The pandemic forced a change. I was no longer commuting a mile to an office each day for work, work happened at home. I lived that life before I moved to Baltimore, but at that time Elsa and I lived together in a small one bedroom condo and my desk was in the bedroom. Working from my bedroom was not always great. But this time, we had a large house and I could set myself up at home. Previously, I had a small desk on the top floor where Elsa kept her office. Working from home full time meant making a more permanent space, hopefully with greater separation between Elsa and myself.

So we made an adjustment I had thought about for some time, moving all of our gym equipment out from one of the smaller bedrooms and up to the loft where my desk was. Down went my desk into the bedroom and I now had a dedicated room at home for me. It is clearly my office, but it also opened up another opportunity.

From the time I was 14 until college, I played guitar for hours every day. Slowly through college, I played a bit less all the time– it’s hard to be loud in dorms and apartments, but I still played all the time and was deeply invested in my identity as a guitar player. But grad school came, and so did work, and suddenly I basically stopped, almost entirely. I know that this happens to a lot of folks, but to this day I remain surprised. Guitar was a huge part of my identity, not just a thing I did sometimes. I played in bands all throughout high school. I obsessed over gear. I used to drive to find new guitar shops or even return to ones I frequent to see what new used equipment was there and play for hours. But a part of living is shedding parts of ourselves to make room for new things and somehow guitar was a casualty.

Like many folks who rediscovered hobbies during the pandemic, guitar crept back into my life. In this instance, however, I’m not so sure how much of my playing was about having time. I think a fair bit of my resurgence came from having space. As I put together my office, rather than fill the walls just with art or furniture, I hung my primary electric and acoustic guitars. They were now right behind, in reach, in a room with a door. Just that difference was enough to start me playing a bit again.

I’ve never taken up guitar like I used to–there’s very little which I can dedicate even one hour a day to. But I’ve been more consistent than in years. Some weeks it may only be twenty minutes of noodling, other weeks I pick it up for a bit every day. Slowly, I’ve at least started to redevelop and maintain my calluses. I don’t play nearly as well as I used to– I can feel the difference in my dexterity and confidence– but I’m getting to passably close to where I was.

For the first time in over a decade, I’m starting to play with other people again. The last few Saturday afternoons I’ve piled into a small basement with my guitar and amp and hung out playing with a drummer, two keyboardist/synth players, and another guitarist. And we’ve been improvising over a few things and writing some new music. It’s music I’d listen to, and I’m having a blast. Yesterday we played for almost 15 minutes straight off of a small riff I wrote in April of 2020. It was just something I recorded to my phone because it sounded cooler than I expected. I was playing it to practice my picking and timing, and now I’ve got my own song (really our song now– it’s gone so much beyond my start point) stuck in my head.

It’s funny. My senior year of high school I went to the gym to lift weights at least a couple of times a week. I was playing volleyball every day after school in the spring. And most weekends, and even some weekdays, I got together with friends and played guitar and wrote music. Twenty plus years later, I’m going to the gym 3 days a week to lift weights. I’m playing volleyball 2-3 nights a week. And most weekends, I am getting together with friends and playing guitar and writing music.

I am not sure if the 20 years I spent (largely) away from these things would have been better if I tried to keep it up. I think it was important for me to grow out of the things I loved to do for a while. But about 6 years ago I started lifting weights again. And about 3 years ago I started playing volleyball again. And although I started playing guitar at home a bit more starting 4 years ago as well, it’s really just the last few months I’ve started playing with other people and writing music again. All of these things are utterly recreational. I can do them entirely with a joy and ease that I didn’t have when I was younger. I have returned to them all way more willing to be silly and without expectations. And I’m just having so much fun.