Week 10: Playing the guitar

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

I learned how to play the guitar shortly after my father did. I was about 14 and the guitar was one of his new obsessions. He bought a number of guitars to learn on but really splurged on a beautiful (and surprisingly great-sounding) Ibanez acoustic. This, more or less, became my guitar and my emblem of my Teenage Years. We learned that guitar lessons were probably not worth it and it was just as easy to teach yourself chords as it was to watch a really fat man play them. As my knowledge progressed, the guitar became my constant companion. I started playing in the worship band at my church youth group. I would squirrel myself away in my bedroom until the wee hours of the night, playing guitar, figuring out new chords, trying to write super-dramatic songs. I mean, what’s more “teenage” than that?

I brought my guitar with me when I came to college and continued to play it throughout my freshman year. It was also a great source of solace during my sophomore year, which is like the Middle School year for college students (confusing, depressing, awkward).

But then, one night late in my sophomore year, I met this boy named Guion. He visited me in my room and picked up my guitar and started to play it. I was stunned. “I… never had any idea it could sound like that,” I stammered. This kid was a genius. And I suddenly felt very inadequate about my pseudo-musical abilities. We started dating and I started getting involved in other things, like internships and writing. My once beloved guitar gathered a lot of dust in my dorm room closet.

As a disclaimer, this should not sound like Guion is somehow at fault or responsible for my abandonment of my guitar. Rather, it should be seen as a criticism of my own lack of self-esteem. There’s always going to be someone out there who is better than one at any given skill. This does not mean, however, that one should abandon said skill. I wish someone (i.e., myself) had told me that in college. But I had moved onto other things. When I started my senior year, I left my guitar at home and effectively bequeathed it to my little brother (who has, let it be known, now surpassed me in my musical abilities).

Guion has always encouraged me to play the guitar; he hates that I gave it up. But as the years passed and my calluses disappeared, I was too discouraged to pick it up again. After all, I’d forgotten practically everything I had known. So, this week’s challenge was a return to the past, to my former self, and to the guitar. I am still grossly self-conscious about it and I can’t strum to save my life, but it’s coming back gradually. As I type this, the tips of my left-hand fingers sting a little bit. And that’s a good sign.

Unlike some of my other challenges, I hope to keep this week’s challenge incorporated into my day-to-day life. I won’t presume to ever play in front of anyone, but I was never trying to be a musician anyway. Rather, I liked having this therapeutic channel that was wholly separate from reading or writing. It would be nice to have that again.

Next week, I will be wearing a dress every day. Here’s to hoping for warm, spring-like weather!

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