Want a sample script for dark-comedy gold?
Take one perfectionist, give them an (analog, "old school," simple-stringed) instrument they've never played and observe as they twist themselves into a tither, in the expectation that they can and will conquer the instrument - and later the world, mwah ha ha - in less time than it takes a lightening cable to charge their digital devices. End scene when they wind up rocking in a corner in a puddle of their own tears laced with bitter disappointment.
They always say real life is stranger than fiction?!
For my 41st birthday, I gave myself a gift: an opportunity to try something new and thereby reinforce the tremendous importance of being a lifelong learner.
I took ukulele lessons. Spoiler alert: I am still terrible at playing the ukulele.
My instructor is an accomplished musician who at recent count plays five instruments - piano, violin, guitar, ukulele and drums - with astounding proficiency. She is also 17 years old. Brenna is a wünderkind in every sense of the word.
When I first approached her about teaching me to play ukulele, she broke into a smile and with the sweetest sincerity replied, "I love that you are always trying new things!"
And boy did I underestimate the deeper nuances and torture of TRYING - as in, trying to not be overwhelmed by fingers that have the flexibility of a donkey in a yoga class, or a memory bank that is continually robbed. I had to fight the urge to hurl that pretty pink concert-sized torture device out the nearest window after failing for the umpteenth time to strum a Bb minor chord which should come with a warning label: "attempt at your own peril."
I consider myself a well-educated, intelligent, capable women, at an age where society dictates that one should have the good sense to avoid doing things that could bring about public humiliation, or worse, that I could fail at miserably and never be deemed truly accomplished. Forsooth!
But that is exactly the reason why I felt compelled to do something difficult - something new that my adult sensibilities felt was far out of reach - simply to challenge and humble myself, and to rediscover the pure joy of learning something from the very, very beginning without the expectation of mastery or the pressure of perfection.
Too often, adults settle into the belief that we have to have all the answers... or that we've missed the chance to try, learn, be, fill-in-the-blank something we've never done before. And thus we replace joy with expectation. I know all too well that comparison is an especially heavy-handed thief of joy when it's coupled with expectation.
I'll gladly take my joy with a crunchy topping of humility, please... like the nuts on my hot fudge sundae: a bit startling and oddly satisfying.
Humility is an equitable teacher: it will raise your consciousness while lowering your ability to be anything more than human. And to be human is to never stop learning, growing, evolving, feeling and interacting. And as we know, "to err is human, to forgive divine," from Alexander Pope's poem An Essay on Criticism.
While continued pursuit of ukulele skills may be an exercise in futility, I'm definitely getting better at doing something poorly, and in turn doing well at enriching my life.
Thank you Kelly Armijo from ArmijoDesigns for the birthday photos! Cheers to 41!