Every morning I walk my dog at a ridiculously early hour before getting ready to go to work. This morning was no different and it is the case every morning that I tend to find myself mulling over the day ahead or a problem coming up, or just considering life in general. This morning the phrase popped into my head "I'm too old to learn...(insert new skill".
I think the reason that this phrase went through my head is that we are in the process of helping my mum to clear her house ready for a house move. She's lived there for 50 years and has accumulated as many possessions and chaff as you would expect for such a long period in one place. Amongst the possessions are many musical instruments and, being the only musical one in the family, said instruments have been promised to me. It has always been my understanding that I would eventually get these instruments as part of my Mum's will, but this seems to have been brought forward by the impending relocation. The new house Mum is moving to is considerably smaller and she has to downsize and therefore remove a lot of the possessions from her life that she either no longer requires, or has space for. These include, amongst others, my Grandad's cornet, possibly the two violins which have sat on top of a wardrobe for my whole life, and a Welsh lap harp. The last time I visited my Mum, she made me promise something. "You will learn to play the harp, if I give it to you?" My husband looked at me, raised one eyebrow, and said "hammered dulcimer?" I am just like my mum and that I collect possessions with an intent to learn how to play or make or do something. Sat by my piano at home is a student half-size hammered dulcimer, a travelling one if you will, which I have had for a year and been promising myself that I will learn to play it.
So where does the phrase "I'm too old to learn a new instrument" for example, come in? Is it simply a case of too old and therefore incapable? No, I don't think one loses the ability to learn something because one is old. I think it is simply a case of one no longer having the time. When we are children and we have no responsibilities it is an easy matter to put in a half hour to an hour's practice the day, whether we want to not, to learn new instrument, a new language or a new craft. Once you reach 40+ - sometimes younger sometimes older - your time is divided up in so many ways. You have so many responsibilities to family, work, clubs, that finding time to learn and develop new skills is sometimes almost impossible.
So what to do? Find the time. I did indeed promise my mum that I would learn to play her beloved harp. Not that she's learned to play it herself yet…
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