Yesterday, I was driving my 45 minute commute to work, and I decided to pop in an old CD that had my name written on it. I thought, "Is this what I think it is?"
I learned to play guitar when I was 14. I use to sit in my room and use a tape recorder (real cassette tapes) to record the songs I would play. I'll never forget my brother coming in, 16 at the time, and saying, "Now you can hear how bad you sound."
He wasn't wrong.
Fortunately, I improved. I played a lot between the ages of 15-22. I played at open-mics in high school and college, and I wrote songs. The songs are about what you'd expect from a teenage girl going through crushes and break-ups, "teenage apathy", and the like.
As I listened to the CD, I heard familiar chords and grinned ear to ear as I drove and heard the lyrics. I laughed at the absence of rhythm, the teenage angst of the lyrics. I felt a joy stir in my soul that I hadn't felt in some time.
I remembered the joy that playing once brought. When I first picked up guitar, it was right after Sheryl Crow debuted her "Soak Up the Sun" music video. I looked up to Crow. I wanted to sit on the beach and play guitar. I wanted to go surfing and live on the coast. I wanted to have that hair and be that tan. It was that 14 year-old inspiration that eventually led me to live on the coast of California, playing guitar on the beach, and failing miserably at surfing.
As a teen and young adult, I felt a real sense of hope and possibility. In the years that followed, I would learn songs from idols (misguided as they may have been). I learned harmonica and would play my guitar and harmonica in sync. I would write lyrics imitating the cadence of greats like Bob Dylan. For many years, playing guitar lit something up in me.
And then it didn't. Life, work, relationships, and new interests seemed to get in the way.
I actually stopped writing music when I fell in love. The last song I wrote was the month that I moved from California. I started dating the man who I am now married to. He plays too. We've had a lot of fun over the years playing old songs, but I stopped learning. I stopped writing songs. For many years song-writing was a great expression of what I was feeling.
I'm not exactly sure why I stopped. I guess I felt like writing songs about angst and heartbreak came more easily than writing about being in love. Writing about love always felt too cheesy to me. Adulthood also came into full swing, and I just stopped making time for it. Work, grad school, more work, and other interests replaced the spot that music once held.
Hearing my old songs, cheesy as they are, renewed something in my spirit. It reminded me of the times in life when I was writing, some so pure, others full of pain. I was proud of what I had created for the shear fact that it was me. Each song like a three-minute time capsule. During the time that I wrote songs, I also drew charcoals. This is another thing I stopped making time for as life became more and more full.
We go through many seasons in life, and the more full life gets, the more we lose touch with hobbies and creativity. And that's okay. It's normal.
Realizing the joy that playing gave made me think about how I could get back into it. The math didn't really work. The only times in the day that I have "free" is the hour I spend in reading and reflection from 5:30-6:30 each morning, and the 1-1.5 hours at night that I spend with my husband after work.
It was in calculating my "free time" that I realized why I haven't played in a long time. Other things take priority. I cannot, however, refute the sense of renewal those old songs provided. So how can I build it in? I'm going to keep listening. I'm going to make some time on the weekend. I'm going to bring a guitar into the living room. Five minutes can make a world of difference.
The things that bring us joy do not have to be productive. They don't have to be good. If you like finger-painting, finger-paint!
Hearing those songs, which had nothing to do with being productive, re-connected me to a feeling I hadn't felt in over a decade. It re-ignited something important.
I think we all have that thing. For some of us, it's going outside or traveling, connecting to things we always dreamed of doing as kids. For others, it's writing or sewing. It can be anything.