(Almost) Blind Girl With A Guitar: Go Ahead And Live Loudly!

The header image is a closeup of the strings on a guitar.

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Contents

Editor’s Note:

I think it’s safe to say that for many of us, life with COVID-19 has been different. The experience of living through a global pandemic with sight loss is exponentially different. When we cannot see, increased anxiety and fear threaten to overwhelm us at just the thought of having to leave our homes. My friend and author, Alex Buwan, touches on her reality then she beautifully expresses how she found joy in the midst. Enjoy!

(Almost) Blind Girl With A Guitar: Go Ahead And Live Loudly!

Visual Impairment & COVID-19

The year of twenty-twenty was tragic. Our lives were forever changed when the COVID-19 virus swept across our world. Many of us lost friends and loved ones, and our lives will never be the same.  

As a person who is visually impaired, I struggled to adapt to the strange new world in which I found myself. Before the pandemic, I lived an independent life; however, once the pandemic started, the mere thought of going to the grocery store made my palms sweat. I no longer felt safe on public transportation.

I experience the world through my hands, and touching things suddenly became hazardous to my health. It also bothered me that I couldn’t tell if people were wearing a mask. How could I know if I was safe and if they were standing far enough away? 

One afternoon, my husband said he would go to the grocery store and get us some supplies. He also planned to get some groceries for his parents and elderly aunt. It was the end of March, and all my days were running together. My life had lost all sense of rhythm. 

“Why don’t you come with me to the store?” he asked. “It might do you good to get out of the house.”

“No thank you,” I told him. “You know the world makes me stressed out right now. I’ll just stay home. I’ll try to clean or something.” 

Closeup of a manicured hand sensitively touching wheat in a field.

Answering The Guitar’s Call

While he was gone, I did my best to put the house in order, but I made little progress. Instead, I found myself aimlessly carrying items from one room to another. Finally, I wandered into the spare bedroom where I kept my father’s old guitar tucked into the corner.

I hadn’t thought about that guitar in years, but something drew me towards it. I opened the case and ran my hands over the smooth wood of the instrument. It was a steel-string “country jumbo” model, and it felt unwieldly in my hands. I sat on the floor and cradled the enormous instrument in my lap. Slowly, tentatively, I plucked the strings and tried to play.

Although the instrument was out of tune, the beauty of its rich, full-bodied, tone made my ears perk up. I was immediately entranced. I pulled my iPhone out of my back pocket and Googled how to tune a guitar. It took me almost an hour to get it close to being in tune, but I was soon having so much fun that I entirely lost track of time. 

I sat on the floor and wrestled with the guitar for hours. I spent the entire afternoon watching instructional videos on YouTube as I tried to learn how to form my left hand into simple chord shapes. The metal strings hurt my fingers, but I didn’t stop. I felt happy and excited. Why had I never realized how liberating it was to make so much noise? 

Close up of a woman playing guitar. In the photo is a partial view of her hand and face.

Singing A Happy Song

When my husband finally returned home, he found me still seated on the floor with the old guitar in my hands. 

“What are you doing?” he asked. 

“Look what I learned to do today!” I said with delight. “Let me play you a song!”

Slowly, painstakingly, I placed my fingers in the position for the D Major chord and sang him the easiest song I had been able to find online. It was a happy tune about a duck. I sang loudly and strummed even louder.  

When I was finished, my husband couldn’t stop laughing. “Don’t quit your day job,” he said. ‘That was the loudest racket I’ve ever heard!”

I couldn’t help but laugh along with him. How could I be mad when he was right? I did sound terrible—but that didn’t change the fact I was having a great time. 

Despite my husband repeatedly urging me to find a quieter hobby, I refused to give up the guitar. Every day I challenged myself to play for just five minutes. That was one year ago. 

I still make a terrible commotion when I play, but I’ve slowly improved with time. I can now play and sing simple country, folk, and rock songs. I play for my own enjoyment, and sometimes the cat listens. 

Playing the guitar is a wonderful freeing sensation. During my day job, I am a perfectionist. I always feel if I have to perform twice as well as a fully sighted person in order to be taken seriously. But when it comes to the guitar, nobody expected me to know how to play it. It is liberating to be able to do something just because it made me happy. 

Pure Unadulterated Joy

When I play, no matter how badly, I can feel the tension inside my heart uncoil. I feel relaxed and happy. Although I haven’t been able to physically travel this year (something I loved doing in the past), I feel as if I’ve been on an exciting musical journey. Every time I learn a new chord or a new riff, I feel joy. Sometimes, on the rare occasions when I find myself playing a song with ease and singing along, I feel like I am flying. 

The month of March was my one-year anniversary of playing the guitar. I’m still terrible at it, but it’s brought joy into my life that I desperately needed. It has been frustrating at times because many of the guitar resources are designed with a sighted audience in mind; however, I was able to overcome this challenge by investing in a few online guitar lessons through Skype with a reputable teacher who was able to explain things to me verbally. My husband thinks this was a massive waste of money, but I would argue otherwise. How can you put a price on joy and freedom? 

Woman joyfully singing while playing the guitar in her living room.

An Invitation For You

What do you love to do? Have you always wanted to learn an instrument, write a book, or study a second language? Consider this your invitation to do what you love—do what makes you happy—even if you’re bad at it. Tell yourself that you are going to commit just five minutes a day to chasing your dream. You’ll be surprised how five minutes will often turn into more, and if it doesn’t, at least you got spend a short amount of time that day doing something you are passionate about. 

This past year has been a reminder to all of us that life is short. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Go ahead and live your life loudly! Consider this my personal invitation to you to make a commotion! 

Connecting With Alex Buwan

About the Author:

Photo is an owl flying in front of the moon. It's a free stock photo from pixabay. I'll also email it
Author Photo

Alex Buwan is a visually impaired writer who is half-Filipino. Her hobbies include playing guitar too loudly and telling stories. She earned her degree in English and is proud to say that she is the first person in her immediate family to have graduated from college. Alex is currently working on her first novel.  

Image Descriptions:

  • The header image is a closeup of the strings on a guitar.
  • Closeup of a manicured hand sensitively touching wheat in a field.
  • Close up of a woman playing guitar. In the photo is a partial view of her hand and face.
  • Woman joyfully singing while playing the guitar in her living room.
  • The author’s photo shows the silhouette of a cat against a full moon. Alex Buwan is a pen name and this author photo was taken from Pixabay. 

1 Comment

  1. I’m glad you found joy in the guitar, your Dad’s guitar. I have a small Goya nylon string that my Dad had bought to learn on but never did. I also purchased a used small 00-21 Martin and took lessons for a semester of college, along with some lessons before that. I love my small Martin as it has a classical neck, which is wider than regular guitars. You might enjoy purchasing a smaller guitar that fits your body, your fingers and your voice. Each guitar has a different voice of its own. It’s unfortunate your husband doesn’t support your joy in the guitar. My Mom was like that. But I am so grateful for the peace and joy guitar has brought me. I’ve even picked it up before in the midst of a horrible asthma attack, starting playing and singing and my breathing struggles disappeared. I’ve gone on to teach creative movement and music to children in private groups, preschools, and a university program for kids. Best wishes for your guitar journey. Music heals 🙂

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