Trying Something New: Play the Ukulele

by Ron Vitale

Image by Andre Kunz via Creative Commons on Flickr

Image by Andre Kunz via Creative Commons on Flickr

Back in February I started taking a ukulele class because it's been a goal of mine to learn how to play for about a year now. I purchased my uke when I came back from last year's Social Media Marketing World conference. During one of the keynotes, Larry Benet asked us to turn to the person beside us and ask: "What are you passionate about?" I don't remember my answer, but the woman next to me told me that she and her husband were passionate about playing the ukulele. I had always wanted to learn how to play the guitar so I thought why not pick up a ukulele and learn?

I bought the uke when I came back from the conference and tried learning, but it sat on the shelf for a long, long time. I strummed it a bit, but never learned how to play. My music skills are really bad. I love music and love to sing, but I have no music training and I don't have an ear for it (as my son does). My wife and son practiced a bit on the ukulele but I focused on all the other things on my plate. And time passed and my poor, lonely uke sat in its case.

But as luck would have it, I received a brochure in the mail about adult classes and saw that the local high school had a ukulele class. It was cheap, only one night a week and would last 10 weeks. Even with all my other responsibilities, I made a commitment to go. It's been fun but also extremely frustrating. It's hard learning something new when I already have too much on my plate. For those who have a family, work and am trying to juggle multiple other responsibilities, you know what I mean. I've had to miss two classes because of work and family responsibilities, but what is really bumming me out is that I haven't made time to practice.

Instead of practicing, I'm trying to work on my books or am training for my next race. Yes, I know, I know: If I just cut things out of my life, I'd have more time to practice, but that's the challenge. Yes, I could cut out all TV from my life or finishing my next book or exercising so that I could practice, but that's not easy to do. I'm a writer and I like reading and watching movies. It's how I learn about what I like and what's doing well in the world of entertainment.

If I get up around 5:30 am each day and either am writing or running, that doesn't leave me much time to practice my ukulele. But here's the thing: I don't have to be perfect at it. It doesn't matter. What matters is that I'm trying something new. I'm learning and growing. Yes, I have taken on too much with the class, but I wanted to not wait until the next time the class was offered especially since it was only a mile from my house. Now that my latest book is done, I am beginning to switch priorities in my life and room in my schedule is starting to open up. Some of that time has gone to me practicing how to play the ukulele.

I know it's a goofy dream of mine, but I have this image in my head of sitting out back, having a fire going and I'm sitting around playing the ukulele with my family and I'm singing some ditty. I can't do that right now because I suck pretty bad, but I won't get any better unless I try. That's been a big thread in my mind these days. I stays with me and has been in my mind.

I do not have to be stuck. I can walk forward and move on, but it will be hard and I will fall when I try new things.

Have you ever felt that? Have you ever been afraid of trying something new and are just comfortable in the space you've created for yourself? Your family, friends, work? I'm learning to play the ukulele. It's taken me outside of my normal day-to-day and it has been hard. I have a difficult time getting some of the notes right, but I will keep trying. The more I try and fail, the better I will become, but it does take time.

It's funny how something like learning to play the ukulele can mean so much more if you stop and think about it. Am I stuck in my ways? Can this old dog learn new tricks? Yes, but it's still difficult. And I need to share that because people often see only what I do and think that it's all easy for me. It's not. It's damn hard work and I fall on my face a lot. But that's okay because I can get up and try again. Thankfully, that's how I am. What about you?