On Learning a New Skill as an Adult

Recently I made the decision to pick up the guitar. My previous attempt at the instrument began in 2014, but a couple months later I went off to Europe for a few months and never picked it up again. That all changed a couple weeks ago after attending a concert.

As a young kid, I was obsessed with Hanson. Through the years, their music has come in and out of my life in random intervals, but I hadn’t seen them in concert since 1998. Fortunately my mom saw that they were coming to Philly and asked if I wanted to go. Of course I said yes but I can’t say the anticipation was killing me. In fact I actually kept forgetting that we were going, even on the day of when I said to my mom, “I’m so excited for Nashville!!!” (at that point we were a few days away from visiting my sister) and she said, “And Hanson tonight!” It had totally slipped my mind.

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I would fight anyone who told me they were girls. COME AT ME. I DARE YOU. COME AT ME.

The point of me mentioning the concert is this: it was the trigger that made me pick up the guitar. I had been a musical kid—playing the flute for 5 years and being pretty good at it if I’m tooting my own horn—but I lost that drive once I got to high school. Seeing this band whom I had loved so dearly as a 7/8 year old took me back to that kid I once was. The one who would sit down and listen to songs nonstop, dissecting every element in my mind. It made me realize that I’m tired saying things like, “I wish I played the guitar.” Well, you have a guitar, Meg, there’s nothing stopping you. 

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November 14. Day one.

I believe that adults often have it in their head that it’s too late. Too late to take up music, or dance, or psychology, or blacksmithing, or whatever that thing is that fills in the blank for you. “Too late” is a thought I’m guilty of myself; “too late” kept me from picking up an instrument again until now. At 28, I consider myself a lucky one to have made this realization, as adulthood has basically just begun for me, but this applies to anyone at any age. I even remember being a teenager and deciding certain skills were too late for me. And yes, some things adults ARE too late for. An adult new to gymnastics is never going to be in the Olympics (flash to the year 2140 when science allows a 50 year old to win a gold medal in the all-around). But in terms of learning a new skill or subject, no age is too late to do that thing you always wanted to do.

Let’s take the classic example of Julia Child, perhaps the most famous chef of her generation. Child didn’t attend culinary school until she was 37 and look what became of her. Or Vera Wang who didn’t start designing until age 40. Or better yet, Amy Craton, who graduated from college at the age of 94. Recent research has shown that we continue to generate new brain cells throughout our lifetimes and yet so many of us do not take advantage. 

When we get down to it, who the heck cares? Do the dang thing you want to do. The only thing that matters is that you’re doing it. It takes me back to one of my favorite quotes. I’m not sure of the exact wording, but Ghandi said something along the lines of, “Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it.” Think about it—when we hold back on our will to be better out of fear or doubt (a form of fear) or what have you, it is hurting no one else but ourselves. That being said, I apologize to the people within earshot of my dismal guitar-strumming; that’s gotta be brutal (sorry Sister, you’ll be heading to London soon, far away from the tone-deaf tunes emanating from behind my door). 

Stories of late successes are stories that we need, and a quick google search will show that they happen all the time. As for me, maybe one day they will say, “Can you believe she didn’t pick up the guitar until she was 28!?” Or maybe I will keep playing alone in my room. Either way, I will take it upon myself to use these ever-generating brain cells of mine because, just like Hanson says, “In an mmmbop they’re gone, in an mmmbop they’re not there.”

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From boys to men…oh why hello there…

10 thoughts on “On Learning a New Skill as an Adult

  1. Very Insightful thoughts Megan! I myself have caught myself thinking these same thoughts about it being “too late” for certain plans in my life. After reading this though I have come to realize that it is never “too late” to start something you are passionate about. Thanks for writing this blog post. It has really inspired me to pick up a new skill I may have originally thought it be “too late” for.

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    1. Thanks so much Melissa! That was really nice to read. It’s crazy how much stock we put into our age. Time to stop that- plus, we’re only in our twenties, which is still so young. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, very appreciated!

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