I was terrified when I drove up to the Logan household on June 6th. No, there was no threat of confrontation. No zombies lurking in the alleyways. No plate of peas that someone would force me to eat. It was…deep breath…my first guitar lesson.
I know, I know, it seems harmless. And maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic. But it was a defining moment for me, and defining moments in life can be both liberating…and a little scary.
You see, it’s been many, many years since I’ve had to start at square one with anything. I don’t do well with the term “beginner.” And in the past, if I haven’t been good at something, I’ve abandoned it for something else that comes naturally to me.
Cupcake baking, dancing, singing, writing – these are the things that I do pretty regularly and that people know me for – but they’re also things that fit neatly in my comfort zone. And up until now, I’ve been totally content to only do things I know I’m good at – or I know I will be good at in a relatively short period of time with minimal to medium effort.
Because like many people, I fear failure. I grew up the epitome of the only child perfectionist with a Type A personality. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve calmed down those tendencies and I’m pretty sure I have an A-/B+ personality, but I still have this crazy drive to succeed. Failure is not an option.
So, you can imagine how nervous I was holding an expensive and beautiful guitar, bracing myself for the inevitable reality that I was going to suck at playing it.
As Rabbi Jake Schram advised a young Jewish boy practicing recitation of the Torah for his impending bar mitzvah in Keeping the Faith, I had to embrace the suck. I had to “love that I suck.”
In essence, I had to feed myself a big dose of humble pie.
And it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Because I’m realizing that in becoming a student, I’m allowing myself to grow as a person. I’m letting go of my preconceived expectations and tapping into my own personal modesty. I’m letting someone else share their passion and knowledge with me. We’re forming a bond as student and teacher that is so incredibly cool, full of respect and mutual learning. I’m pushing myself to do something that I never really thought I could.
And while it’s still early on and I admittedly have a lot of work to do, I’m progressing. Like daily. I might actually get this guitar playing thing down in time.
The fingers on my left hand have grown numb. They’re starting to callous. My hand strength and stretch have improved like crazy. I listen to music differently now, trying to identify the strum rhythm or whether an artist is bending their strings.
And this is the first thing in awhile that has inspired true discipline in me. I’ve promised myself I’m going to practice every day. And for the most part, I’ve been truly dedicated to that schedule.
Last week, I came to a really cool realization. Perhaps we can call it a Tiffany epiphany. Last year around this time, I was sitting pretty. I was deep in my talents, dancing up a storm, baking cupcakes, working on a new writing project. I was enjoying what I’m innately good at. This year, I’m craving something new. I’ll always dance and write and bake, but now I want new experiences. I’m changing my focus and making space for humility – and it’s a really cool place to be, because I’m progressing instead of staying stagnant.
Next year around this time, I hope to look back and savor the memory of my first taste of humble pie…and how truly good it was.