They say that ukulele is the happiest instrument in the world. I believe that it is true, since even the loneliest lyrics sound happy when played on a uke, even the most heartbreaking words become soothing to listen to. The ukulele, a Hawaiian word that literally means jumping fleas, is the one that helped me move on from a past heartbreak.
Going back to my teenage years, I used to want to learn how to play a musical instrument since it was cool back then if you were a member of a band. My group of friends and I already even invented a band name in the event that our aspiration of having a band materializes. Back in the summer right after my second year in high school, one of my friends and I enrolled ourselves in a music school – I had my guitar lessons while she had her drumming classes. Lo and behold, I never really learned how to play the guitar since my fingers were too short properly create the correct tune. I decided back then that maybe, I do not have any future in the world of music and I will never be cool enough to be a member of a band.
Fast forward to ten years later, I got my heart broken. I didn’t know what to do to keep my sanity, and so I grabbed my old guitar that was tucked in the corner of my cabinet. I tried my luck again in playing the instrument just so I would have something to play while singing my lungs and heart out. Unfortunately, I realized that my fingers didn’t grow in any way in those years and they were still as small as they were ten years ago.
During that time, I had this conversation with a friend who was taking up violin lessons, and told her that I want to learn how to play at least one instrument too. She suggested for me to try the ukulele, since it is an instrument that is relatively easy to learn having only 4 strings as compared to a guitar which has 6, that will fit my fingers perfectly. Right then and there, I purchased my ukulele. When I got home, I typed on the phrase “easy ukulele songs” on youtube and saw tutorials on many songs including U2’s With or Without You. I thought to myself: “I only need to memorize 4 chords to be able to play the entire song, and I can already label myself as a ukulele player! How awesome can that be!”
And so I started on making a few strums hurriedly and excitedly. I wasn’t entirely sure back then what the correct interpretation of the song lyrics is, but while I was singing the words “with or without you” numerous times that moment, I felt the pain of living without that person who caused me so much ache, as well as felt glimpse of joy and hope – that I can live a happy life with or without him. It was just too impossible for anyone not to be hopeful after hearing the sweet and happy sound a ukulele offers.
Now, don’t get me wrong, playing the ukulele didn’t let me stop crying my eyes out. My heart was still the same shattered heart, but it indeed kept my sanity. I regarded it as my escape, a different world that I was willing to lose myself in.
For every strum revealed the layers of my soul that I am not able reach outside of music, every tune I heard uncovered the distant feelings that I pushed towards the corners of my heart. By touching those lost emotions, I felt compassion towards myself, and most of all, I was able to free myself. Gradually, the intense grief that overwhelmed me, and the uncomfortable loneliness and despair I had to endure were replaced with optimism.
As for that person who broke my heart, I genuinely hope he is happy wherever he is. When I look back now and remember him, I am grateful that through him, I was able to get to know the ukulele, which made my life sound more vibrant.
The ukulele – it can give you that one touch of hope that you might need at that point in your life when you feel like the world’s crashing down. It is such a tiny instrument but it can make you believe that you can put your heart back in one piece again. Now, until I meet my next lover who will hopefully be my last one, I take my ukulele as the lover of my soul.
Playing the ukulele is a therapy. Truly as the song from the 90s goes… “Music, it gives you happiness or sadness, but it also, it also heals your soul.”
So strum a ukulele, play music, let it take control, and let it heal your soul.