“When you're a little kid you're a little bit of everything — artist, scientist, athlete, scholar. Sometimes it seems like growing up is a process of giving those things up, one by one. I guess we all have one thing we regret giving up, one thing we really miss, that we gave up because we were too lazy or we couldn't stick it out, or because we were afraid.” (“Coda”, The Wonder Years, aired Feb. 8, 1989)
Kevin Arnold’s Mom made him take piano lessons. So did mine. I suppose I liked it at first, when I was in third grade, when I was selected to play “Dump Trucks on Parade” for the city-wide recital, but later, along about seventh grade, I began to resent it. I walked through the neighborhood to Mrs. Edgerton's house, passing girls along the way that I suddenly realized were girls, suddenly ashamed of my music books. And then, like Kevin, I’d have to wait in the chair while “Mozart” (the Ronald Hirschmueller of my world) finished his concerta (the actual name of this annoying boy escapes me).
The real clincher was the recital where I went to the piano and tried to start a piece and four times hit the wrong keys, froze up, and couldn’t start, and Mrs. Edgerton had “Mozart” come up and show me how to start, where to place my hands. That was humiliating. Shortly thereafter I quit. It was eighth grade and I was on the cusp of manhood and the piano was holding me back.
It’s true that “when you’re a little kid, you’re a little bit of everything.” When I had a chemistry set (which, by the way, was highly dangerous), I was a scientist, or an alchemist, or a magician. But after a few accidents and handful of explosions (none permanently damaging), my mother gave it away.
On the basketball court behind Brad’s house, I was an NBA star. Well, maybe not, but on occasion, I thought I was OK at hoops. I wasn’t.
I was a midway operator, astronaut, explorer, and actor. I gave them all up. I never dreamed of being a lawyer. I never even knew one. I was too lazy and too afraid to be a pianist. I didn’t think like a scientist, in formulas and theorems. I had no aptitude for sports, poor of sight and uncoordinated. And I wasn’t, as my grades revealed, gifted or disciplined enough to be a scholar. I gave all that up. I wondered aimlessly into college and settled down into computer science, and then education, and then sociology, and then a pre-law-what-the-heck-job-do-i-get-with-a-sociology-degree. I gave them up one by one. I did a masters in city planning. Gave that up too. I went to law school for lack of any better option.
But sometimes I still want to be a rock star. I just need an electric guitar, need to take some time and learn how to play, and then when my hair's combed right and my pants fit tight, it's gonna be all right. At least that's what Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) said.