Persistence: A Stubborn Attitude


I played violin and studied music as a young boy, and last year began practicing guitar and resuming my studies in music a month short of my 57th birthday. It is from that perspective from which I ruminate and chronicle my musical journey. Thoughts, feelings, and ideas meander without purpose unless they are committed to some form of expression. I consider myself lucky that I have two creative outlets from which my intellectual and emotional energy flows, namely music and writing.
Words alone are not enough to express the depths at which my most inward-looking meditations pant for unfettered release into the wilds of humanity. To harbor a feeling of profound uncertainty without the means for its release is a lonely place to call existence. When the tension gradually intensifies from the opening attack, the feverish pace of melodic pitches eventually capitulates or goes unanswered until another phrase reveals an undisclosed passage for its etheric release to receptive spirits who huddle around me as I stoke the fire that burns within my mind. That is precisely why, at this late stage in my life, I persist and look forward to my practice sessions; it is all that truly matters to me.

What I have now I didn’t possess as a young man in his early twenties, and that’s persistence clothed as a stubborn old man. Arthritis is an evil nemesis that slowly robs what my hands can do, but I have excellent hearing, a lot of heart, and a truck load of stubborn attitude. As mentioned on occasion, I find shaping and switching chords physically difficult, frustrating, and discouraging. I don’t recall having any such issues playing violin as a young lad, but then my fingers were way more flexible and cooperative back in the day. However discouraging my ability is to finger and gracefully switch between chords, improvement is detected and acknowledged by my music sensei, and just when I need it, he offers encouragement and anecdotal stories that I otherwise wouldn’t receive if I was learning guitar on my own.

It’s generally accepted that it takes time in the neighborhood of 10,000 hours or ten years for a willingly dedicated person with sufficient aptitude to develop expertise in a given discipline, such as acquiring proficiency in playing a musical instrument. I subscribe to the belief that it’s never too late to learn something new and, motivated by pure passion, perhaps become an expert in a discipline later in life. I remind myself to not dwell on the 10K hour milestone because it distracts from experiencing the emotion and sounds of my musical journey, and making the journey is more meaningful than the ultimate destination. My passion lies in the ability to express myself musically, and that’s a concise description of my ultimate musical goal. Whether composing, writing a song, or playing music from a fake book, my intent is to do so with emotional and expressive faculty.

Though I have a musical background which does influence the way I approach my guitar practice and music studies, I do need to be practical and acknowledge that acquiring new knowledge is best done in small, incremental steps as an older adult. I tend to be hard on myself for not being able to master chords overnight, but then I have to admit that I don’t have such issues with sight reading and playing melodic instrumentals. Since that’s the case, I emphasize chords and rhythm in my practice routines. I practice what is difficult for me. Someday, maybe later this year or the next, I’ll realize that my stubborn attitude paid off and the chords I’ve been practicing for all these months sound clean and good to the ear. At the end of the day, my persistence is just another way of saying, “I’m stubborn and I ain’t giving up.”