Rekindling Old Dreams
Rise up! You have nothing to lose but your blisters!
I use this platform to make the case that we have a perfect opportunity in our later years to recapture dreams we had to let go when we were busy being adults. For example, I am restarting my career as a creative writer, writing fiction and this newsletter. I thought that was sufficient. However, my children upped the ante. For my 70th birthday, they astounded me by presenting me a new guitar.
It’s a beauty: a Fender acoustic with steel strings and a beautiful tone. It is the kind of gift I would never have imagined, or even have had the audacity to ask for, and it was perfect. Both the guitar and their thoughtfulness fill me with joy.
A little back story: Like many in our generation, my fascination with the guitar became a blinding obsession in 1964, shortly after a certain British quartet exploded into our collective consciousness. My parents bought me my first guitar. I took lessons, fooled around with it a lot in my room, and occasionally joined with friends, where we would try and generally fail to play our instruments both simultaneously and harmoniously. Occasionally one member of the combo would announce excitedly that he had landed us a gig, and on the next day I would drop out. This was a recurring pattern for years. As much as I enjoyed playing music, the thought of performing for an audience petrified me. I never willingly expose myself to ridicule or airborne vegetables.
I hung onto my guitar for many years. I was never more than modestly proficient, but I liked making music for my own amusement and occasionally for family members and friends. But somewhere along the way, the time available for music dribbled away to almost none, and the guitar became just another home furnishing. One day, when we were purging possessions to make more space, I let it go.
It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The practical thing. The responsible thing. But I did miss making music. I don’t remember talking about it, but clearly my children sensed that void in my life, and they generously filled it.
So now when I preach about recapturing dreams, I have another way to walk the talk. My fingers are slowly sloughing off decades of cobwebs and trying to re-fire muscle memories of chords, progressions, and songs. And that should be the end of the story. But it’s not.
You Pay to Play
Because if you have ever played a guitar yourself, you will recall that you have to pay to play. You pay the price in weeks of painful blisters on the four fingers of your left hand (or right hand if your name is Paul McCartney). Steel strings are unforgiving. Your only choice, if you are serious, is to play in pain for a few weeks, until those blisters harden into callouses that will remain on your fingertips for as long as you continue to play.
As a barrier to entry, blisters are pretty easy. Other dreams are harder. A retired friend informed me this week that she is pursuing her long-deferred dream of running for public office. She faces 18 months of hard campaigning, and the odds on her being elected are long. But she takes a long view. It’s important to her, and it’s a worthwhile experience, win or lose. In the face of her courageous example, it hardly behooves me to complain about blisters.
I am deeply grateful to my son and daughter for demonstrating their faith that even at 70 years of age, this old dog can still learn a few new tricks – or at the very least, relearn a few he’s forgotten. I hope your life is similarly blessed with people who support your joyful aging.
Oh yes – and I’ve committed to gigs at grandchildren’s birthday parties.
Early Nominees for the Golden Chainsaw
A few entries are trickling in for the inaugural Adult-Resistant Design (ARD) Awards, which recognize truly frustrating product designs with the coveted Golden Chainsaw.
Today’s featured nominee is Nasoya Tofu. At first glance, it looks easy to open – just find a corner of the top layer of plastic and pull it off. Uh-huh, right. Not unless you have tiny, slim fingers and a grip like wire plyers. More likely, you’ll have to pierce the plastic veil with a sharp knife, then cut carefully along at least one side of the package to free the tofu from its molded cage. Must we use sharp, violent tools to free such a gentle, peace-loving and totally organic product? Come on, Nasoya, you can do better.
There’s still time to submit your ARD Award nominees. A photo and short caption is all it takes.