I get so discouraged when learning an instrument. Almost immediately, I assume the worst – that I will NEVER get it. There is no proof that I am the special seahorse that is the only person in the world who just absolutely sucks at playing an instrument. So many people have learned it. So many people pick it up at any age and have no clue what they are doing when they start and yet they succeed! So why am I so discouraged and so sure that I will fail?

Growing up, whenever I started having trouble learning an instrument or a new skill, I would get pulled out of learning it. I don’t remember asking to stop. I remember it being taken from me. I can’t say that’s what anyone else was experiencing. Maybe my parents thought they were anticipating my failure and wanted to save me from it. But I needed to fail! And then have the chance to move through it onto the other side. I have struggled so much with that as an adult – failing and moving to the other side. I am so ready to give up before I fail, because that’s what I am familiar with. 

A lot of things come easily to me. Technology comes easily to me. Communication, editing, writing, etc. name your English major skills here. Math came easily to me too, but hasn’t remained especially relevant to my life since college. I also did learn a lot of instruments growing up. In chronological order: piano, violin, clarinet, bassoon, and bass clarinet. As an adult, I have tried to teach myself guitar, mandolin, and now frame drum. 

Learning the frame drum seems straight-forward and simple. I watched a bunch of videos and was convinced I could pick it up and start learning once I got a drum. And then my drum arrived. I picked it up and tried following along with a frame drum course. I instantly was awful at it. The drum kept slipping everywhere. I couldn’t make the right noises with it. And how in the hell was I supposed to hold this thing and play it at the same time?!? 

I reached out to the instructor and she generously and kindly pointed me farther into the video where she went over the basics. Holding the drum was covered in detail and extensively about 10 minutes from where I lost the will to fumble anymore and stopped the video. I tried following along with this section and suddenly the simple things I couldn’t follow were accessible to me. When I held the drum correctly, I could play the strokes too! I stopped the video again. My brain was buzzing with relief and terror that I didn’t have to fail or give up and that I wasn’t a lost cause in my desire to participate in music. I let myself rest in that. I didn’t push myself to keep learning right away. I started writing this. I wanted the knowledge that I could do this to settle into my body. I am recovering from a kind of anxiety built into my bones. And I want to honor that recovery. Let it settle and reknit the structures so I can come back to the process renewed and ready to start on my next challenge. 

I am grateful. I am whole. I am mending myself with gold.

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