Have you ever tried really hard to achieve something and felt like you’ll never get there in the end? Did you continue to fight or did you give up?
Do you remember trying to learn to drive all those years ago? Do you remember that time you went through a red light because you were so worried about trying to get everything else right and you just froze? Or how about that time when it was raining and you swerved around the corner just a little too fast and you thought you could have died.
Do you remember what thoughts and feelings crossed your mind? Something on the lines of “I’ll never be good at this”, “I give up” or “I’m a complete failure”? Did you accept failure, learn and move on or did you fixate on your short-comings and beat yourself up over it internally? Most of the time, I ended up doing the latter and often struggled to find the courage to try again for fear of more failure.
Years later, you don’t even think twice about how to drive. Once you get in the car, everything just happens, as if you were on auto-pilot and you drive to where you want to go. Instead your concentration is fixed on your surroundings, whether you are going to be early or late or whether you like the music that is playing.
If you had a chance to go back in time and console your younger self – would they listen, or would they remain stuck in their pain and frustration? If they knew what was coming, how would have things turned out differently? Would they have embraced the challenge differently, knowing there was a break-through coming? Or would they have just been completely overwhelmed by even the thought of being good at something?
What are you working through at the moment that feels impossible and how are you coping?
Last year I started learning the violin. Although I had been a drummer for roughly 10 years, music theory was overwhelming and all I knew was “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit”. Even as a drummer I hardly practiced and often got so frustrated and angry when I couldn’t get things right. I played in the worship band at church for years – there were some really good moments and there were some really painful moments.
People always commented on how well I played, especially early on considering the time I had been learning. Most of the time I was so fixated on the mistakes I had made and what I couldn’t do that I struggled to accept encouragement and be contempt with what I could do. Over time, various struggles and negative thoughts got the better of me and I stopped playing altogether.
In terms of learning the violin – arguably one of the most difficult instruments to learn, I was at absolute ground zero. At first I bought a cheap second-hand electric violin (to try and avoid anyone from hearing me) and worked through my first few lessons from YouTube (shout out to Alison Sparrow). A month later I decided that I wanted to pursue violin more seriously, so I bought my first acoustic violin and started having regular weekly lessons. I could barely bow the open strings and sight-read the notes on paper.
Three months later I was playing Bach’s Minuet No. 1 (Suzuki Book 1). This week I started Bach’s Musette (Suzuki Book 2).
By no means has this journey been easy – learning the violin as an adult is hard work. You want to desperately be somewhere and after hours and hours of practice, you end up frustrated because you don’t feel any closer in the grand scheme of things. Your fingers are tense, they don’t want to be flexible like they need to be and everything is just sore. You try your best to play in tune and balance everything, but more often than not you can’t keep up.
Every time you watch a violinist play on YouTube, you are amazed at their talent and ability, however you become slightly jealous of what they can do and what you can’t. You watch recitals of Primary School students playing the same pieces you’re struggling through and they seem to be playing a million times better and significantly faster.
How often do we focus on the negatives and become so fixated on what we can’t do instead of being satisfied with what we can do? How do we patiently endure and maintain a positive outlook rather than so easily become impatient, frustrated and overwhelmed?
What if your future self traveled back in time and told you how far they had progressed and encouraged you to not give up? Would you be excited by the thought of being able to get there, or become overwhelmed by all the obstacles that you will need to face between now and then?
There will always be another more difficult mountain to climb. The journey will always have it’s highs and lows – we have a choice to focus on the positives or the negatives, and that will always be a constant battle which we need to fight.