My “Midlife Crisis” Birthday Present

First, I must admit that I’m not sure I totally understand what a midlife crisis is. But I have it in my mind that it's something that happens to a man when he begins to realize that his youth has slipped away. In an effort to regain something of the “glory” of his youthful days, he does something radically uncharacteristic for a man of his supposed maturity—like have “an affair” with some younger woman, or buy a totally impractical, expensive, flashy new sports car.

I can tell you that neither of those things appeals to me.... not in the least. I may be experiencing mid-life crisis, but I’m not experiencing selfishness, foolishness, and blatant stupidity. At least, I hope I’m not.

I’ve got it in my mind that I can have a positive midlife crisis—something that may, admittedly, prove painful to my wife and children, but it won’t destroy my family. Fact is, Marlene and our boys all approve. They are a little shocked, but they approve.

I will not belabor you with further ado. I will just tell you plain and simple....

I bought myself a banjo.

Now, some of you may be thinking: “You bought a banjo? That’s supposed to be evidence of a midlife crisis? That’s a pretty lame midlife crisis!”

Well, it’s my midlife crisis and I can define it any way I want. :-)

What you do not realize is that for me to buy myself a banjo is completely out of character. I don’t know nuthin’ about playing any musical instrument. I’m 51 years old and I’m a total musical ignoramus

But, looking back, when I was 41 years old, I was a total chicken butchering ignoramus, and I learned myself that. I ask you, can playing a banjo be harder than butchering chickens?

Actually, I’m sure it is. The way I see it, a man can become very proficient after butchering somewhere around 1,000 chickens. Calculate the average time spent butchering those chickens, spread out over a few years, and you’ll end up with maybe 100 hours total.

But, according to a banjo book I bought, it takes around 2,500 hours of practice before you become really proficient at playing the banjo. So, yes, learning to play banjo is harder than learning to butcher chickens. I’m not taking this on without some realistic understandings about what I’m getting into.

Unlike so many other people out there, I did not grow up in a musically-inclined family. When I think about my parents and grandparents and aunts and cousins, I can think of only one person who played a musical instrument—my aunt Carolyn played piano and accordion.

So, you see, this really is totally out of character for me to do. Besides that, I just don’t have time to learn to play a banjo. But I’m gonna do it. My excuse: It must be a midlife crisis.

In my next essay I’ll tell you all about my new banjo (she’s a beaut), and I’ll tell you about my banjo teacher, and maybe I’ll show you a picture of me and my new banjo. Oh, and I'll tell you why, among all the instruments in the world, I chose the banjo.


try2help said...

I'm also not sure what a mid-life crisis is, but at 48 I started playing guitar. Although I'm a novice, learning is quite enjoyable. I'm sure you'll have fun with the banjo.

Stephanie@OneBIgAdventure said...

Herrick! What a great mid-life crisis purchase/project! I was SO expecting that you had ordered yourself a handcrafted replica of some famous rifle or something! I am looking forward to hearing more about the why's and wherefores and, yes, you should DEFINITELY post pictures!

Happy belated birthday.

cntrydad said...

I live on a small farm - chickens, sheep, lots of gardens etc. A couple of years ago (just after 50) I purchased a brand new tractor. A friend observed to my wife that it must be a mid-life crisis, but better a big red tractor than a small red skirt!

Danman said...

You go Herrick! That's fantastic! Need pics!

Tom said...

As the Aussies say: Good on you! I took up guitar at 40 and have been playing for 9 years (not exceptionally well, but well enough to lead singing at church when the pianists are out of town). I Never took music lessons as a child, but fell in love with guitar playing as an adult. Have a good time with your banjo!

Matt B said...

Hmm, I think bagpipes are gonna be my mid life crisis. :)

fast eddie said...

Hi Herrick,What a great mid-life crisis present! Music will soothe your soul.Imagine sitting out in the yard on a warm summer evening, just you and your banjo. AAHH! Remember to take it slow, and dont get discouraged. Do you sing? Sometimes that helps. Learn a few simple chords, and remember-go slow.I still play my guitar quite regularly,and it is a wonderful God given talent that was bestowed upon me.

tc said...

Hi Herrick, sounds like a great mid-life crisis present! I was expecting you to say that you had quit your job, sold the house and bought some land. I've been toying with the idea of taking up the banjo for the last couple years. Sort of goes with the country, back-to-the land philosophy that goes with agrarianism, I think. Happy plucking!

Allen and Cindy said...

I don't know if you know this....but the banjo sounds a whole lot better in Kentucky! (Western, KY to be exact ;-) Just remember that when you're practicing.

So far, five of our children are learning different instruments with the help of DVD's from Homespun Tapes. I would recommend them to anyone. #2 son is on the banjo and sounding great. I'm sure you'll enjoy this new adventure!

Allen & Cindy

Lynn Bartlett said...

My sympathies to Marlene ... All winter I have listened to my son play his banjo at least an hour or more a day. I like bluegrass (we are all hooked on it), but a person can only take so much! I'm sure if you have any questions, Jonathan could help you out. Congratulations on taking the plunge!

Carolyn K M said...

Hi HCK....Your Grandmother Kimball also played the piano, only when no one was looking :o). I also played the b-flat clarinet and the alto clarinet. I played in the band for 7 years so we were in every parade until I decided it was more fun to ride my horse in it than walk. Your father also played the piano but only for a short time...we took lessons from a double cousin of my father's Kathleen (Kimball) Kilburn. She was a great teacher but was more interested in pumping us for info about what was going on, so if I didn't practice my lesson I always knew I could talk my way out of it!! Enjoy your Banjo, and my sympathy to Marlene and the boys. Maybe you can hook up headphones so only you can hear yourself, like I can do with my organ. You picked a tough one.....good luck!

Marci said...

I can't wait to see the first Whiz bang video with you playing the banjo for background music. I hope you are able to pick it up quickly!!!!

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks for the encouraging words everyone.

That is exactly what I have imagined.

Quit my job, sell the house & buy some land may be my next midlife crisis.

Marlene appreciates your sympathies.

Thanks for the family insights. It may get to the point that I only play banjo when no one is looking.

Hmmm... Yes, I'm beginning to get a vision for this video. I'll be butchering the banjo with my horribly amateur background music while showing how to Whizbang butcher chickens.

Bobby Mosteller said...

Happy B-day brother Kimball

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