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Why I’ve chosen to make sweet music from the lemons life has thrown at me

Why I’ve chosen to make sweet music from the lemons life has thrown at me

It’s never too late to start a new overture.

On New Year’s Eve, I realised there was nothing stopping me from choosing a more musical life, if that’s what I really wanted.

When life throws you lemons, making lemonade can seem like a lot of effort. Early last year, the citrus began rolling in.

Work was a struggle, my mental health was shaky, and my mother was dying slowly in another country.

Then I injured my back doing some home improvement and started experiencing more severe pain than the niggles I’d had for decades.

In July, I had emergency major surgery on my lower spine, after X-rays revealed arthritis and severely prolapsed discs. The neurologist told me I was lucky I’d come in when I did. Another 24 hours and I could have been irreversibly paralysed.

As it was, I faced a gruelling two-year recovery – and I was still in pain. The pain subsided a little in a few weeks, but then I started to experience the same kind of nerve pain and numbness in my dominant hand.

It turned out I had the same problem in my cervical spine and was facing major surgery for the second time in six months, unless I could relieve the symptoms through physiotherapy.

I couldn’t sit or stand for long, so I conducted my small business almost exclusively using my cellphone, indefinitely postponing everything I could.

I was terrified the business would go under without my constant attention, but my clients were mostly understanding and sympathetic.

Friends rallied round, and my partner was amazing. Life was demonstrably awful but it was also – surprisingly – not all bad. I was surviving and so was my business.

Unable to continue my work and hobbies due to pain and brain fog, I listened to a lot of music.

I had taken piano and voice lessons in the last couple of years but had given them up when my back started causing too much pain to drive.

Now I spent hours watching YouTube videos of live music and experts critiquing performances.

I felt guilty enjoying my leisure, while the real grown-ups were working. But with my life pared back to the minimum, music was my primary pleasure.

My late father was a semi-professional jazz guitarist, but my attempts at learning instruments were short-lived.

I loved singing, but my voice frustrated me when I compared it with my musical idols. Yet I couldn’t stop dreaming about a more musical life.

I wished I had gone to university and been immersed in music every day.

In late December, like most of the planet, I reviewed my year and wondered how to improve it in 2024.

My physical health was far better. I had avoided the second surgery and was having some pain-free days.

On New Year’s Eve, I realised there was nothing stopping me from choosing a more musical life, if that’s what I really wanted.

My tiny business required less nurturing than I had previously thought, leaving me time for other interests.

Before I could lose courage, I registered for a BA (Hons) in Music with the UK’s Open University, which has provided distance learning since 1969.

I could do the practical parts of my course with supervision from local music teachers. I couldn’t afford the full course, but I had enough for the first module.

Open University’s flexibility meant I could figure out the rest later. It was a such an enormous step outside my comfort zone.

Was I capable of studying at university level? Was I just embarrassed about not having a degree?

I announced my decision and everyone I knew was excited for me, including my piano and voice teachers. They knew it was right for me.

I don’t know what will come of this degree but I’m proud of taking a chance on myself.

I choose to believe I will make it through because if 2023 taught me anything, it’s that I’m pretty good at making lemonade.

Noah Evans

Change expert, Noah Evans, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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