If not now . . . when?

by Pari


How many of us zip through our lives without pausing to think about what we’re doing? I know there are periods in my own hectic existence when all that matters is getting through the day, week, month. Lately, though, I’ve been looking at what’s most important in my life. There are the obvious themes: family, love, the health and happiness of those I love, friendships, my creativity, feeling productive and like I’m contributing something to the world.


There are also wishes, dreams as yet unfulfilled. Through neglect, I’ve let some of them slip into the realm of impossibility. I doubt I’ll feel free enough, while still young enough, to join the Peace Corps or go to Carnival in Rio and dance from afternoon until dawn.


Others might still be possible, if I push. I might actually go on that walking tour of pubs in Ireland and drink a frothy stout at every one. I might write that book that hits the market just right and propels me to a new level in my career . . .


I might take up yoga; dedicate real time daily to meditation; learn T’ai Chi and Pilates. I’d better see the Aurora Borealis in full color, go whale watching, swim with dolphins.


And then there’s the cello.


When I was a kid, I wanted to play that noble instrument with all of my heart.

My mother said, “You can’t. It’s unladylike. If you’re going to play anything, it’ll be the violin.”


End of argument.


So I played violin for four years and hated every single minute of it. Mom finally let me stop taking lessons when she caught me holding the violin like a guitar on my lap—playing it full pizzicato—while composing my 60th or 70th macabre folk song.


For years, playing the cello was a fantasy of mine. I wanted to feel those incredible low notes reverberate from my toe tips to my fingers and throughout my body right to the outer edges of my scalp. But I’ve always put it off. I was too busy; I’d never find the time to practice. It was too expensive. It was frivolous, too self-indulgent.


Well, screw that.


Two months ago, I rented a cello and started taking lessons.


The wonderful thing about doing this, beyond the life-affirming qualities of it, is that I’m putting absolutely NO pressure on myself to “succeed.” Playing the cello is utterly for my own pleasure. I don’t give a damn if anyone else ever hears me or likes what they hear if they do. I don’t have to accomplish anything beyond enjoyment.


As a result, I’m doing really well and already have a repetoire of about twelve nice little pieces. My Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star would make you weep for all the right reasons. I love to practice. I adore the effort and struggle of trying to get the bowing just right and making sure I’m actually in tune.


I’m having such a blast with this that I want everyone else I know to find something equally baggage-free and satisfying.


So what about you? Have you taken a similar plunge to do something you’ve always wanted to do? If not, do you have a dream that you could really do?

Why aren’t you doing it yet?


——————————- A note about my next two posts —————————————

In early October, I’m going to attend an intensive writing workshop and probably won’t be online at all for two full weeks. As a result, the wonderful L.J. Sellers will guest on the ‘Rati on October 5. I’m considering doing my let’s-write a story-together experiment again on the 19th. By then, I’ll be back though my sanity might still be in question.



38 thoughts on “If not now . . . when?

  1. billie

    I love your cello lessons – what a great thing to make that happen for yourself! Mine was riding lessons, after 20-some years. I felt I would die if I turned into one of those ring-side mothers who stood calling out instructions to my children as they rode past.

    It was one of the best things I’ve ever done, reclaiming a youthful passion.

    Have fun at your workshop – I’m going on a writing retreat for a week in mid-October and am greatly looking forward to it.

  2. Alafair

    Ten years ago, I had a summer between legal jobs when I moved from Portland to New York to prepare for the NY bar. I decided I would never have that much free time again, so I did two things: (1) bought a computer and a good home office chair and started that book I always said I’d write, and (2) bought a package of 10 golf lessons. Ten years later, it’s hard to find time to launch any significant new activities because when I’m not at work, I’m either writing or golfing. At least I’m not a quitter.

    Congratulations on the cello! (And go ahead and start pilates and/or yoga. Much less of a time commitment!)

  3. pari noskin taichert

    Is there much golfing your way or do you have to get out of the city to do it? That, in itself, would be freeing. Wouldn’t it?

    I wonder if there’s another one of those dreams hiding in there somewhere. I tell you what, if there is, let me know. We can make a pact to each try yet another fresh thing before this time next year . . .

  4. Alli

    Pari, what an inspiring post! I am so glad you are taking the cello lessons – the cello has been a passion of mine since childhood, too. Now I’m beginning to think I should start making enquiries…. Hmm…

    I am indulging in a lifelong dream at the moment – being a writer. Although I hardly have enough hours in the day, I make the time and appreciate every minute I get to indulge in this. It’s not a chore as yet as I am not contracted – so I am only answerable to myself. Which is fine at this stage because, as I am sure many of you can attest, once deadlines start looming and you have earn-outs, etc then writing changes. Ideally, though, I would love to move onto the next part of my dream and find an agent, sell my book and really get started in my writing career.

