When I began guitar The Beatles had just emerged and they and then the Yardbirds were my favorite bands. I just learned what I could, through lessons and playing along with records, and doing the neighborhood garage band scene. A few years later Jimi was like a muse for me. I listened again and again to Electric Ladyland and in some indescribable way some part of me inside KNEW where his music and where his expression through the guitar was coming from. It felt like a language that something inside of me was so familiar with. Then there were several other players like Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia and Duane Allman... all who I felt like sometime inside of me could so, somehow, understand and relate to what their playing was saying... in music... in sound... in expression. Around that time, 1970-71 I immersed myself in music and ended up feeling very drawn to dedicating myself to bringing out in myself, the ability to delve deeply into that same place that these players, who I felt such a kinship with, were playing from. I somehow had the inner understanding that I could play on this level myself as well. But then getting there turned out to be more of a challenge than my idealistic young self had realized early on. I did work at it. But also, as years go by, other personal challenges come up along with one's/ my goals. I worked at it but also struggle, at times, with a lack of confidence (substantial) and lack of determination and focus as well. I kept playing but my growth was slower than I had desired, anticipated... mostly because of my fractured focus. I was kind of on several life paths at one time. As I approached my 30s I began to feel that I really needed to ground myself and develop some way of making a living doing more than playing in a bar band and working as a bar tender, or a janitor, or a gas station attendant, or a nursing home attendant.. etc. in a few short years I went to a Nursing program... got a degree. Got a steady job in a hospital, ended up married with a child on the way and a new practical "career" by age 30. THAT was that for a number of years. I continued to study and play at home... when time permitted. But my initial goal of getting a degree and a steady job, to then support my musician "self" and my real love of playing, then morphed into married life and raising a child and two step children. Years passed. Along the way, starting in my 20s I also became more interested in Jazz. My father was an avid Jazz fan and growing up I heard lots of Jazz... lots of Miles, Stan Kenton, Oscar Peterson, and many others. From that I came away with a strong respect for Jazz. And in my 20s and 30s there emerged in me this feeling that I should study Jazz and try to become a Jazz player, like other great Jazz guitarists whom I had grown to so admire... John McLaughlin, Al Dimeola, Pat Metheny, John Scofield... So I began studying Jazz and tried for quite a few years to internalize it and become that. But for some reason(s) I always fell way short. I greatly admired and loved that music and those players. But it seemed like I did not have that "type" of expression, that type of voice in my playing. That itself was pretty discouraging for me because I think that somehow, in my mind... and probably due to my upbringing and having some kind of inner desire to please my father who so revered Jazz players, I had some kind of subtle idea in my head that Jazz was a more "developed", a more serious, a more admirable form of music to master than, for example (my first love) blues and blues based rock guitar playing. But I was failing being able to embody that type of expression myself. As years went by there were periods of being inspired and working hard at growing as a guitar player, and then other periods of giving in to being depressed about my lack of growth, and feeling like a failure... and then getting distracted for a time. But I have always, in some manner or other, kept playing. Over the last 10 years or so I have become more inspired and spent more time playing than I had for some years previous to that. I am at a point now that I have felt my ability emerge stronger than it has ever been in the past. It seems that the 10,000 hours thing (or however many hours...the accumulative time spend playing) effect happens even if it is over a large span of years as well as if it is over just a few years of VERY concentrated, focused hard work. I really have to admit that I REALLY WISH that I had spent a few years of doing that VERY concentrated hard work and was able to live and play at a high level for most of my life, rather than it taking 50 years. But what is... is. I still cannot mentally analyze everything musical and understand complex things the way that I can see many can here... in threads about advanced music theory. I have studied theory plenty, since my early days in music school. And I have some very solid understanding of music theory. But it is not my strong suit. But what I have felt emerge in the last number of years, is a natural ability to feel creative improvised lines, melodies come out. And more of an effortless ability to create balanced lines that say something, make musical sense, and build towards something. To be able to tell a story, or express something, rather than just run scales and feel like I am reaching for something and not knowing exactly what. I feel, just in the last few years, that I am experiencing, within myself and within my playing, what I felt such a kinship with in the expression, the playing of those magical players that I first fell under the spell of in my teens and early 20s. I feel, at times, I am feeling those musical spaces myself. And that feels good. I am glad that I never stopped playing. Obviously I now never expect to play with a band in a great concert hall. Practically, now, the "opportunities" that are available to me are MUCH fewer than potentially they were when I started aspiring to be an accomplished player. But along the way I have also realized something that I feel is very important for me to have come to understand. And that is something that I also realize I have had an inner awareness of since my earliest days with the guitar and with music. I have come to realize that playing the guitar, for me, and absorbing myself in music that moves me is part of, for a lack of a better way to put it, a part of my inner self's life work.... if you will, it is a strong part of my spiritual work, my journey if inner discovery and experience. Music and playing has and does allow me, assist me with experiencing a very important part of myself. It allows me experience a part of my inner self that is very, very dear to me. And I also realize that I am really very, humbly grateful for this ability, and this ongoing experience in my life, even if I never "became" the great performing musician that, in my heart, I dreamed of becoming, so many years ago. And it occurs to me that maybe what we discover inside of ourself, and experience within, in the end, is more substantial than what we accomplish outside.