My ukulele arrived yesterday.
It was scary. What if it was hard to play? What if I was terrible at it? What if it was a huge waste of money? What if I only played it 2 weeks and then gave up on it? Won't I look silly? When written down, these fears seem overblown, but they did bounce around in my head for a few weeks. It was only $35. It takes up almost no space.
The uke was, itself, a compromise. A few months ago after I began reading The Artist's Way, I became inspired and tried to convince my husband, Ryan, that we should buy a piano. I took piano lessons sporadically as a child and decided that I needed music in my life again. But pianos (even free ones) are very expensive, and they take up a lot of space. So, after thinking about this for awhile, I finally decided that the ukulele was a reasonable compromise.
The ukulele is a silly-looking instrument, which is, perhaps, appropriate. I feel a bit silly deciding to take this up. It certainly doesn't feel as important an instrument as the guitar, violin, or piano.
When I was in third grade, one of my favorite songs was a Wynonna Judd anthem called, "Girls With Guitars." It was about what you think it was about. One of the chorus lyrics is "Girls with guitars, what's the world coming to?" I sometimes imagined myself as the titular girl with guitar, but never picked up the instrument. I didn't realize it at the time, but even as an eight-year-old I had absorbed strict gender roles, and guitars didn't figure into my picture of being a desirable woman.
I became a stay-at-home mom almost without thinking about it. My mom stayed home, my mother-in-law stayed home. The Evangelical Church that I was raised in placed motherhood as a woman's highest calling. As a kid I may have briefly dreamed of being a teacher or a ballerina, but in the end, I knew my main job in life was to be a wife and mother. Even though I was smart, hardworking, and privileged, I never imagined that I could be anything I wanted to be. I never tried to become anything like a doctor or a lawyer; I had, perhaps, heard too many warnings about women who "tried to have it all."
Ryan and I were talking the other night about the ages at which we gave up. When I was 5 or 6, I quit doing the monkey bars. I wasn't as fast or strong as the other kids, and I didn't want to look silly. It was the same for Ryan and drawing. Isn't it sad how early we learn to limit ourselves?
There seems to be this idea that we need to hurry and grow up, become adults, figure out who we are and then set it in stone. Figure out who you are, THEN get the career, the house, the husband, the kids. Then, stay the same until you die.
I don't want to be stuck. I don't want to limit myself. Which is, I guess, why I'm a 33-year-old mother of two who just bought a ukulele. I want to play it, even if I totally suck. I want to try it, even knowing I might get bored and stick it on top of a precarious pile of sheets on the top shelf of my closet and forget about it for the next two years. I want to occasionally ignore my children while I practice chords. I want to drive my family crazy sometimes with my terrible playing. I want an instrument all to myself, with no one else's sticky fingerprints on it and no mansplaining about how to tune it properly. I want something for myself. A ukulele of one's own.