The Process of Learning as an Adult

I’m learning how to play the guitar!  My brother gifted me one of his old guitars – a Fender Squier Acousto-Electric – with a lesson book and DVD, some new picks (red, of course), and a really nice soft-sided case.

The first day back home with my new instrument, I held it in my hands and strummed some with both my fingers and the pick.  Tim, my brother, had tuned it for me so it sounded good but I did not.  Then I popped in the DVD and started, very slowly, working through the first lessons about how to hold the guitar and how to play certain notes using the strings.  Within 10 minutes my usual negative self-talk started – it said things like, “You are too old for this, why did you think this would be fun?” and “Wow, you suck – you’ll never learn this!”  I can be really mean to myself, but I’ve been working on this kind of negative self-talk with both my nutritionist and my therapist over the past year so I knew it for what it was – resistance, fear, and nervousness.

So, I took a break – for one thing, my poor left-hand fingers were getting sore – and put the guitar away, but here’s the thing, and this was huge for me, I picked it back up the next day!  I tried again. I didn’t let those voices get to me.  At least for one day, but they kept getting stronger and I kept feeling more and more stupid and old.  I have 4 decades of being on this planet and countless times where I had no idea what I was doing and needed to learn something and I always want to run away first and I always have to push myself through to get to the wonderful other side.

This time, my 6-year-old son is helping me with this process.  He works so hard going to school, learning new things – I mean, he is in first grade and is learning spelling words, has math tests, and just finished a report – he amazes me every day.  He also is a huge cheerleader for me.  When I play and I hit a wonky note and make a face, he giggles and tells me to try again or gives me a thumbs up or dances around the apartment while I plink out my new notes.  When I’m working out on the weekend and can’t do another set and I’m groaning, he runs into the bedroom and says, “Mommy you can do it!  Keep going!” and then when I’m done he gives me a huge hug.  When he’s at school and I’m doing the hard things, I remember his words and keep going.

Also, I see him struggle and want to give up and run away and I realize this has been the way I have dealt with new things for a while.  When I started singing Cabaret, just me and a piano in a small room in NYC, it was scary – I felt naked up on stage, exposed and raw – and I would finish a song and cry for what felt like hours, but I kept going back because I loved performing and singing for others.  It was hard and I wanted to run away, but I didn’t.  When I started working on my novel and things got hard or scary – I wanted to run away and hide and throw the whole thing in the trash, but I didn’t because I love writing and want my book to find it’s readers.

So I want to change how I deal with things so I can teach him that it’s okay to try, to fail, to fall down and get back up and try again, to keep going just because it’s fun, or you want to learn, without any other reason.  Yes, he has to go to school because it’s the law – but I want him to learn to love the process of learning and to do that I have to learn the process of learning.  For today, that means picking up the guitar even if I feel silly, even if I have fear and want to run away, even if I’m afraid it will never be “perfect” – because screw that! I want to have fun!!

What new things are you learning? Or do you run away from newness and learning and that horrible feeling of not perfect?  What do you want to learn?  Maybe we can help each other out – maybe we can be cheerleaders for each other and keep us on the “we’re doing this because it’s fun” path!


  • Jennifer Blanchard

    Awesome!! I want to learn guitar too. I actually tried a few years ago but never stuck with it. I have a gorgeous blue Ibanez guitar that I love… but my husband is the one who always ends up using it. LOL

    A good site for free guitar lessons is: One of my clients recommended it to me when I was in my learning phase. Maybe I’ll pick it up again soon!

    • Jennifer Gregson

      Ooohh…thanks for the link, I’ll check that out! Your guitar sounds gorgeous, you should definitely take it back from hubby and start learning again.