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Growing up
cap, captain miss america
So, yesterday was my 35th birthday. It feels like it should have been a monumental celebration-- I had a really insane birthday when I turned 30, with lots of people from all over the world coming to New York to celebrate with me, and it lasted several days. This one was much smaller and quieter-- I had a small picnic with a few friends who are not big party types on Sunday, a bigger party at Ward III as has become tradition on Monday, and then yesterday Connie took me on a small lunch adventure to see the Central Park Zoo clock chime at 1:30, and then to a wooden gazebo, and then we got gelato. Then I went and played ukulele by myself for an hour at the park near the Intrepid, and then I met my dad and Angel for a really nice fancy dinner at a fancy restaurant in Hell's Kitchen.

I went home and packed some boxes, called my mom, and played ukulele some more.

My ukulele's name is Elaine. I'm not sure where that came from, I just started referring to it as Elaine. I don't remember who I was talking to, but I was having a conversation about All The Elaines in King Arthur, and I think it might partly have come from that, and partly from the bit where Elaine Romain is one of my favorite roleplaying characters I've ever written. (Elaine, for those who do not know, is a 16-year-old half-Yoruba, half-French, Sea-Witch-in-Training who is calculating, manipulative, stormy, and has an insanely erratic sense of self-preservation.) But I think the ukulele just kind of named itself.

I am so excited about the ukulele, I can't even start to explain. I mean, I'm obviously going to. I played cello when I was a super little kid, and then I switched to saxophone and oboe, and then taught myself fife on the side, but really all the instruments I play are wind instruments and therefore not really good for, well, accompanying oneself. And I want to be able to play my own songs for people, because I write songs pretty much all the time. I think in songs; songs show up in my dreams, there's a constant stream of music in my head.

I guess maybe I've never had the courage or conviction to learn before? I don't know. I because convinced as a teenager that I was already too old to learn to play a guitar or the piano, because I heard the kids who were talking about their piano lessons and how "twelve was really late to start." And I just kept getting older, of course, and then I was really too old to start. But that's nonsense.

Brendan, my boss, once said to me that adults are told that they need to learn certain skills as children, or that children can absorb and learn faster than adults, but that that's not so, that it's just that progress feels slower to an adult, because they have a more refined idea of what "good" is. But you can practice and learn just as well at 35 as you can at 10.

I got this ukulele and was convinced I would maybe learn a few chords and it would sit in a corner and be another testament to my failure to play a musical instrument, but that I had to try. Had to try, you know.

And I'm learning it faster than I ever expected. I know a full complement of major chords, and some of the minor chords. I can read tabs well enough to pick up a song and at least fumble my way through it. I know how to pluck one song and I know the chords for two others by heart. I'm learning three more. I am working through figuring out the chords to a couple of the songs I've written, but I also have come to accept that that might take a while. I am working on a ridiculous project which you will all hear fairly soon.

I think two weeks into having a cello, I could play one note over and over. Maybe two.

I am so excited to see where I am in a month.

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Happy Birthday! You seem so much more grown up than 35! (I mean that in the nicest possible way!)

It's true that you can totally learn things at any time. We just expect quicker results when we're older, because we can do so many things well by then. We forget it took us three or four years as very young children to even learn how to talk properly!

I feel a lot younger than 35, and I feel like I have not had the same experiences that most people my age have had. I feel like I'm behind and constantly trying to catch up! I feel really, really young compared to most of the people I know.

Well, online you seem very mature.

Oh, I don't mean it in a sense of maturity. I think I'ma very well-reasoned, rational person who is thoughtful and has it together pretty well. But I'm also very naive and innocent and don't have a lot of life experience in other ways and have a sort of unshakeable optimism and inability to distinguish people's intentions.

I don't know if that's all about life experience. Some people have a naturally more trusting, optimistic disposition. That sometimes means you'll get burnt, but personally I think it's better to assume the best of people.

I'm a lot more cynical than I was, but I still like to believe that people are basically good.

