Let’s say you’re a gifted painter. Maybe you don’t make a living at it, but it’s a source of pleasure and fulfillment, occasionally joy.
But for years you’ve wished you were a standout baseball player, even though you’re not so athletic. If you could wave a magic wand, would you swap your passion for a completely different one if you thought it would be more enjoyable?
It’s a fairy tale scenario, but it’s at the core of our sense of self — our happiness with who we are, and our occasional desire to be someone, or something, else.
In my case, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to give up my relatively meager running accomplishments for a life of performing music.
Some days it seems like a good deal.
It would be a step up, in a way. If I were good enough at music, my talents could be enjoyed by many others — in contrast, my success in running is a source of great satisfaction to me but doesn’t directly benefit others (except perhaps my loyal running companions).
Contemplating the swap is ridiculous, of course. But every time I hear talented musicians perform, it gnaws at my gut that I cannot do what they do.
The internal rumble returned last week, when Michelle and I took in several nights of live music on vacation in Northern California. The performers have other jobs, but music is a major part of their lives, a burning passion. And they’re damned good at it.
I sat in awe, watching and listening to beautiful art emanating from what to me is a foreign language.
Since I can’t wave that wand and turn myself into one of them overnight, I’m trying the old-fashioned approach. Practice. I’m taking mandolin lessons through a cool online site, pegheadnation.com, which offers instruction on a variety of string instruments.
Struggling through the basics and learning to crawl is humbling. I may never get to a point where I’ll feel comfortable playing in public, but it won’t be for lack of trying. And when I get frustrated trying to learn a tune, I go for a run.