During some of the hours spent on social media, I often come across an advertisement from someone who calls himself, “The Piano Guy.” I have never heard of him until now, but apparently he has been teaching adults to play the piano for at least twenty years and claims, "It is never too late!" In the advertisement, he also assures us that anybody can learn if they are willing to give it a chance with him being able to teach them through modern techniques that rage against the stereotypical stern instructors torturing their students with scales. (I do not know what scales are, but they appear to be intensely disliked by most beginner piano students.) While it is technically never too late to take on new talents, the odds are not strong at this point in my life for learning the piano. Even though it is unlikely I will devote my time during the pandemic toward mastering the piano and making an investment in a keyboard that may end up in the closet after two weeks, I cannot help wondering, “What if?”
What if I had been a lot more mature as a child and shirked groveling for social acceptance that was determined by the free will of others. I do not know what they are like now, but during the 1990s plenty of my peers were bastards who would never accept my eccentricities. I would have stood up to my mother and father who desperately wanted me to have friends and reprimanded me for not socializing more. They meant well and thought the “tough love” was for my own good. I would have firmly said, “I am not the one with the problem! No matter how much I try to make people like me, it will never be enough. So why bother?” I saw a therapist every week from first to fifth grade, which did nothing to improve the situation. If I could go back I would have definitely wasted his time until my mother and father stopped wasting their money. I would have been a wise guy and made comments to the therapist such as, “Why don’t you hang out with me in my fourth grade class and tell my classmates how cool I actually am if you really want to help.” Most important, I would have realized that social acceptance would not be the cards for a few more years and focused my energies on activities that showed mercy because improvements and self-esteem would be my reward for efforts that were not always appreciated by other human beings. This was especially true during the days of yore and yesteryear in youth. The piano would have been an inanimate object incapable of rejection.
If I could magically redo my childhood and take a trip back to the 1990s, I would have given up on social acceptance and focused my energies on learning a skill such as the piano. The free time I had as a result of “not trying to make friends” would have been spent practicing. There would be no rejection that purloined energy from more productive pursuits. Eventually, the piano playing would become more natural to the point where I did not even think about it when the ivories were tickled. People often marvel at my typing skills in public. They are amazed by how fast my fingers move without even looking at the keyboard. I am like a Carnival Sideshow when I type, but in a positive way. It did not start off that way, and I was not born with the talent to crank out at least 50 words a minute as my hands become a blur of activity. It happened over a long period of time in which I was tapping one letter at a time over and over again until it did not seem forced. The by-product of putting friendships on a back burner would be many hours alone in my room learning the intricacies of a piano until I could bring the house down at different parties with this mysterious abilities that was not actually a talent, but the fruits of using time wisely.
I may go through the rest of my life without learning how to play the piano. That is fine. But I have learned other skills and will hone them during the pandemic while perhaps developing new ones here and there. As a child I quit the clarinet, Hebrew School, and even the Cub Scouts. In adulthood these ancient failures still haunt me. Even though I do not always have control over things due to the powers of someone else, I very seldom quit easily due to the fear of adding more perennial seedlings in the Garden of Regret. I think back to the Appalachian Trail in 2005 when there were numerous times I should have quit but chose to continue. The mileage was not determined by bullies, teachers, the ignorant, and the like. It was determined by me and the drive to continue. I sometimes wonder if I had been more ambitious as a child, would this have caused me to not over-compensate in the way that I have in adulthood. If not haunted by obsessive regret from about thirty years ago there is chance I would have quit my Convalescent Plasma Campaign by now. For nearly two solid months I have dealt with being ignored by the media and many others to the point where it is unbearable. It has even caused me to mildly lash out in frustration and say things to people that I would not have the nerve to say if not under such distress. For example, when someone finally returned my phone call who has some community influence he said something along the lines of taking a look at my YouTube PSA when he has free time. Instead of saying, “No problem. Let me know how you like it,” I broke professional decorum and said, “How about you look at it right now?! It is only 67 seconds long, and it is really difficult to get you on the phone!" I honestly do not feel silly about the outburst especially when being too ginger is not getting many results either as I plead with humanity to give me a chance so I may help save lives with the Convalescent Plasma!
Even though I will not use this abundance of free time to learn the piano, I am still proud of myself and hopefully you are proud of yourselves regardless of whether the individual down the street is mastering Mandarin after having been laid off while inevitably rubbing it in your face. Good for him and good for all of you, too!