When I was ten years old, I got it in my head that I needed to start taking piano lessons. I made a formal plea to my parents who were wary about a potentially expensive investment. I hadn’t exactly stuck with soccer or swimming. I’m sure it was my mother who tapped into my artistic, dramatic spirit and caved. She’s the type who would have researched the benefits of playing piano which include improved test scores and school performance. As a classic 90’s helicopter mom, that fun fact would have appealed to her.
It turns out, piano became one of my main hobbies into adulthood. I took formal lessons from ages ten to twenty and even had my childhood piano moved across state lines, but I barely play anymore. I am a busy parent and my young kids don’t always give me a lot of time to myself, let alone want to hear Beethoven clumsily plonked out when they could be doing something they find more interesting.
During the first days of quarantine, though, I had an idea. I had the kids sit with their backs to me and pulled out my Disney “easy piano” book from when I was kid. I played as much of the song as I needed to before they guessed. This fun little game of “name that tune” gave me an idea: I needed to try to take piano lessons again. My skills had lagged considerably over time and I had a hard time playing songs I hadn’t learned as a child.
I found a website, Lessonface where you can take lessons virtually with highly trained teachers. They have this new deal to get people playing piano that is incredibly reasonable. What’s nice about the piano pass is you can try a few different teachers to get a sense of who works for you and what level you’re at. I decided it was worth it to try and signed up for a time slot when I could reasonably expect my kids to amuse themselves with their favorite babysitter, the television.
From only one lesson, my brain was awake in a way it hasn’t been in a long time. It was difficult for me to learn a new piece, but my muscle memory took over on some technique, and I had so much fun. I got frustrated that I couldn’t play something I know I could have breezed through as a teenager, but the frustration motivated me to try harder, practice, and cut my fingernails back down to their “piano lesson” short length.
Besides my mom’s reasons for allowing me to take piano, there are other reasons why it’s a worthy hobby. In fact there are many reasons to play piano with scientific backup. One of the most compelling as we get older is that it is shown to help prevent memory loss and helps with overall brain processing.
I wonder what other childhood hobbies that brought me joy might be worth revisiting. It is well known that there are many health benefits (mental and physical) of having a hobby. I could take up journaling instead of making pithy instagram stories. I was a school government person; I could be more involved in my community. I’ll probably not go back to soccer, but I’m happy to cheer my kids on from the sidelines.
Maybe, during the time of change and self-reflection in our world, we should all look at our childhood selves and go back to a few hobbies and habits. Going back to our roots could be a way to keep our minds and hearts sharp, happy, and invigorated.