Like most people approaching the age of 50, I have had a series of pasts: pasts connected with places, families, institutions, instruments, affections, fears, and circumstances. Until a week or two ago many of my pasts were neatly filed away, content to be represented by an old photo, a story, or a piece of music. Then, inspired by a name from the past, I found myself exploring facebook, particularly a group devoted to discussing my junior high school in Newton, Massachusetts.
A total nostalgia fest ensued, and in the process of explaining to my almost 50-year-old classmates why I am no longer a flutist, I found that I am still essentially the same person that I was when I was 12 or 13. I would even venture to say that I am still the same person I was at 11, or even at 7, though there is no photographic record to support that statement. An image of my 13-year-old self from a friend's Bat Mitzvah party made it clear that I must have been a rather intense (and probably hard-to-take) child. Adulthood certainly suits me more than childhood.
Now that my personal history time line is firmly in place, I realize that as soon as I stopped playing the violin at the beginning of 6th grade I no longer considered myself a violinist. Or perhaps I considered myself a failed violinist. An eternity passed between that 6th grade year, when I imagined that I had forgotten everything about playing the violin, and the beginning of 8th grade, when I desperately wanted to play an instrument. I reached for the closest instrument at hand: the flute. We had one in the house that my mother could no longer play. It seemed to be an easy choice, and it was very easy to learn to play reasonably well. Besides, my mother could no longer play, so I could fill her empty place in the musical puzzle.
There were only two measly years between my first violin life and my flute life. If only I had had the courage to jump back on the fiddle, and put the kind of energy into it that I put into 15 of the 17 I spent with the flute, my life might have been totally different. But it might not have been as rich and as interesting. I could have experienced the world as a violinist, and might never have had the need to really search. Perhaps I would never have had the need to write music, or the time and space to do so.
It is time to bury the past once again, and concentrate on the present.