The wrong thing, again

Does anybody else ever feel that they keep heading off in the wrong direction from where they ultimately want to go? My biggest mistake was probably choosing the flute as my instrument when I was too young and ignorant to realize that what I really loved was not the flute per se but chamber music, and that flute parts in chamber music are not only rare but usually written to showcase a virtuoso ability that I would never achieve, and… well, I should have learned the viola.

Touch typing might qualify as another mistake, now that keyboards are apparently infinitely malleable; if I were learning to type now, I’d try the Dvorak keyboard.

And most recently, I’ve spent a year and a half reviewing German grammar and reading German novels to improve my vocabulary, only to get stuck into researching a novel set in Renaissance Italy. If only I’d decided to work on my Italian a year and a half ago, by now I might have upgraded from pretty-good-for-a-tourist to able-to-read-primary-sources-very-slowly.

Sometimes my life’s journey seems to resemble Chesterton’s

A reeling road, a rolling road… and such as we did tread

The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

Oh well. At my age there surely can’t be that many more wrong turnings to take,

And there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen

Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

14 comments

  1. I probably made a mistake choosing the flute also. I didn’t have the breath control to make it sound good enough for solo work. Truth be told, though, the reason that I chose the flute over violin or viola was that back in 5th grade, when we were all picking our instruments, the string instrument teachers would only allow the kids who had already expressed interest to try them out–and I was absent the day we were supposed to be expressing interest. Though that one may have worked out okay for me, because the school I went to in 7th grade didn’t have an orchestra, but it did have a very good band that I really enjoyed.

    Musically speaking, I think my mistake was being born into the only family in my neighborhood that didn’t have a piano. I always enjoyed fooling around on the little keyboards my parents got me, and I think I would have liked piano lessons.

    Beyond that, though, figuring out that I’m on the wrong path would require me to have some idea what the RIGHT one is. And I’ve got no clue there. Right now, I’m muddling along as best I can, and I’m not 100% certain that there IS a path.

  2. Also, do not choose the flute if you love bluegrass. I will never be able to accomplish Orange Blossom Special on the flute. Ever.

    1. The flute was one of the old Irish instruments, although it was seen as more oriented toward Protestant music (hence the song “The Ould Orange Flute”). So really, there’s probably some way to do bluegrass, just maybe not in the same key as everyone else. (Pretty much all the Irish/Scottish songs that ended up in the oldtimey/bluegrass repertoire have moved into a more US instrument-friendly key.)

      But heck, bouzouki with mandolin tuning is an Irish instrument.

  3. I began my music career drumming in the marching band. Took up piano, guitar and sax. 45 years later the music prof where I was teaching just guessed that I was a drummer. I seem to have a drummer’s nature. (The future drummer of the Jefferson Airplane taught me how to play in the dance band. I still prefer 30’s style music!)

    Stumbling through a long life I rarely set goals or made plans. I just did the next thing that came along. (Wu Wei) I believe that God ordains everything, including our freedom of choice. So wrong choices are still ordained, even though we freely make them. (I realize that this makes no sense. I don’t understand it either.) When a soul’s present choices stray from it’s God ordained eternal destiny then after the body drops off it is returned to hell (this world) for another go at it.

    So I “trust God” and only choose when the decision is trivial or monumental. I did not choose: a college major until forced to; a career, jobs, where to live, who to marry, my pets, clothes, friends, etc. It has worked out very well! Nature before choice. For example, I went to grad school to avoid Vietnam, effectively ending my short career as a musician that funded my education. Most of my former bar/night club colleagues are long deceased (unhealthy lifestyle). Vietnam saved my life — ended up living there 50 years later when my former student offered me a job at the university where she worked.

    “Mr. Natural” is a 60s cartoon creation by R Crumb that could be me. Crumb also loves 30’s music and drew LeRoy Shields’ (Beau Hunks) album cover as well as Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills. My name is Thomas H Moore. The early Beatles had a drummer who had the exact same name. Everything’s connected on the way (Dao) of destiny.

    I have dozens of stories like this but you get the point. I’m just grateful that there is a fun place where crazy folks can share!

    1. I can’t say that I believe in reincarnation, but I do believe that some choices are meant to be. I try to wring the best out of the situations I find myself in.
      I played the violin (badly, according to my mother, who made me practice in the basement). Funnily, my eldest daughter also played the instrument, well enough to be picked for an all-city string orchestra. I did pick up her violin once, and managed to draw the bow well enough to surprise her completely.
      I substituted for a violin teacher for 2 days. Seeing the students practicing, not caring that they occasionally made an error, gave me the confidence to pick up the recorder again (not played since elementary school). A nice side effect is that it helps my asthmatic breathing. The recorder is a forgiving instrument, easy to play, and with a plethora of free music.

  4. “Does anybody else ever feel that they keep heading off in the wrong direction from where they ultimately want to go?”

    Every morning. Where I am now is so far from where I thought I’d be at 65, and I got here by such a crazy bass-ackwards route, it bears no resemblance to my Plan at all. Even my books are that way. I start with some characters, and then the thing runs out of control for a while until eventually they solve the problem. Half the time I don’t even know what the problem is at first.

    But lately, I don’t really care. ~:D Turned out okay, so far. I live in the question.

    I too learned the flute and the penny whistle as a lad, on a whim actually because I didn’t like the piano. Now of course I like synthesizers and electronic music, all keyboards. But I also still love the old Scots and Irish music, so the flute isn’t wasted. “Hector the Hero” as played by Mike Oldfield for an example.

  5. I was supposed to be a field archaeologist (Indiana Jones-type) or a military intel officer. Or a professional musician. Oh well!

  6. Actually, I find that everything I’ve done or learned turns up useful, eventually. Yeah, even the bad ones. But that might be more common for writers than the general public. Right now I’m finding the Russian language class that almost flunked me out of college, somehow snuck enough *something* into my head that I’m enjoying writing a (Far Future SF) Russian Agent.

    1. Sometimes I collect information simply because I enjoy collecting information. A lot of the time I also try to retain it, in the theory that I will use it for /something/, eventually.

      I’m in the middle of some stuff that I would have told you, fifteen-twenty years, that I’m saying away from.

      1. “I will never, ever research the 20th century in Europe because it is too [rude word] depressing!” Alma in 2007. “Yep, I was right.” Alma in 2013, up to her elbows in researching 1914-1938 in Central Europe.

  7. I know there isn’t enough time in life to make all the mistakes myself but sometimes I seem stubbornly determined to do so.

  8. My planned direction on life-college, engineering degree, marriage and 2.5 kids, designing and building spaceships.

    Where I wound up-single, unemployed due to the Crow Flu, and having not a single f(YAY!)king clue what I’m supposed to do next other than a “keep calm and bugger on” thing.

    1. I think “keep calm and bugger on” is probably the best course no matter what. Best of luck with everything.

  9. In high school I wanted to get a PhD in political science and teach college (that’s what it said on the little card I filled out and they gave back to us at a reunion). Ten years later I got my MA while building airplanes. Ten years after that I finished my PhD. I spent twenty years in academia. I quit that last year to write full-time (thanks to my wonderful husband). If you’d told me even two years ago that I’d have two books out in 2021, I’d have laughed so hard I cried. I don’t think of the different turns as “wrong”, but rather, the more interesting option available at the time.

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