I don’t have any major regrets in my life. Missteps, sure, but none so damaging that I still grieve over them.
While I had a few moves in my radio career that didn’t pan out, they were always followed by jobs that went very well and lasted several years.
I’ve played more than a few poker sessions that ended miserably, but have been able to withstand those hits to my bankroll without ever going broke — a benefit of being a recreational player, not one whose livelihood depends on which card falls on the river.
I had a few relationships that didn’t last, probably because I wasn’t mature enough at the time to know how to sustain one. But I eventually met the right woman, and we’re now in our 37th year together with a happy, healthy, very smart daughter.
The only thing I can honestly look back on and wish I hadn’t done was quit the guitar.
As a kid, I took my six-string to lessons every week, practiced quite a bit at home, and got to be pretty good. I grew up with Pete Seeger fans as parents, so in our apartment there was a lot of folk music, which became the foundation for the folk-rock and singer-songwriter era I embraced (e.g. Bob Dylan, Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel). When my teacher lent me his copy of James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” album, I took it home and listened to it over and over until I learned how to play about half of its tunes within a week.
But after five years in a row, I was getting restless, paying more attention to girls, and spending more time with new friends I met in high school, so when I was thirteen, I told Mom and Dad I was going to give up guitar. They didn’t put up much resistance.
If I’d kept it up, the guitar would have probably helped me get through those awkward teen years a little more easily. I have no doubt being a musician at an early 1970s high schoolers’ party would have been a positive — a theory that probably still holds true today if you’re a guitarist or pianist, but probably not for some other instruments. No group of sixteen-year-old girls gathers around while you blow into your contrabassoon.
My wife was also a guitar player as a kid (one of many reasons I fell in love with her). In fact, she spent a summer taking lessons at the same place I’d attended, but it was after I’d quit, so our paths never crossed until a decade later. Unlike me, she still has a six-string and a twelve-string. Though they lay dormant most of the time, she occasionally picks one up, pulls out her old notebooks full of songs, and delights me by playing and singing.
I wish I could accompany her. Although I can’t read music anymore, my fingers still remember how to form most of the major chords, but struggle when moving from one to the other. Since the callouses on my fingertips that came from pressing on the fretboard every day have long since healed, it hurts after a while. I’ve thought about taking it up again and working my way back into shape, but I’m honest enough with myself to know I won’t really commit to it, which is a recipe for disappointment.
I never had delusions of stardom as a guitar player, nor ever really wanted to play it in front of other people. Yet the memories of how joyful it was to learn new songs or strum old ones are still stuck in the back of my brain.
If I could tell my thirteen-year-old self anything, it would be to keep playing, keep playing, keep playing. Oh, and don’t be so shy around girls.