Four weeks ago I received news that my Grandpa Jim, the jolliest man I know, has compromised kidney function. He does not have long to live. I immediately booked a flight to New York and spent an extended weekend with my mom and most of her large family. But the news did not fully hit me until I returned.
This has been my hardest death to deal with even if he is still breathing as I write this. When someone I know dies, I imagine that the person would want me to be happy, to continue doing things I love and to seek joy. The closer the connection, the stronger the encouragement. If I’m honest with myself, many of my activities as of late are things I care little for; what I do brings me insufficient joy.
I grew up around music: piano classes, choir, musicals, marching band, drumline, even some drum set. Music was my life, and then one day it wasn’t. Sadly, the mental health problems I had during college derailed much of this identity. More on that in a future post. My most effective coping skill was to forget much of my teens and early 20s and start a new life, find new hobbies, make new friends. I trained for a few triathlons, built on my existing coding skills (it is now my full time job), took up martial arts again after a long time (I did Tae Kwon Do from age 4–12 or so), and cooked a lot of my own meals.
Most of these things helped me solve problems that I could not overcome through music. Triathlon training helped me lose 30 pounds. Sparring is in my opinion a more fun and “social” way to maintain that loss. Cooking skills are useful for a number of reasons. I love my job even on its most frustrating days and feel so incredibly lucky to have a job despite what I went through. Many of the friends I have made through these endeavors and other unmentioned ones do not play music, which is very refreshing.
And, if I still consider myself a musician, having friends who don’t play music also makes me feel special, like I have something to offer a friendship. It still feels like a good eight or nine years since I played. This feeling is probably in my head because I’ve played intermittently and have only taken a break from the 4-hour-long practice sessions of 8–9 years ago. Do athletes who take time off and come back suffer any disadvantages that cannot be mitigated by some extra time practicing? I hope my situation is the same. It has to be the same.
I am grateful to have explored the things that I discovered when I stopped playing music. Generally though, while the people I met through them are not replaceable, the activities themselves are. That is what my grandpa’s passing is helping me realize: nobody will ever be able to replace my grandpa, but most of the things I do with my time can be replaced by playing music, which touches my soul in a way that nothing else really can. I’m going to fight like hell to get back into music.