Though I could be called well-rounded, I am in fact the product of a long series of obsessions. From 1993 to 2000, for instance, my thoughts entirely to the art of jazz guitar. I took summer classes at Berklee, sat in a claustrophobic practice rooms with no air conditioning for sometimes 8 hours a day, and largely ignored all other elements of teenage life.
When you suck at something it doesn’t take long to see improvement. An hour of practice and suddenly you’re capable of something new and amazing. Early on, your will to practice is fed by that feeling. But as you get better, the events that spark that feeling of progress get farther and farther apart. You find yourself working a million times harder for a millionth of the improvement. The better you are, the harder you need to work. That’s the adage. Problem was, I was getting pretty good. I won a musicianship award at the Clark Terry Jazz Festival, and occasionally I’d get paid for a gig (a feat I have yet to accomplish as a writer). You would think these were positive signs, progress, recognition of talent, but I saw the wall coming up on me.
It always seemed like the next improvement was a thousand practice hours away, and the kid who was just a little bit better than me, he seemed like another TEN thousand away. I slowly came to the realization, and even more slowly accepted the fact, that I was never going to be as good as I wanted to be, and this catharsis could rather melodramatically be referred to as “the moment my dream died.” I did not react well. I let myself down by sabotaging practice sessions and auditions, I let my friends down by tuning out of bands, and eventually, finally, I let my father down by selling the guitar he’d bought be as a kid.
For the next ten or so years I would occasionally reference my jazz-obsessed past, perhaps giving a short, romanticized summary of my decision to quit, one that might make me sound tortured and mysterious. But I literally would not touch a guitar. Just wasn’t interested, I’d say, but it was a stubborn thing, really. I was protecting a broken ego.
…And if it took me a decade to really explain why I quit in the first place, forgive me if I don’t know how to put into words exactly why I’ve picked it up again. But I have, yay! New Year’s Resolution, play guitar again.