How many times in a person’s life does he feel he isn’t good enough at something he loves? Take the piano, for instance. If I really wanted to learn piano, I could. I could make something of this love that I feel for it, this urge to be good at it, this haunting wish to possess that otherworldly, impossible-to-imagine ability of sitting down at a piano and playing it. I could feel the music inside myself as it was meant to be felt, like reading the great poets in their native languages instead of relying on the poor medium of translation. I could amaze and charm my friends, who so rarely see Bach and Beethoven played in person by anyone. I could convey and give expression to that deepest of inner longings that can only be conveyed and expressed through music, the longings that explain music’s very existence on earth. What’s more, I could write and create a music all my own. I feel that I could, and well.

When I mention this desire to someone, she says, “Well, you still could, if you wanted it enough.” I reply that she’s right, and that I knew as much already. But there is always a part of me that responds to this in my mind with the knowledge that I won’t. And why not? Because I have chosen my priorities in life: to write, to drum, to cook, to learn at school (which started yesterday at Montclair State University).

To become the pianist that I want to be would require the abandonment of all these things. It would require a new life, a new projected outcome, a new hope. I have already rested my life on so many hopes, and worked and continue to work towards them with earnest enthusiasm if not monomania. It would be like giving away everything I own and buying a piano: my desk, my chairs, my typewriters, my table, my record player, my television, my computer, my couch, my clothes, books, bookshelves, car, pet rats Marcello and Herman….Any less of a sacrifice would not fulfill my need.

So I deny myself even a taste, and try to put that energy, that longing, into my present-day endeavors. Yet there is still that object in my closet taking up space, never getting any smaller no matter how much I complain about it, resign myself to its uselessness, try to pretend it’s not there.

Every so often, I want to take the object out of the closet, brush it off, and replace it with everything else I once thought I loved, shoving them all frenziedly into the darkness, abandoning them all forever in favor of this, my true calling.

I’m doomed to repeat this cycle of unfulfilled longing, and this is not the only out-of-reach object of my affection. So how many times must a person cross this pointless bridge before he either a) gives up on the longing, or b) pursues it?

I wonder what percentage of people follow their urges. Probably about 1%. Of course I’m only projecting how I feel onto the rest of the world; there are plenty of people who manage to commence the fulfillment of an interest—like fishing, cars, painting, writing, baking—without leaving their families, homes, possessions, jobs, lives. But when did they stop thinking it was too late? Middle-age? After retirement? Those would be my guesses.

How does a person maintain hope for that long? Imagine, wanting nothing else but to paint, seeing the brush waiting for you on the palette, the cloudwhite canvas begging for you to give it meaning, and having to wait eighteen years before you can even reach out and touch it?

Where do passions go in that time? I don’t want to wait, to wade through eighteen to thirty years of bills and mortgages and health problems and domesticity before I start to express my longing. I want do it now, while I’m young, while these spirits are still whispering, shouting, screaming, still burning my insides with red passion.

So why don’t I just pick it up now, and do it, goddammit? I know why. It’s because my passions have already suffered the heartache, the depletion. It’s because I’ve already waded, and slowed down, and now, my own spirit is diminished. When I was younger, I would’ve picked up this or that with gusto and burned my way through it, like my first novel, or my first song on guitar. Now, my current hopes, my current goings-on….they are like locks on the door of that closet, and even if I wanted to take out my love for piano, dust it off, and work on it even desultorily, I would have to smash the locks. And the locks hold the door closed.

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