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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
APR
30

Concert for One

I was traveling for work this past week, and one of the event speakers did this (super uncomfortable) thing where he would ask members of the audience to stand up and share very personal things...in front of hundreds of their business colleagues. Now, I don't recommend this. And even though some of the insights that were ultimately shared did border near truth and forward-propelling insight, I'm not sure it's worth putting a person through such public personal scrutiny.

I bring this up only because his first question to the first person called up on stage has stuck with me: "Tell us something that no one else knows and that you are ashamed of." See what I mean about this maybe not being the kind of thing you want to answer in front of hundreds of people? I wanted to be prepared in case I was brought up on stage (the horror), and about the only thing I could think of that truly no one in the audience knew, and something not overly intimate or revealing, was that I was a talented violinist and yet decided to quit playing violin.

Clearly this is not a super critical or important thing, and I doubt it has had much impact on the overall course of my life, but I think about it a lot. Not in a haunting way, necessarily, but in a way that makes me feel sad for neglecting to nurture a gift I feel I was given. At the time it was too much with all the things my teenage self had going on, and by that I mean the PRACTICING was too much. I wanted violin to be something I played when I felt the need to, when it struck me, not because my parents required me to...every day. So when my saintly violin teacher died and the only other alternative was a rather mean lady a few towns over who expected much more in terms of effort and improvement, it was, as they say, the straw that broke the back. I was OUT.

I felt good about the choice at the time, which is to say I felt relieved to have it off my plate, but now it sits there as this thing from my past that I gave up on. This thing I actually had a talent for. I feel like I have this on pretty good authority, because when my conscience got the better of me and I eventually agreed to ONE LESSON with the mean lady, she proclaimed to my siblings afterward, "Well, Tali is the one with the talent." But this is the crux, the thing my writer mind can't figure out, because is this seeming obligation to pursue those things at which we are gifted more important than the need to pursue those things we are truly passionate and joyful about?

Honestly, there are things, many things, I enjoy more than playing violin. So I feel overall pretty good about where I've ended up. That said, I may never shake the possibility that violin was the thing I could have been the best at. It's why I still think about it. It's why I considered sharing this with hundreds of business colleagues over breakfast. It's why I purchased this painting over all the others when at an arts festival on last week's trip. I think it's OK to have things like this occasionally occupy our mental energy, so feel free to answer the question for yourself, and just be glad no one's asking you to do it in front a full ballroom.

In case anyone's curious, the speaker also asked us to stand up if we worked with anyone who we wish we didn't, which is also an interesting thing to ask a room full of people who are surrounded by THEIR CO-WORKERS, BOSSES, and COMPANY EXECUTIVES. I can neither confirm nor deny whether I stood up, but let me just say that I believe in being honest. I'll leave you with that, so picture me serenading you out and onto your next adventure, the one you're choosing because you love it.

MAR
03

For Frank

I moved to town when I was 9 years old, and while sometimes I think I must have come off as a bit of a freak to the local jeweler (what kid is this interested in jewelry?), mostly I think my passion for his work must have delighted him. 

I always planned to follow in his footsteps, to become a jeweler. Life happened differently, of course, but when I finally wised up and decided to pursue my dream, even if a bit late to the game, it was Frank whom I called to get advice about training options. He'd gone to GIA, so I did too, and while a perfect end to this story might have been me buying his store, a slightly less perfect ending is me winding up in the sparkly industry of gems and jewelry after all; of seeing Frank at various tradeshows throughout the country; of being able to talk shop with this man I've long admired.

Me wanting to make him proud could be a classic case of someone meaning much more to me than I did to him, but I still hope on some level that I succeeded; that the thought of this Graduate Gemologist's clumsy start as a shy salesperson cleaning fingerprints off the jewelry cases of his store made him happy. I dedicated my second book to him ("For letting me in, for showing me the ropes, and for always being so sparkly.") and after he read it, he told me he hadn't realized my time in his store had meant so much to me. But that's the thing about life, about plugging along doing the thing you are passionate about, however ordinary it is to you. Because you never know who you are influencing, what young person is taking note and making plans based on the appeal of your everyday. You never know when your ordinary will be someone else's sparkle. That's what Frank was to me. And I will miss him.

If you are a professional, I encourage you to find a young person who finds your ordinary sparkly. Be a mentor, a friend, and let's do what we can to pass our passions down the line to those who come after. And if you knew Frank, my hometown jeweler, I trust you feel as lucky as I do.