Last April, I bought a second-hand guitar and enrolled in lessons. I’m a huge music fan with a soft spot for classic rock and had some extra time on my hands. I’d never taken music classes in school and hadn’t picked up an instrument in my life, but who knew what might happen? I could be hitting the festival circuit in a few years!
It quickly became clear that I am not a secret musical prodigy. In fact, after a year of lessons, I can barely play any music at a speed where, y’know, it sounds like a song.
Despite this, I look forward to my 45-minute lesson each week. I’m sure if I practiced a bit more (OK, at all) during the week, I’d improve. But getting “good” at guitar playing isn’t the point.
There are so few things we do strictly for pleasure these days. That hamster wheel of productivity begins early. In high school, I was encouraged to do activities that I was skilled at to put on my college applications. At university, internships and extracurriculars abounded, all with the hopes of getting a decent job out of school. Sure, I liked some of them, but would I have pursued them so intensely if there wasn’t a payoff on the horizon? I’m not sure that I would.
Since then, I’ve taken courses to make myself more marketable and round out my CV. I started running about 10 years ago as a way to keep active, but very quickly, began battling with the numbers. I should try to beat my personal best, should finish a race faster, should run another marathon.
Should, should, should.
I don’t think I’m alone here. We’re constantly told that our jobs should be our passions. If they’re not, that’s OK – if you’re working every spare moment on turning your hobby into a side hustle, that is.
Do you enjoy cooking? Better have an Instagram account dedicated to it. Picking up a paint set? You’re probably past your Picasso prime, so why waste your time? It begins to feel like everything must have A Greater Purpose. Seriously, just Googling hobbies brings up a host of articles with titles like, “How to turn your hobby into your career” and “The best hobbies for your CV.” Goddamnit, I just want to be shitty at guitar for the sake of being shitty at guitar.
The funny thing is, I find that having a no-pressure hobby is fulfilling in a lot of other ways. It’s about noticing my brain working in a different way, the feeling of coaxing my fingers into unfamiliar shapes, the thrill of attempting to play a song I’ve always loved.
Picking up the guitar often makes me feel more creative. I’ve noticed that on days I play the guitar, I also seem to want to do more journaling or listening to records, and a lot less vegging out by watching television. Guitar playing has been great for tuning out and relieving stress. I struggle with anxiety, but it’s hard to ruminate on things when I’m trying to keep up to a song. All this, to me, is far better than hoping to pick up some “CV-worth” proficiency so I can be the next idiot playing that Oasis cover no one asked for.
I hope when life gets hectic, a situation is stressing you out, or you need to decompress, you find your own version of being bad at guitar.