On the Road Again: Learning to Practice

Elvis playing his guitarSo a couple of months ago I decided to buy a birthday present for myself.  It’s one of those things that I had subconsciously coveted for literally decades but for some reason had never bought for myself or even considered asking for as a gift.  Perhaps my resistance was a self-imposed punishment for a childhood accident long ago.

It’s a story that takes us back to Christmas 1976 when polyester jump suits were in vogue and a bloated Elvis was still alive albeit with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.  Enter yours truly, just another seven year old boy like any other clad in Sears Toughskins waiting impatiently for the Big Day to arrive.  This was the year that I knew what I wanted and was praying Santa would come through for me.  After all, I’d been a relatively good boy.

And on Christmas morning, there it was.  A bright, shiny new acoustic guitar, just as I’d always imagined it and it was mine – all mine.  My parents had scrimped and saved to make my dream come true.

broken guitarI was going to be Elvis.

Until … I broke it.

In half.

On Christmas Day.

In front of family and friends.

It all happened in slow motion.  One minute I was standing on my stage (table) high above my three adoring fans (my little sister, best friend, and his little brother) gyrating my hips and singing a medley of Elvis classics when the guitar slipped from my hands and tumbled to the floor literally breaking its neck.

While in the grand scheme of things the accident wasn’t the end of the world, baggage like this can stay with you for a lifetime.  In my case, it stayed with me for almost 40 years until the UPS guy dropped my present on my doorstep in early January.  Yes, I purchased an electric guitar.  After all of those years wondering if that freak accident so many years ago destroyed in a moment what might have been a promising career as a rock star (or at least a side gig as a bad Elvis impersonator in Reno), I decided to finally take the leap and forgive that poor seven-year-old boy whose heart and guitar were shattered to pieces on that Christmas day.

So far, one thing that I’ve definitely learned is that I’m not going to be the second coming of Elvis or a professional musician.  But I’ve truly enjoyed the process of learning new sounds and chords and I’ve dedicated myself to a daily practice regimen that my indulgent wife endures and my Golden Retriever with her naturally heightened sense of hearing dreads.  It’s fascinating to me that in two months I’ve gone from never having held a guitar except for a few fleeting minutes in 1976 to having learned several chords and even the basics of a song or two.  It’s been exciting to observe the evolution from the deliberate to the instinctive as my fingers have begun to (slow) dance among the frets and land naturally in right positions without much thought.

Practice does make perfect and as I was merrily strumming away the other night I came to the realization that the essence of our job here in the Solid Waste Division is to encourage our residents and business to “practice” waste reduction and recycling.

Repetition precipitates instinct and by performing and reinforcing positive actions such as reducing our waste, we’re able to collectively make significant impacts upon our environment.  Whether it’s forcing yourself to go the extra mile and throw your food scraps in your yard waste cart instead of the garbage or asking your favorite barista to pour your coffee into a ceramic cup instead of a paper one or bringing a reusable water bottle to your daily workout instead of a disposable plastic water bottle- all of these actions, when practiced often, become second nature just as would the instinctual fingering of an E chord.

So I challenge you: take a few minutes and think of three positive waste reduction and recycling actions that you can practice every day!