While I don't miss the homework, struggling to find a parking spot on campus or the inevitable end of semester stress, since graduating from college, I find myself getting slightly nostalgic at the beginning of each school year. Weird, I know.
Maybe I'm just addicted to purchasing stacks of new notebooks and pens.
It's also the excitement of starting a new set of classes - learning something new from different teachers, particularly if the classes are ones you picked out.
To combat that slight feeling of melancholy, this fall I've decided to also embark on a new endeavor typically reserved for kids much younger than myself. I am taking piano lessons.
In truth, I've taken lessons before. When I was in about the fourth grade, my dad and I signed up for joint lessons from a nice, albeit hard of hearing old lady. I'd get a half hour lesson and then my dad would take his turn while I did homework or read or something.
This would have been a good arrangement had I not decided that I hated practicing and had my teacher not suddenly died about six weeks into my piano career.
That was the end of piano for me. In a few years I had started playing in the school band, so I learned to read music, but recently I became envious of people who can just sit down at a keyboard and start playing a tune. So when I found out through Facebook that one of my friends in the area teaches, I decided to sign up.
My first lesson was last week and I have a long way to go before I'm able to just sit down and play.
In band I play the French horn, which is a brass instrument with a large bell and a maximum of four buttons that you push with your left hand. At most I have to worry about one note at a time.
Piano is a different story.
First there's the challenge of reading two lines of music at once, one of those in a range I'm not used to reading. Then you have to somehow convince your fingers that they can move independently of each other, an action that mine aren't tremendously sure of yet. And when you've done that, you still have to make sure your fingers are on the correct keys, playing the correct notes.
With the French Horn, the sounds are made as a combination of which fingers you press down and the vibration of your lips against the mouthpiece so you can feel which note you're playing. So far, one key on the piano feels pretty much like all the others, so I'm still spending a lot of time looking down at my hands to see where the heck they are.
The process reminds me a bit of learning to type - frustratingly slow in the beginning, but then you start making progress. At first, my fingers had no idea where they were on a computer keyboard. But you just keep at it until you can do it.
It's interesting to be challenged by something like playing piano. As a kid, you're constantly doing new things, learning to read, learning to ride a bike. You get used to learning until you know so much that you don't have to do it anymore. It's kind of amazing to me how much brain power it takes to train your fingers to work the way you want them to. It's a strange feeling, to learn something brand new to me.
Even though it feels hard, learning piano feels fun, too. It's a challenge that I know I can meet. It's a goal. And it's never too late to have a goal. It's never too late to learn.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.