I guess I am having a second childhood, or maybe a second young adulthood. What I am experiencing now in retirement reminds me of when I first went to college. (Occidental, class of '78). It was a time of exploration, of discovery, of identity. It's not like you were a blank slate, but you were affirming these notions of who you are and were becoming.
In these "college and career readiness" times, when bureaucrats are considering evaluating colleges based on their alumni employment and earnings results, my experience seems like such a luxury. Young folks! It's not. It is essential to know yourself, your gifts, your passions.
"To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." (Wm. Shakespeare)
But I digress. As I am navigating my way through a joyful retirement, I am picking up parts of myself that I had neglected over the years. I am re-discovering many things, and one is my guitar.
It was one of those things, I always wanted to learn when I was a teenager. Joni Mitchell, Judi Collins, James Taylor, Jackson Browne. Wouldn't it be great to be able to play and sing their songs? But rather than take folk guitar lessons, I ended up taking classical guitar. It was offered in the music department as an elective for a credit, and folk guitar wasn't. I had a great teacher and ended up taking it for 5 quarters!
Soon after I graduated, I had a revelation that I could not play the way I wanted to (folk), and because I needed the money, I sold my guitar. I regretted it. It was a loss that I carried with me for a long time.
Many, many years later (2000 or so), I was visiting a friend who was living in Ensenada, Baja, Mexico, at the time. There was a guitar shop there and I saw a guitar the size of a big ukulele. It sounded great, I could carry it on board, and it was pretty cheap, $50. It really felt like a relief to get this.
But, because of my priorities - work, mothering and maybe a little writing once in a while, I did not do much with this Mexican guitar.
Until today. Playing guitar again was on my list of things to do when I retired. As I was cleaning and sorting my workroom, I found my music sheets from my classical guitar lessons. I downloaded a guitar tuning app on my phone (guitar tuna), and got it in tune.
At first, it felt strange. I had this fear that I would have to start from the beginning. I couldn't remember where to put my fingers to get the notes. But I used a fingerboard "cheat sheet" from those days, pieced it together, and once I got going, the memory came back.
Memory is a wonderful thing, to me it's magical, although I know there is science behind it. I try not to be too worried about the aging process for me as well as for my mom. But I do worry. I think it's a good thing to worry, in this case. If you have these memories, better to exercise them, than have them be buried in the folds of your brain, unused. It does give me joy to play my guitar, even if for only myself. But it also is purposeful - exercising those memory cells.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.