    Oh! And iceskating! Growing up in Australia never offered me the opportunity to do this. I moved to Canada five years ago and each winter I’ve either been pregnant or with a newborn (busy times!) but this year the kids are older and I’m not pregnant so I am going to learn how to ice-skate – with my three year old!

  5. PK the Bookeemonster

    I saw an interview a few years ago of a woman in her 80s; I can’t remember who she was or why she was being intereviewed. She was asked if she had any regrets. She said she regretted not taking violin lessons like she wanted to in her 60s — she considered herself too old then — and she said "Just think, I could have been playing for 20 years."

  6. Jessica Scott

    A really wise friend of mine told me that someday never comes. I’ve taken his advice to heart and decided that what the heck, I was going to become an author. I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do in my life, except my PhD in religious studies and that’s in my someday category (After I put my kids through college:). I decided to become an army officer, so I went to officer candidate school. Eventually, anything I’ve set out to do, I’ve done. I credit the army with teaching me the ability to figure out a way to accomplishing any task. My goals these days are simpler, less far reaching but I can honestly say I would not be where I am today had I not joined the army. And no, I don’t just mean Iraq.
    I can honestly say that I’m happy where my life is at. There are things I’d like to do, like stop worrying about my weight or arguing with my family but as far as things I’d like to do, I can’t really think of anything right now, except get home from Iraq safely and there’s not a whole heck of a lot that I can do to control that.
    In the mean time, enjoy the cello. Do it simply for yourself and enjoy!

  7. Tammy Cravit

    Congrats on the cello lessons, Pari! I’ve always envied those with musical ability – I have many gifts and talents, but musical aptitude and a sense of rhythm are sadly not among them.

    The two big things I’ve done lately in the "taking the plunge" category actually are what accounts for my scarcity in the ‘Rati comments area of late. I’m making a concerted push to get my novel-in-progress finished, which is taking up some of my time, of course. The other is that, after griping for years about how much I hated the career I was in (computers) I went back to school earlier this year to become a paralegal, and I’m now working (part-time, for the moment) for a law firm that is appointed by the court to represent the foster kids in my part of our county. The work is, at times, very emotionally trying (especially for the ugliest cases that make the news headlines), but I feel satisfied and fulfilled in my job for the first time in a long time, and that’s been worth all the late nights studying.

    So, I echo your title sentiment, Pari, and to it I’d add (and paraphrase) something that Dr. Phil once said on his show: The only thing worse than not living out your dreams for X years is not living them out for X years and one day. Life is too damned short to spend it not doing the things you want and need and love and that nourish your soul. Life is too short, and too precious, not to spend it in ways that spread kindness, compassion, love, beauty and joy in our lives and in the world around us.

    Hope you and your family are having a happy (and sweet) new year!

  8. pari noskin taichert

    I thought about referring to writing as one of my if-not-now dreams, but I’m already doing it <g>. I’m so glad you are too. And enjoy the liberating feeling of writing for yourself first. Once you try to get published etc it’s too easy to lose sight of why you started in the first place.

    And I love your story about the ice skating! I know that feeling of waiting, waiting until the kids were old enough that I could do some things. I’m glad this winter will hold that long-held dream actualization for you.

  9. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, PK, I just LOVE that!

    I think that’s the thing I’m coming to. We have no idea how long we’ll live. Our choices are to embrace our dreams and do what it takes to realize some of them or to live our lives at the mercies and whims of the world around us.

  10. pari noskin taichert

    You’re reading Murderati in Iraq? Wow.

    I think there are definitely times in our lives when we truly are satisfied. It’s a testament to your wisdom that you realize you’re in one of those and that you’re grateful for it. May that be the norm for many years to come.

    And, yes, please make it home safely.

  11. pari noskin taichert

    Um, Alex? DO IT! I think you can manage a place on the beach, even if it’s just a rental for a few months of the year. I bet it would make you so happy!

    I don’t think I’m in much of a position to judge here. The question is, did you succeed?

  12. pari noskin taichert

    I’m not sure how "musical" I am, but there’s something so incredibly sensual about the cello. It’s very gratifying.

    Congratulations to you for all those dreams actualized. I’m glad you’re finishing up the novel. That’s a very good thing.

