Alive, Musically


A little-known fact about me: I can play the guitar. But only in the Phoebe Buffay sense.

In college, surrounded by guitar players, I became interested and took lessons from my RUF campus minister off and on for about six months. The guitar my family owned was high action and difficult for me to play, so for my twenty-first birthday, my parents bought me a nice used Yamaha (pictured above) that I picked out at a pawn shop. While I enjoyed playing, I quickly realized that I would never measure up to my guitarist friends and acquaintances. (This mattered a lot at the time, since the assumed goal was to get good enough to lead worship or something.) Even with practice, my playing just wasn’t crisp or clean. I couldn’t keep my fingers out of the way of the other strings. I wasn’t serious enough to seriously learn the guitar unless it came easily to me, so I basically gave it up.

However, I kept my guitar, much to the confusion of a few who thought I ought to sell it. I still like it, and I like having it around. I’m still solid on five or six chords. I have some instinct about strum patterns. I know what to do with a capo. But knowledge isn’t ability, and my playing remains awful. Despite this, every so often, I get an urge to look up chords to a certain song and play and sing it purely for my own enjoyment. Or, if I’m feeling especially joyful, for a lucky loved one. (I once called my sister, set down the phone, and serenaded her with Beyonce’s “Halo.” When I picked up the phone again, she said, “What was that?!?”)


The difference between current-me and 21-year-old me is that I’m now content with my lack of talent. I used to believe there was no point in doing anything if it wasn’t as close to perfect as possible. Now I know that mediocrity is valuable if it makes you feel alive. I’ve written a lot so far about ways I’m failing to be fully alive, but this is one small way I’m succeeding. My guitar playing isn’t excellent. Expectations would ruin it for me. I don’t play to improve, try to impress anyone, or serve a higher purpose. It just puts a smile on my face… and I think it makes God smile too.


(This post is part of the monthly One Word 365 linkup at The Messy Middle.)

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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Posted in music, one word: alive

10 Responses to Alive, Musically

  1. A. Sparkle says:

    Bravo for doing something for the simple pleasure of it! I had a guitar that my grandparents bought me when I was still in high school. I’ve attempted (and failed) at really learning anything other than what I can teach myself. Reading your post makes me feel okay about my lack of guitar talent! Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Sarah says:

    This is so awesome! Good for you for sticking with something that brings you joy! I have a horrid internal struggle of “This isn’t great, so why bother when so many people are better at it than I am”, and reading this was a great reminder that sometimes the greatest joys are in the DOING.

  3. Can I say how much I love the Phoebe reference? And also, high five for doing something for the sheer pleasure of it :)

  4. Love this! What a huge hurdle to go from trying to conquer something to pure enjoyment. I”m sure that gives God pleasure. Enjoyed meeting you through Amy’s link-up.

  5. I linked up with Amy@TheMessyMiddle & found your post. Love the Phoebe pic! And I do think God smiles when we are rejoicing in life. Good for you!

  6. Carol says:

    Good for you! I think it’s important that we do things just for enjoyment. :)

  7. caiobhesblog says:

    Found this through the link up. I love Phoebe’s guitar playing – Smelly Cat is still often sung in my household, so I’m delighted that you liken yourself to her !!! We don’t have to be great at things to love doing them, but we so often forget that. Have fun !

  8. lwerezak says:

    Brenda, this blog made me smile too. I still haven’t come to the place of maturity where “I know that mediocrity is valuable if it makes you feel alive.” Golly, my perfectionism has been a hard habit to kick! But I sure want to give it a better try after reading this!

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