William, such a good answer! Don’t you just want to give Eric a big hug? I know I do. I have talked about this very common thought process on this forum before and recently. To varying degrees, we all have a judgy, snarky, negative voice condemning us from within. Some have learned to deal with this voice better than others. It’s perfectly natural to compare ourselves to others, but let’s set such measurings on level playing fields. How long have those to which you compare yourself been playing?
You have given all the possible reasons why giving up might be something you might consider. All kinds of bad reasons.
1. You will learn at your own pace. We are all individuals. This is reasonable. Anyone who has played years longer will be more advanced. In fact, there will ALWAYS be someone who plays better than you. Looks better than you. Is richer than you. Is stronger than you. The object is not to be the best. The object is to become better. This you can do. No one is watching your progress as much as you are. No one is measuring your self worth by how well you play violin. Only you are doing that. We are often our own harshest critics. Stop it.
2. As to age and expected level of playing. Announce it proudly. You DO play violin. It is not a lie. It is not illegal. It is a noble endeavor, a worthy goal. Better men would crouch in fear of such a project. But not you. Let the conversation begin. Yes, I play violin. I have only just started, but I am enjoying it very much. How could anyone fault that and why would they? So instead of fearing judgement about being being an older beginner, pick better friends to talk to when and if you find someone so snobbish that they would not respond in admiration and awe at your desire to learn and create beauty. Never let such petty, unkind, passive aggressive people steal your joy. If I were in a more intimate setting, I would have more direct and harsh words in reference to such folk.
3. While adults often do activities that benefit others, how is learning to create beautiful music to stir the hearts of human beings not fully a service to others? And secondly, as an adult, here is the real truth. You can do anything you dang well want, regardless of whether or not it serves others. Self fulfillment, self improvement, creating beauty, striving to become something more than yourself, taking on difficult personal goals makes you a better person. All of these make you more fit to serve others in very unique ways. How can you appreciate the talent of others unless you, too, strive to develop your own talent? Music is a universal way to express human emotion. It is your DUTY to study music on some level. Why not violin?
So push back on these negative inner thought processes and replace them with resounding ‘NO! I am able and entitled to do this. I will not listen to negative thoughts!’ Think instead about the music in front of you and the composer who brought it to the world. Perhaps study the trials he or she bore in his/ her own life but still struggled and brought this timeless gift for you to enjoy. Think about the meaning of the symbols on the pages. Focus instead on the sound you create when you draw the bow across the string. And remember NONE of this (the composer, the music, the message, the sound) is really about you, now is it?
You are good whether you play or don’t play. You are good whether you are old, or young, beginner or advanced, talented or lousy and forever— none of the music, or your music making, or the imaginary judgments of other people, can ever change that goodness in you. So play! Never quit. Never give up. Tell me, wouldn’t that make you feel even worse?