    I also know how much children mean to you and admire the fact that you’re plunging into a world where they need you so incredibly much. The fact that you got out of job that you hated and into one where you feel like you can make such a difference in lives — and in the world — is incredibly inspiring.

    And L’Shanah Tova to you too!

  13. Jake Nantz

    I grew up loving martial arts, but never tried. In college, I hung out with a buddy who was a black belt in judo and he taught me some throws, but that’s about it. So, while living in Charlotte about 10 years ago, a few friends of mine and I went to a little place that taught Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do. The Tae Kwon Do was beautiful and graceful, but those are terms that have N-E-V-E-R been associated with me. I am, as a friend of mine once put it, built like a fireplug.

    But the Thai. Man that was all about simplicity and power, and other than being out of shape I figured i could handle that. I told my friend that as soon as I got in better shape (something I’d tried several times, unsuccessfully, to do), I’d like to try it. His comment was, "Well that basically means you’ll never do it."

    It sounds harsh, but I’m so glad he said that. It pissed me off enough that I went ahead and signed up, and the training is what got me in shape, and I LOVED it. I trained for about four years before my psoriasis on my legs started getting so bad that I couldn’t do it anymore. I still miss it, but yeah that was one thing where I just kinda went for it.

  14. JT Ellison

    I’d have to say writing was the dream I pursued. I’m one for the road less-travelled anyway, so this post fits in perfectly with my world view. You must pursue your dreams, because no one else is going to pursue them for you.

    I love the cello too!

  15. pari noskin taichert

    I felt the same way about Tae Kwon Do. I’m so glad I pursued it and earned my black belt. It did wonders for my self perception and health. But I’ve stopped because it’s too hard on my feet and I want to be able to continue to walk — without surgery — until deep old age.

    Any other dreams?

  16. billie

    Pari, riding is incredibly zen-like for me. It’s one of the only times my mind doesn’t "churn" with stuff. Since we bought our farm I have found that even walking out to the barn induces peace for me.

    The writing week is completely unstructured. I’m meeting 4 other writers there – we all met via this retreat space and hit it off, and now try to get there together at least once per year. We mostly write all day and usually share dinner together, then have what I named "cocktails and critique."

    Which is us reading out loud from our work while enjoying drinks of choice. 🙂

    I’ve been to this place enough times that my creative self switches to power mode as soon as I set my duffel down in the room.

    Would love to hear more about your two weeks – maybe you’ll be blogging about it afterward?

  17. pari noskin taichert

    Your retreat sounds so restful and creativity sustaining.

    I’ll be doing the master class with Kristine Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith
    It doesn’t sound like much, but every person whom I know who has taken it has made tremendous progress.

    I’m sure I’ll blog about it once my mind has cleared from the reams of information I’ll be getting. (BTW: They’ve already told us we’ll go through at least two reams of paper while we’re there <g>).

  18. JT Ellison

    After years in band playing clarinet, flute and sax, I’ve had my fill of making music. I just like to listen to the cello, my fine appreciation is more than enough for me. Maybe you can serenade us all one day soon!

  19. Louise Ure

    Oh yeah, Pari. Not only can I write upside down and backwards, I can read that way, too. And that had added no end of fun when negotiating with car salesmen or looking for the right answers on a test.

  20. billie

    Pari, thanks for that link. All the workshops offered sound like no-nonsense, get down to it sessions. I especially like the one where you go into it with a novel written, get feedback, incorporate feedback into first 20 pages, and leave having sent out letters to 5 editors. Wow. I just realized he does indeed mean editors – not agents – and went back and started reading not just the workshop schedule but his blog. VERY interesting.

    Please report back on the workshop – I am really intrigued.

  21. toni mcgee causey

    Pari, I love your cello inspiration. (And love listening to the cello, as well.)

    My main hobby that I’m back to after years and years of being away is photography. I used to have a dark room (did mostly b&w) and now, it’s digital and photoshop (of which I am barely scratching the surface). I’m trying to make it a point to spend a little time every day just looking through the camera, appreciating the light, the colors, the textures of the world. I find it makes my writing stronger.

    What I’d love to get back to is my painting. It’s been years and years since I had the space. I technically have the space now, but haven’t solved the issue of the pungent smell of the oils (and specifically the mineral spirits and the linseed oil). (Doesn’t phase me, but it’s rough on my husband.) [I never fully enjoyed acrylics the way I loved oils. Unfortunately, because acrylics don’t have the same odor issues.] But oh, how I miss it. Painting and photography are both water to my soul. I can get lost in either of them without feeling the urge to be "great" at them. I realized long ago that neither field was my true voice, which freed them up to be simply joy. No competition, no desire to show anyone what I’ve done. Just my thing.

    hmmm. I am going to have to scrounge now for a place.

