For years I played music and it gave me great joy. It was one of my primary activities, something I did both for fun and in my studies. Then I discovered theater and by the time I was in college, the two started to compete for my time and attention. As my interest in theater grew, I gave music less attention and started to enjoy it less. Eventually, I chose theater and gave up music.
All these years I’ve ranged from somewhat- to very-sad that I no longer play. I know that I could have continued to dabble, but somehow that made me feel worse. I just stayed away. I would occasionally sit down at the piano and gingerly pick out a tune, thinking about how comfortable the keys used to feel, noting how awkward I now felt. I would listen to tunes I used to play and remember, with regret, that time of my life.
For the past few years I have been missing playing music more and more. I’ve been thinking about bringing it back into my life but felt nervous and shy. I berated myself for having given it up, looking at the people who have continued to play and thinking how good I could be now If Only I Hadn’t Made That Choice…
And herein lies the crux of this post. So many of us (if not all) have Made A Choice at some point, one that eventually led us to thoughts of regret. “If Only…” fills our mind and we consider all the possible paths our lives could have taken if we’d made The Other Choice. All too often these thoughts are accompanied by recrimination because regret can be mean and unforgiving.
A couple of weeks ago I bought a ukulele. I was with a friend who’s a great teacher, who managed to sidestep my nervousness and doubt, who got me to start playing before I could stop myself with all those negative thoughts. And the craziest thing happened: I enjoyed myself! Rather than get lost in feelings of past regret, I got lost in the here and now and just played music with him. When we stopped playing, I started to get excited about learning more. And I realized just how much hanging on to that regret was stopping me from enjoying myself now, and from future possibilities.
Yes, maybe I would be a great musician now if I kept at it. Then again, maybe not. The important thing is the past won’t change, and so it doesn’t matter. Right now I have the option to make choices about my future. And whether or not I’m going to be “great” at music is kinda irrelevant. I’m choosing to play music for as long as I’m having fun with it. And after a while I might change my mind again, and that’s going to be just fine.