New Year, New You

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO—New Year, New You. It’s a refrain you’ll hear a lot in the coming weeks, and there’s a lot of merit in picking a season, month, or day to make a change; zeroing in on one facet of your life that you want to improve upon, and saying from this point forward I will act differently.


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The prospect of a new year often focuses on what is to come, but perhaps more important is the opportunity to reflect on a year gone by--what you’ve accomplished and how you’ve made yourself better than you were one year ago. It’s easy to look forward and say “I want to change this about myself”, but it can be a bit more difficult to look back and say “well, I wanted to change that, but I never got around to it”.


The older I get, the more I want to live my life deliberately. I want to see places I've always dreamed of seeing, and do things that I've always dreamed of doing. I have a long and obscure bucket list filled with various trips, jobs at which I want to work, and hobbies that I want to dabble in. 2015 has been a good year for me, and I’ve knocked quite a few things off the bucket list.


Thinking back on it, I’m most proud of teaching myself how to play guitar. Back in 2013, I bought a little travel-sized Ibanez in Port Macquarie, Australia, and picked around with it a few times a week. The internet makes procuring guitar tabs easy work, and it was something I could toy around with in my spare time. Other, more accomplished guitar players would pick up my guitar and play a few songs, and I’d think how badly I wanted to be able to play like them…but they would always think, oh I don’t play guitar, I just mess around a bit.


As the months passed, and I found myself more in command of the instrument, I inadvertently started showing others what I knew. I was by no means teaching, but I was in a position to show them a little something about how music, at least as far as I understood it. It struck me that no one ever really thinks they play guitar…there is always a tier above them, a musician far more proficient that makes them feel as if whatever they can do can't even be considered playing music. John Mayer is a virtuoso, but he compares himself to Eric Clapton, not to the millions of amateur hobbyists that look up to him. 


Traveling with a guitar is not an inconspicuous undertaking. Many people ask whether I play, or what kind of guitar it is if they play themselves. For the longest time, the answer was no, I don’t play guitar, I’m just learning…until one day it struck me that yeah, I actually do kind of play guitar. I'm not great. I don't know if I ever will be, but I can play well enough that someone can sing along if they know the tune. The real turning point for me was at our end-of-season party in Alaska this summer, when Carmen and I wrote a little parody of Jason Aldean's Dirt Road Anthem, and played it for the rest of the crew. It was a nerve-wracking undertaking, worthy of a pre-performance tequila shot, but it's also one of my proudest moments of the past year.


It wasn't a significant professional accomplishment or a major life milestone, but it was meaningful to me because a few years ago I never would have dreamed that I'd be playing an instrument in front of other people. I've always considered myself tone-deaf, and wrote off musical competency as something I wasn't capable of. Yet little by litte, I chipped away to get to a point where I can actually carry some sort of tune. Of course, there will always be people better than me, and I don't think I'll ever have my playing exactly where I want it...but the upshot for me was that if you want to do something bad enough, and you keep working at it, that you'll eventually get what you want. You'll be able to say you play guitar. Looking back on the previous year, it's one thing that I'm proud to say I accomplished.