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Column

‘The music you make yourself’

It has been a long couple of weeks.

While there have been many factors, one in particular has taken up a lot of space in my head. Yesterday, I was out of the office for the funeral of my beloved uncle, who passed away over a week ago in a car accident. The collective pain has been heavy, but our family is strong, and passionate enough about one another to make sure we all navigate through this.

Add in a little bit of stress, troubles sleeping and no motivation, and you have a recipe for disaster. While I’m no stranger to funky head spaces, this time I’ve had a new tool for escape: my ukulele.

I purchased my uke about a month ago, as I’ve long desired to learn how to play some sort of instrument. (Anybody who knows me is probably plugging their ears at the mere thought of that.) I ordered the thing, it arrived, I learned a couple chords and would strum it once a day or so for a week or two. I mainly used it to play the same strum pattern and two chords repeatedly, but let me tell you, I felt like a rock star.

As chaos picked up, the ukulele got neglected a bit. I didn’t have the motivation to learn. But after one particularly stressful day, I came home and just sat in my chair, emotionally numbed and drained, dreading any sort of work or social engagement. As I went to recline, I knocked something over. It was the uke.

I picked it up and just kinda started messing with it, and quickly became distracted. Next thing I know, it’s time for bed, and my neighbors probably don’t want to overhear me attempt ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ for the 354th time.

From that moment forward, it’s become somewhat a reflex. I wake up, I strum for a bit. I get home, I try to learn a new song. Before bed, I practice changing between the different chords with my clumsy sausage fingers (Sidenote: B7 is the most aggravating thing I’ve ever tried to attempt. I simply cannot get that barre down.)

In this short time I’ve learned a handful of chords, patterns, tricks and songs. Making the song sound good is a completely different battle, but considering how much progress I feel I’ve made in such little time, despite minimal instrument experience and no professional lessons, I’m somewhat proud.

Part of the reason I’ve never tried to learn an instrument is a simple thought process: ‘I’m never going to be able to figure it out.’ I briefly tried to learn keyboard way back when, but legitimately convinced myself that I just didn’t have that ability in my skill set, so I quit trying.

But as years go on and I’ve learned from observing friends play various instruments, I decided I wanted to buy a guitar. I was going to throw myself into it and become the next Axl Rose (just the rock parts). But the more I looked into it, the more I began to doubt myself on it.

Flash forward to earlier this year. I was at my buddy’s house, and he is the type to have a bajillion different hobbies and activities going on at any given moment. I’ve walked in on him doing everything from building computers to 3D printing me a Kirby with human legs. This day, he walks out of his room with a ukulele, and the sound was so tranquil to me.

Granted, he was just strumming different chords, it wasn’t an actual song, but I was immediately fascinated with this bite-sized guitar, and I did my usual thing of drilling him with a million questions. He began teaching me the ins and outs of the instrument, and I decided I was going to follow the footsteps of every financially responsible American and blow my tax refund on one. So, I did.

At first, I felt dumb for buying it. I doubted that I would actually take the time to devote to learning the ukulele. But, in the end, that purchase provided me with a reusable escape and a skill I can work on and utilize. Most importantly, it soothes me. While everyone sitting next to me trying to watch TV may disagree, I don’t think there’s a more relaxing sound than the music you make yourself.

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