In my case, it is also definitely a case of life experience on top of anything else. I'm 35, and there are a lot of things that I haven't done that most of my friends have. I don't really have a lot of grounding to understand how to handle problems with social situations, for example. I've barely dated. I haven't had a lot of jobs and I haven't lived with a lot of people.

My ukulele's name was Ragnar!

No, although it really should have been!

I've heard it said that children should start music lessons before a certain age, but never that they can't switch to a different instrument later on. I assume it's like language, that at some point we lose the ability to process and produce new sounds (with our mouths, not with our fingers!) the way we can when we're small.

Congratulations on your new and ever-improving ukelele skills and "per molts anys!" (Catalan birthday greeting, which I'd translate as "and many more!")

Thanks! I'm really excited by it and just wish I'd started earlier.

Brendan, my boss, once said to me that adults are told that they need to learn certain skills as children, or that children can absorb and learn faster than adults, but that that's not so, that it's just that progress feels slower to an adult, because they have a more refined idea of what "good" is. But you can practice and learn just as well at 35 as you can at 10.

I like this a lot. On my mental list of things I want to be doing is learning languages, and it's a good reminder that it's all possible if I'm putting the time and energy into it. I pick up new physical activities semi-regularly, though for some reason those seem more manageable than other types of skills!

Happy birthday again! <3

Good luck! I hope you do well with it. And yeah. I think regyt is the one who convinced me that there was no reason why I couldn't learn it.

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Happy birthday! Sorry it's late, I've been wrapped up in stuff here. :) I'm glad I got to spend a birthday with you a couple years ago, though. I went to the candy shop where you got your Idaho Spud today after work XD

That was THE BEST birthday, seriously. It was one of the greatest weekends and I so appreciated how I just walked off the plane into birthday heaven.

And no worries! <3

I just wanted to say that this was very beautiful to read and it made me want to pick up my guitar (which I have been neglecting for so long, I should probably start over).

You are such a wonderful person, Tea. You are brave and thoughtful and creative and I am glad I know you. ♥

That is so sweet of you, Tracy! Thanks a ton.

I was just wondering if your ukulele had a name. I like Elaine.

I am excited to see what you will be able to play by the time I see you.

The difference between learning skills as a kid and as an adult is something that I've thought about in the last couple years as I've been trying new things, like dance classes. Because we tend to generalize it as 'children can learn X better then adults' when actually it's more like 'children can learn X with less effort then adults.' Adults have the benefit of being able to apply focus and determination a lot more productively, and a motivated 40 year old is going to be a much better learner then an indifferent 6 year old.

I learned a song for you today!

Now I am extremely excited!

I was going to say that not even you could make ukulele music terrifying, but then I realized I don't actually believe that.

Happy birthday!

My "gift" to you is a question, because you know stuff about things! Specifically, delicious alcohol things. I just invented and named a cocktail (well, a lazy cocktail. more of a mixed drink. but you know.), but the name I chose is apparently already assigned to a totally different thing! So I wondered if you knew how firmly, because I think my one is way better:

- Ice cubes
- 1 part gin (I used Blackwood's 2008)
- 1 part blood orange juice (I used Tropicana's 'Sanguinello')
- 2 to 3 parts tonic water
- squeeze/wedge of lime

...So, y'know, basically just a gin & tonic but with added blood orange juice. A little googling tells me that other people have come up with the same combination, but haven't named it. I've been calling it a 'mosquito' (because "blood" + malaria protective quinine), but a 'mosquito' is already a thing apparently? But like, how much of a thing? I'm prepared to take it on. And that's not just the gin talking! That is totally the gin talking. Shhhhh.

I don't know this drink, but my experience is with historical cocktails, more than anything. So my recommendation: go into three or four bars and order one. If the bartenders at a run-of-the-mill bar know what goes in it, then it's too much of a thing. If they don't, then it's not a thing.

My other solution would be to call it a moustique. French for mosquito. Sounds cuter.

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