Warning: I'm feeling reflective!
In life, we are always in transit, phasing from who we were to who we are. Just a minute ago you were someone different and in a minute you'll be different still.
Sometimes there is a thing we want to return to-- perhaps because we promised ourselves we wold-- only to discover you cannot go back.
For me this has been the cello. Middle school was hell and my home life was a fast sinking ship that ended in foster care. I found refuge in the school orchestra. I was lucky because the school kept donated instruments for poor kids could borrow. This meant anyone could play. This meant I could play.
Despite having loner instruments, I was a rare bird from a different class of people. The loners were most often used by the kids who had forgotten their violin, viola, bass or cello at home. Many of the kids had been playing since they were four or five. None had picked up an instrument for the first time in middle school.
The music teacher was clear that I was at a deficit with no experience and no money for private instruction. She wasn't not trying to dissuade me, but rather prepare for the reality. I could not expect to up with my peers. I had not met an adult who met the issues head on, did not deny them. These are the facts girl. You need to give up your lunch everyday and practice on the weekends. And even if you practice until your fingers bleed. You can't keep up with the kids and their private instructors.
I was not raised high class, but I came to roost there with books, art, writing, equestrian pursuits and music nonetheless. As with art, music was just something I could do. I was not by any means a savant. I gave up my lunches. I took the cello home on the bus every weekend-- endured the jeers this brought.
Picture a chubby girl with a wondering eye who always wore sweat pants and ugly second hand snake skin glasses because her mother had decided to fight the status quo with bad taste. Picture her on any bus with any group of middle school age children.
I might have well hung a sign around my neck that read: Please tease the shit out of me.
Perhaps it was watching me try so hard, always coming up a little short, but I worked my way into my music teacher's heart. Soon, she too was giving up her lunches to give me the private instruction I could not afford. When at 14, I transitioned from living with my mother to living in the home of strangers, I had the cello. And I would have kept the cello. But high school came there were no instruments to borrow. And then I was at a different high school with no orchestra. (To my foster mother's relief. She knew had to deal with drugs and criminal behavior, but not an okay cellist/aspire equestrian/avid reader/artist. I've never been one to follow the crowd, what can I say.) So, I joined choir.
In orchestra, when one of the kids, but particular this one boy, set about making fun, I pick up my bow and play until my heart danced with music. Because I made my heart dance, the music wasn't bad. But again, no savant. Yet this boy and the others were silenced by not bad because it was so unexpected.
I could not achieve not bad in choir because I was just plain old bad. The old adage, practice makes perfect, isn't always true. Practice only made me a bad singer who had practiced.
Fast forward some fifteen years, and I finally bought myself a cello. It was a rocky start but, to the surprise of my Korean instructor, I was not bad. Over the course of six months I progressed from Suzuki book one to book four and that's where things stalled.
Whenever I listen to classical music I get an itch to play,but this and passion are two different things. I have had my cello for nearly three years and aside from those first few months, I rarely play it. Twice in the last year in fact. So I put it up for sale because it is a cumbersome object for one with no roots and In six months, I'm going to spread my wings.
I'm not coordinated enough to fly so lets say I'll plummet into the next phase of my life. With an international job, and perhaps after some stateside time, more international work, such a large object as a cello presents nothing but obstacles and unnecessary relocating expenses.
For numerous and logical reasons, parting with the large musical instrument I don't play is the right thing to do. Yet our present is inevitably tied to our past by strings. For me the strings are pretty literal. Mostly though, it's breaking the promise I made to the little girl I once was. I promised her that one day I would buy a cello and play until I stopped being little short, that I would play until the bill was paid in full.
Well, I did get a cello, but I don't play and I'm still a little short. I think I just summed up some inexplicable part of life. It's not what I expected, but it's not so bad either.
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).