  22. Zoë Sharp

    Great post, Pari, and I’m so delighted that you took up the cello and fulfilled a lifelong dream. Unless you’re a believer in reincarnation, we pass this way but once and no-one should go to their grave with the song still in them.

    Billie – I had horses as a kid, but would love to take up side-saddle again, which I did a bit of back then.

    Toni – are you SURE we’re not related? I know EXACTLY what you mean about photography relating to writing, because I get that all the time. It’s just one of the reasons I doubt I’ll ever entirely give up the day-job.

    Other little ambitions? To get back on a boat more often. There’s nothing I love more than being out of sight of land sailing quietly at night, with a dome of stars reaching right down to the horizon on every side.

  23. Karen in Ohio

    Pari, how wonderful that you gave yourself permission to learn the cello. It certainly helps that you already knew how to read music, and could understand much of the theory that goes into producing lovely sounds. I predict a pretty quick progression to more complicated–and more satisfying–pieces.

    Two years ago, when I was 55, an upcoming trip to a friend’s western ranch prompted me to start taking riding lessons. Prior to that time I had never in my entire life been on horseback, and I was more than a little terrified of such huge animals. But I was so fortunate to find a wonderful teacher, a woman close to my own age who has taught for 40 years, plus who is an EMT. You can’t be too careful, you know. 😉 I’d always wanted to ride, and this has turned out to be one of the most joyful experiences ever for me. I’ve been on several challenging trail rides, and the confidence that has given me is immeasurable.

    And my mother, who will be 80 in January, just started distance walking this summer, after a long period of sedentary lifestyle. She and I are walking in a 5K together this weekend to help promote ovarian cancer research.

  24. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, Toni, I hope you do find a space to paint. It sounds like it’s such a nourishment. And that’s bound to make your life richer and more fulfilling.

    Would it be possible to find a little studio somewhere close to your home?

  25. pari noskin taichert

    I also love the idea of you looking through that camera.

    Yes. I’m so happy to be enjoying the reality of a dream.
    For you and Toni, II bet photography *is* a direct link to writing. Even your description of sailing and being on that boat at night was incredibly visual. I remember working on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands and having that glorious experience. It actually gave me one of the most vivid sleeptime dreams I’ve ever had. I hope someday to be able to describe it well enough to write it.

  26. pari noskin taichert

    Your comment just made me feel so incredibly good. Thank you for sharing it with me. I had a bad experience with a pony when I was quite young and have never been on a horse since. I know so many people who adore riding (like our Billie, too) and they speak of the beauty of it. I’m glad you’ve found an unbridled (couldn’t help it <g>) joy. Really. It’s absolutely wonderful.

    And kudos to your mother. What a great thing to look at life as something to continue to live and growth with rather than getting stuck and giving up. Talk about inspirational!

  27. cate

    Oh, this made me shiver. I took up cello lessons a few months ago for many of the same reasons – it’s something I always wanted to do, but I put it off again and again because things kept getting in the way (or I let them get in the way).

    I’ve always loved the sound of a cello. My ear is tuned to it – I can hear it in a lot of music, even if it isn’t the main instrument.

    I found a great teacher, and one of my cats likes to listen while I practice. I’ve promised myself that if I’m still playing in a year, I will upgrade to a better cello and buy it, rather than just rent.

    I also am not pressuring myself to make a Carnegie Hall concert my goal. I’m happy enough just getting to play finally. The learning process is just as satisfying.

    Good luck with it! (And you may want to join cellobloggers.)

  28. pari noskin taichert

    I love this, Cate. I also went to your blog and enjoyed reading about your cello experiences. I only practice about 1/2 hour a day — sometimes more, sometimes less. But I am very happy to be living the dream. I’m so glad you are too.

    I’ll check out cellobloggers when I get back from my workshop.

  29. spiele 

    Pretty cool post. I just came by your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your posts.I am Kristianna from Brazil.Just wana say thanks for sharing such a interesting post here.Have some funny stories there.

  30. Allison A. Davis

    Pari, finally got to this (been a WEEK of it) and it made me cry literally, to embrace something you dream about and do it. I painted my first oil painting while I was at a friend’s studio in New York. From dreams to canvas. And it wasn’t too bad. More than a bucket list, do those things you’ve put off. Today’s the day.


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