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Have you ever looked back at your life and wished you could have used your past to improve one skill or talent? That's what I am doing right now!
At the outset, people may interpret me as 'somewhat musically talented'. I lead worship at church occasionally. I have 2 guitars, a ukulele, a cajon, a keyboard, and a few shakers at home. I have made a few virtual choir videos with friends during the pandemic lockdowns. I can be seen behind the mixer at church once in a while. Now that must mean that I am a musician, right? NO WAY!!
I have some vocal power and small range of singing - my ability to keep a tune is very average. I know most regular chords on a guitar and can strum the usual way, even know a few tricks. I can keep a beat on the cajon and play songs on the ukulele on 2 scales. That's enough to keep my kids entertained and to join the singing at church.
So why do I have regrets? I haven't explored my full potential. I haven't given it anywhere near my best. I have lost the ability to learn new things. I have limits that I can't seem to get rid of. Let me explain the journey.
I learned my first notes and chords on a piano when I was in 3rd grade. Awesome start, eh! To learn more, I had to travel half an hour to my aunt's house. I did it quite a few times, but never sustained the efforts. In a year or two, I had made very little progress and as school got busy, I slipped away completely. Missed opportunity 1.
This was in the 1980s and 1990s. My sister and brother took vocal classes, but I deemed myself unworthy and was too lazy to join them. Missed opportunity 2.
By this time there were several music books at home and there were notes and music sheets. I learned the basics of reading music but didn't develop that into reading music. Missed opportunity 3.
I was given a guitar somewhere in high school. I over-tightened the strings and left the guitar in the storeroom where the wood cracked and the fretboard bent. When the person who gave it saw it after a few months and was furious! End of story. Missed opportunity 4.
I entered college and this is where I had the biggest chances! We had music competitions and choirs and events. I decided to play drums as no one else in my class played the drums. I taught myself drums by asking around - there was no internet or youtube to look for tutorials! The drumset was usually locked up in the auditorium and I would play them only during practice for some events or programs. I also learned more chords on the guitar and taught myself a few songs. I played when a few of us were gathered together.
It is at this time I realized my limitations. In my 20s with no formal music training and musically average, my ear for music, beats and timings was poor. I was not a reliable 'leader' for any song and just followed others. I had to learn the chords for a song before I could play it and a drum roll made me nervous as my timing could easily be off. But in spite of these limitations, I enjoyed the best phase of my music life. My regret? I had a million chances to tune and finetune my skills and I didn't use them. I could play a few things and that was it. Missed opportunity 5.
I fell in love and married. I wrote her 3 songs during our courtship and sang one of them live at our wedding with a borrowed guitar. The world thought that the next great musician was born. But love is paradoxical and after we got married, the talent faded away magically. Missed opportunity 6.
My parents bought us a guitar on our 2nd wedding anniversary. Life was busy and youtube was still unheard of. I learned some songs and played them when we had church meetings. We went abroad for a few years and suddenly the guitar wasn't with us. I went to a church that was vibrant with music and we even met as friends to sing. My talents were now stagnant and I could still only play or sing in a standard way. I had chances to get better, and unfortunately did everything but music. Missed opportunity 7.
We came back to India and I gave it my best. I led worship at church and sang at every chance I got. As my son started growing, I didn't want him to face the same regrets. We soon had a keyboard at home and he was attending classes. I tried to relearn the piano, but failed. I continued to expand my guitar playing repertoire, but age had caught up. I needed vocal and musical help every time I decided to lead at church - I sometimes struggled to hit the right note to start off a song! But I pushed myself. I bought a cajon and at the first opportunity, offered to play it at a music show with a packed auditorium. No one knew what a cajon was and I showed them. I had a few opportunities to play the drums again and could finally prove to my wife and children that I did play the drums in college! I roped in my son to play cajon and he was an enthusiastic learner. When there was no one available for the mixer, I forced myself to learn what all those buttons and sliders did and could help out occasionally.
When the pandemic hit, I relearned music to stay with the times. I recorded songs for church a few times - our church is a very simple and forgiving church and they do not expect perfect music. I was intrigued by virtual choirs and music and learned how to use Final Cut Pro and Davinci Resolve to try and create a few projects. In between a very busy time at work in the healthcare center and the covid madness all around, this was a constant source of strength, entertainment, and refreshment to my heart, mind, and soul.
So that's where I stand. I miss being musically talented. When I mix, I still can't figure out how to make the sound better. I can't seem to sync the vocals and instruments and backing vocals together perfectly at all. I speed up or slow down as I play the guitar or cajon. But what I've realized is that the world is full of people who enjoy it when you give it the best shot. I've wasted many years, many opportunities and have ended up with a lot of limitations that I cannot get rid of. But, that doesn't worry me anymore. I do have regrets musically, but they only make me try harder. I feel disappointed that I haven't done as much as could have, but that has just inspired me to give my kids the best chances at music and let them go where they want to musically.
Do you have any regrets from your early life about talents or skills that you miss having now? Do leave a comment here!
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