I played the violin, badly, for ten years. If you stood outside my bedroom door as I made a rare and half-hearted attempt at practicing, you might think you could hear someone dragging a miserable cat in a sled across pavement. Nevertheless, ten school years in a row saw me lugging around that clunky violin almost every day. Even now, not having touched the hard, black case in fifteen years, I can remember the bulk of it swinging from its handle, feel it thunking against my leg as I trudged to Jr. High.
I was only in third grade when I first stood in a classroom and scratched out “Hot Cross Buns” with the best of them. And at the end of the year when we had to decide if we’d like to continue playing in the orchestra, I re-upped with the violin. Why not? At nine years old, I confidently added “violinist” to my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up.
I thought I knew everything when I was nine years old. I thought that I would love Jordan from The New Kids on the Block forever. I did not. I thought that scrunchies would play a key role in my outfits forever. Fortunately for everyone, they did not.
And while I thought that I would love playing the violin forever, I most definitely did not.
I was dutiful though, so I always showed up at orchestra and assumed proper violin-playing posture next to whichever kid was unfortunate enough to be my stand partner. But I never became even a passable violinist. I may have improved if I’d actually practiced, but I never would have been great.
The violin was not my passion.
I kind of wish that someone had taken me aside all those years ago and said,
“You know, I’m not sure that the violin is doing much for you. You’ve got other talents, kiddo. Maybe you should explore those.”
I guess I was just the kind of kid who needed a nudge. I must have, at some point, thought about giving up the violin, but decided to keep on playing. That was a pretty shitty decision. I should have stopped slogging through concertos three steps behind everyone else and put more effort into the things I actually loved.
Now, I’m done (thank God) with the violin, but my kids haven’t even begun to explore their own interests. It’s their turn to figure out their strengths, and as their mom, I want to help them. I want to get it right, but it’s a delicate balance, just like all of parenting, really.
I want to encourage exploration and risk-taking, but I also want them to discover a passion. I don’t want them to play the violin badly for ten years when they could be working toward success in some other arena. It’s okay to suck at something. But how do you know when it’s okay to just give it up instead of sticking with it?
How will I know if they’re truly passionate about something or not?
How am I going to teach them the value of practicing and working at something until they’re good at it, if I tell them it’s okay to quit?
What I do know is that for my children, I will work much harder at parenting than I ever worked at playing the violin. Parenting is a passion for me. And so is writing. I may have spent many years of my life messing around and being mediocre at things for which I had no passion, but at least now I know what I love, and I know who I want to be.
The best decision I ever made was to pursue my passions in my life, and not worry so much about the less important stuff. I’ll never be a great musician. I’ll never be in great, supermodel shape. Those things are not my passions. But I will work my ass off as I try to be a great (okay, passable) writer and a great (or at least halfway decent) mother, because those are the things that are worth it to me.
I won’t hit all the right notes, and I’m sure there will be times when I’ll discover that I’ve been playing a step or two behind everyone else, but I’ve made my decision and here I am. Discord and screechy cat sounds are just part of the music of being human, of raising a family. And somewhere in this beautiful mess of a symphony, when my kids come to me with the hard questions and tricky situations, I guess I just have to trust that we’ll find our own kind of harmony and make the tough decisions together.
This post was written in response to the prompt, “The best decision I ever made was…” as part of the Finish the Sentence Friday Link-up. The link-up is hosted by these fantastic bloggers:
and, this week, also by the multi-talented Considerings