I took up viola and piano in middle school. At that time, though, my immune system was not very strong and I was often out sick. Missing lessons meant that I was behind everyone else in the orchestra. That was my big excuse, but I don't think it was the only reason for my lack of progress.
In addition to being regularly sick, I also hated to practice. I didn't like to practice because I was ashamed by how poorly I played. Of course, my skills did not improve by avoiding practice! I felt the same way about writing papers and reports in high school and college. My writing style was not as developed as it could have been because I hated editing and proofreading my work. I didn't want to edit or proofread because then I had to look at my mistakes. Grad school helped to correct this problem by forcing me to face my mistakes and giving me the tools to correct them. My instructors pointed out the reasons for weaknesses in my projects and offered advice in how to improve. (In all truth, the advice was very common-sense. I could have realized all this myself if I had not been so afraid of looking at my mistakes and facing them with patience, clarity, and simplicity. I was so busy putting up the defensive that I totally missed the point!) Anyway, after tackling numerous projects and gradually refining them into a passing works, I was very pleased and I finally learned the value of constructive criticism. I have a feeling that my musical skills could improve since I embraced this simple lesson.
Another problem that I had with music is that the instruments I played were not exactly ones fit for me. I could never get the gist of playing the piano with two hands. Somehow my brain just didn't register that skill. The problem with the viola was in the type of music that it was designed for. I got bored by the supporting parts and I didn't feel comfortable in the orchestra stage setting. I have tried playing my tin whistle, but it's really loud and I don't think my apartment neighbors appreciate hearing all the squeaking and screeching sounds that I make in the process of trying to learn a single jig.
So, from all these lessons learned, I'm considering taking up a new instrument as a wintertime hobby. I've been looking a lot at the mountain dulcimer. I like the easy-going character of the instrument. It would be fun to pull it out at random and play it, either while I am sitting here alone at the apartment or with a bunch of people at a picnic. It also looks like a fairly easy instrument to play. Here are two samples of the music that can be played with a mountain dulcimer:
This is My Father's World
Whiskey Before Breakfast
I may have to go back to the traditional music store and talk to them about this possibility. The only things holding me back are: the cost and the fear that I will get quickly frustrated or disinterested as I try to learn. I could talk myself out of the first one by reminding myself that I ought to spend some of the money that I earn on fun things for myself or that the benefit outweighs the cost. I am not sure how to talk myself out of the second item, since my heart is rather fickle when it comes to interests. Perhaps I should try to find some folks in my area who play this instrument? Of course, I am already too busy as it is, though. Well, I am going to play with the idea for a while and see what happens.