I trying to impress anyone – not my family, my friends, and not even myself. All I want is to learn how to play. I want to play because I’m mesmerized by the sound the violin makes – that rich, compelling sound – and it’s always been a dream of mine to create that sound myself one day.
In fact, I did learn actually, but only for a few months – when I was fourteen, I told my mom I wanted to learn, and so she bought me a beginner’s violin for 100 bucks and drove me to lessons. My lessons were only 30 minutes long, but I clung to every minute. Eventually, though, the steep price of weekly lessons began to add up, to the point where I could no longer afford my expensive hobby. And so the lessons came to an abrupt halt. Disappointed, disheartened, and distracted by schoolwork, my $100 violin inched its way into the back of my closet, where it remained all throughout high school.
Although I no longer played, the violin reentered my thoughts every so often. Listening to YouTube videos and violin covers on Spotify, I’d consider pulling the instrument out of its case again. But somewhere from the deep, dark corners of my mind, thoughts like “it’s too late” or “there’s no point” always emerged with a vengeance. And then I’d convince myself that my violin-ing years were long gone, that it’d be best not to disappoint myself again.
Well, fast forward to Fall Quarter, 2016. I was entering my third year in college, about to turn twenty years old. And yet, amidst the chaos of a new school year and a new job, I found myself thinking about the violin. Five years after I thought I’d shelved away the violin for good, I missed it – I yearned to play again.
I realized that it was time for me to put those discouraging and dispiriting thoughts to rest. Because who cares if I’m too old. If I want to play, if I enjoy playing, and if I am able to play, then what’s stopping me? I’d always wanted to be violinist, so I finally decided to stop making excuses – I decided that I would stop dreaming about being a violinist and become one instead.
So, I want you to tell me, what’s your violin?
In other words, is there something you’ve always longed to do, or learn, or someplace you’ve always wanted to visit? Yes? Then stop making excuses! Stop succumbing to those self-deprecating thoughts that tell you you’re too old, or too weak, or that you’ll never be good enough. I’m not saying it won’t be hard (or expensive), but at least you won’t look back and wonder, “what if?” You’ll be able to live with the satisfaction that you tried, and you may even come out of the attempt a different person.
The first week of this past winter break, I took my violin out of its case. The moment I touched bow to string for the first time in years, I grimaced. It sounded terrible, almost painful. I’d forgotten everything I’d learned from my lessons from five years ago.
So I was back to square one. I printed a few pages of sheet music and watched YouTube tutorials to try to relearn. I bought a tuner and learned how to tune. I bought new strings and a new bow. Over the course of December, I improved, little by little. And even though my playing still sounds like a dying cat, I’m happy. No, I’ll never be a prodigy, or a part of the Philharmonic, but I’m happy with where I’m at and with the direction I’m going.
I hope that you too, dear reader, will find the motivation to start doing – to do what you’ve always dreamed of doing. Seriously, what’s holding you back? You’re not getting any younger.