Everything I don’t know I didn’t learn in elementary school

Some things just don’t come naturally to me. For example, playing a musical instrument. When I was in elementary school, being in the band was mandatory, and for god knows what reason I felt the violin was my calling. My mom was smart and rented my instrument (she must have sensed that I wouldn’t last long). Before the ink on the rental contract was dry, I declared that the violin wasn’t right for me – I had to switch instruments if my musical potential was to be met. That’s when I became a clarinet player.

If you’ve ever attempted to play the clarinet – or have heard a seven year old playing one for the first time – then you know it does a great imitation of a dying cat. The day I announced to my family that I was quitting, and sadly would never amount to the clarinet virtuoso we’d all hoped I would be, I do believe they applauded. It wasn’t until many years later that another instrument caught my eye. The guitar. I thought it would be a no-brainer, I mean, I didn’t even have to learn to read sheet music – tabs were easy! And practically everyone could play the guitar, so how hard could it be? Oh wait, it hurts to hold down the strings (apparently I have quite delicate fingertips – who knew)? And how are my petite fingers supposed to reach around the neck? Long story short, another instrument bit the dust.

Another thing I’ve more recently discovered I’m not so good at is video games. Put a joystick and Pac-Man in front me and I’m golden, but these newfangled games (of the past two decades) – let’s just say, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Apparently, I lack hand-eye coordination. (Which is not entirely surprising since I can barely pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time). I can’t help but think there’s something fundamentally wrong with me if I can’t master something my five year old cousin can do.

My boyfriend says, “It’s cute that you’re so bad at video games”, and that it’s not my fault, I just haven’t been playing since I was eight. That’s true. My childhood was kind of unconventional by western standards. Some of my fondest memories were of stirring homemade yogurt on the stovetop or sitting on the counter watching my mom load foodstuffs into the pressure cooker. One time the lid blow off and shot our dinner straight up to the ceiling – that was the most exciting moment in my life up until then. By junior high, I’d learned how to prepare complex stews and I was a solid contributor to family meals. After watching my mom and aunt get their nails done countless times, I’d gotten good at a giving manicures (seriously, I could buff a shine into the most dull nail in ten seconds flat), and I was also trimming my own bangs and eventually entrusted to give my mom a layered haircut. I learned how to do all these things long ago and have had a lot of practice at them. Maybe some day I’ll pick up another musical instrument or my fingers will seamlessly glide over an Xbox controller. But will I ever be lead guitarist in a rock band? Unlikely. Will I win a video game tournament? Probably not. But life is long and old dogs can learn new tricks. And if there’s ever a basmati rice cooking competition, you’d be wise to put your money on me.


One thought on “Everything I don’t know I didn’t learn in elementary school

  1. That was so funny Shima. I think you would be very good at singing since you don’t need any instruments, the instrument is with you. On the other hand you don’t need to rely on your hand and eye coordination too, you can even sing with your eyes closed. By the way, you forgot to mention the keyboard.

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