This post is dedicated to all the people who need to express themselves to feel whole; who have a random assortment of skills and abilities, especially if you can’t monetize them.
If you’re a middle class white kid from the suburbs like me, you probably grew up doing extra-curricular activities like sports, dance, music, drama or gymnastics. In my case, it was music. Starting from age 7 and on and off until age 21 I took violin lessons and even went to an arts high school (think Fame, but Canadian). I played in string ensembles and youth orchestras. I eventually stopped taking lessons and gave away all my music books.
Recently, for the first time in 15 years or more, I took it out, tuned it up and started playing. It turns out I have some sheet music left but not a lot. I regret giving my books away but they went to a young woman who also takes lessons and plays in a youth orchestra. I’m very rusty and have obviously lost a lot of the muscle memory which I used to rely on. With an orchestral instrument like the violin, most of your time playing is actually spent doing scales, arpeggios and exercises (called études) and very little time “playing.” Playing implies that you’re having fun and I wouldn’t say that most of the work you do in a practice session is fun.
What I liked about practicing was that it required so much focus. If my mind wandered I knew I was wasting my time and not really improving. The constant striving for improvement can be maddening and I think one of the reasons I eventually gave it up – I had reached the limit of what I could do.
I loved playing in the orchestras and ensembles, that was the best part. Maybe when this pandemic is over I will check out the local community orchestra!
People like me need creative outlets like playing my violin after 15 years, or learning a new song that will never be performed anywhere. The process is important, it feeds my soul. Sometimes in the world of Instagram and TikTok it can be hard to do these things when no one is watching. Sometimes I wonder if it matters what I do, but then I wonder why I feel empty if I don’t engage my creative side on a regular basis.
So if you’re feeling empty or flat or unsettled, think about that old clarinet or tuba you have lying around. Go digging through your closet for those old art supplies. Have a look for the things you used to do that made you feel like a fuller more complete person. It may not be “instagrammable” but it still matters. When you create something it matters. What you do matters!