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Kimberly  Simpkins

Grad School After 40: Breaking Bad...

September 11, 2013 at 11:37 PM

Habits, that is.

Breaking bad habits.

Going back to graduate school at “my age” is a very humbling venture. As I sit in solo class each week and scan the room, with the exception of perhaps my professor, I’ve been playing the violin for longer than my classmates have been on the planet. Here’s some perspective…I’m even older than my professor! Not by much, but still. Even among the graduate students, many are fresh from undergraduate programs and have very little life experience behind them. I have already done many of the things they are aspiring to do.

However, in spite of the advantages that life experience, age, and wisdom have given me, there are some disadvantages to longevity.

One thing is clear: I still have much to learn.

One of the disadvantages to longevity is that bad habits I’ve developed over the years are much more deeply entrenched, and therefore much harder to break. Take my bowing for instance. I learned how to hold a bow when I was 10 years old, as a 5th grader first learning the violin. Yet, here I am, over 30 years later, revisiting bowing techniques, strokes, and grips that have gotten lazy, stiff, or sloppy. Another bad habit is lack of discipline. I have had to learn once again how to practice on a regular basis. I can no longer go any significant length of time without touching my instrument. I’ve revisited scales and etudes that I’ve not looked at in years. I never stopped playing violin after getting my undergraduate degree in 1993…in fact, I’ve played constantly; in orchestras, doing weddings, church gigs, even around the world. But there have not been the kinds of demands placed on me like there are now that a higher degree is at stake. In many ways, I feel like I’m learning the violin all over again, going back to pick up things I missed, reinforcing things I always knew but just never implemented, digging into uncharted territory…

…and breaking bad.

Habits, that is! Yeah!

It truly is an adventure! But I am loving every minute of it. Even the parts I hate, I love…if that makes any sense! I don’t believe this journey would have meant nearly as much to me at any other time in my life before now, which goes to show at least one definite advantage to being older: appreciating the opportunities and cherishing the joyful moments that life brings, milking them for all their worth!

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