The other day I took my acoustic guitar out of my closet to play for the first time in, oh about a year, probably more… (This isn’t about the shameful amount of time it’s been since I indulged in one of my hobbies, okay?)
I noticed some normal issues right off the bat. To start with, it had collected enough dust to be the instrument – haha – of my death via a vicious asthma attack. After a thorough wipe down, it still needed its strings retuned – more routine maintenance.
After sharpening the flat notes, I started to play or rather I attempted to play through a few songs. The strings ripped into my fingertips and my chords sounded sloppy and flat. I chalked it up to a combination of time away and the eternal struggle of tiny hands.
Turns out my lack of practice and fun-sized mitts weren’t entirely to blame for my poor playing. The bridge – the piece that holds the bottom of the strings in place, basically – was pulling itself up off of the body of my guitar, affecting how tensile the strings were and their sound. It was bad, too. It looked like at any moment, the strings might succeed in ripping it free, probably throwing it at my face while I wasn’t paying attention.
So I did what comes naturally to me: I tore it apart. And while it’s not entirely back in one piece (yet!) and may not be a musical success, it was definitely a victory on another front: the do-it-yourself, or DIY movement.
Before I started dismembering my beloved Ibanez, I took to Google to find out if a loose bridge was something I thought I could tackle myself. In our parents’ time, they’d have to find a guitar tech or a library book to consult, but we can simultaneously sulk in bed and tackle many of our problems from our laptops and smartphones.
The only thing that could have stopped me was the fear of failure, at that point (barring a lack of equipment and I’m not afraid to make substitutions). Confident in my ability to read a few articles, watch a few videos and play monkey see, monkey do, I unstrung my guitar, heated up the loose bridge and with a sick little crackling groan, pried the thing off with a butter knife.
The guitar’s pending reconstruction is dependent upon my procuring some clamps and attempting to flatten out the bridge, which is presently warped beyond re-gluing. But even though it isn’t fixed, it also isn’t any more broken than when I started. Frankly, it’s those steps closer to being playable again and I’m proud of that.
Even if I have to pay someone to finish the repair ultimately, I gave it my best shot and I’ve seen at least some of what I can do with a little confidence and self-instruction. That’s really what the DIY movement is about. It’s not about necessarily replacing professionals; it’s about testing your limits and seeing what you’re really capable of when you give it your best shot.
A successful DIY project isn’t measured by a grade, a monetary value or a certificate of completion. The most utilitarian among them aim to fix something that’s broken, but failing to restore function is still succeeding in pushing your own boundaries.
Personal growth is one of the lifelong sources of joy that we have as human beings. If you’re not DIY-ing it, you’re missing a great and simple opportunity to see some of what you’re really made of. Failure lies not in not succeeding, but in never trying at all.