It's Thalen's Turn Column: Realizing what it takes to raise a person

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

My little girl is the size of an eggplant; at least, that is what Google says when you search for a size comparison of a baby at 28 weeks.

My wife and I are getting closer to the big day. We have obviously been doing a lot of thinking about what is to come. How will we raise her to grow into a good and independent person who will one day have to raise her own family? This line of thinking gets my head spinning; talk about a lot of pressure.

Many factors come into play when coming up with a game plan to raise a decent human being. My wife and I have most recently talked about a way to teach her not to give up, that accomplishments take time, work and commitment.

Growing up, I tried to get involved in my hobbies, from skateboarding to playing guitar. But I made excuses and gave up. I didn’t understand the concept that practice makes perfect. I thought talent was something you were born with or you weren’t

When I was 9 years old, I received a Silvertone electric guitar for Christmas. I had always wanted a guitar. I grew up listening to rock n roll with my dad. Watching legends like Zakk Wylde, Hendrix, Page, and Clapton play face-melting solos. I wanted to be just like them.


When I sat down with my guitar, I was shocked and disappointed. My fingers didn’t move like theirs; they barely moved at all. Even strumming the open notes sounded like garbage — I had no knowledge that the strings needed to be tuned. I expected that these “rock Gods” were just born into the world with their talent.

My dad played a little, but I only saw him every other weekend. When I visited him, he would show me how to play songs like Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple and Iron Man by Black Sabbath. He only taught me to use the low E string and just one finger. So, I wasn’t actually playing those songs. In my mind, I thought I had peaked, and I could not see how I would ever get farther than my one finger, one string style. So, I gave up.

Fast forward to when I was 20. I still had my guitar, but with little progress made. Some buddies and I moved into a house while in college. I decided to bring my guitar because I was a poser and thought it made me look cool. I ended up making friends with this dude who could play. Naturally, he was drawn to my guitar — a guitar player simply doesn’t ignore a guitar sitting in the corner of the room, even if it’s collecting dust. He sat down and started jamming; it was awesome. The next few days, he came over with his guitar. He started showing me a thing or two — a couple of finger exercises, the essential power chords and intros to some good riffing songs. By this time, I was determined to try my hardest and learn. I made more progress in that week than I made in the last 11 years. As the weeks kept going, my fingers became fast and loose. Like a lightning strike, everything made sense. To build a skill, to accomplish something, takes practice and commitment. I don’t know why it took me so long. I can be a slow learner sometimes, but I did learn. I got to a point where I was a part of a garage band and could improvise and jam.

I want to instill this in my little girl, and I don’t want it to take her till she is 20 years old to figure it out.

One of the ways we decided to instill work and commitment is to keep learning ourselves. Children learn by watching, so I want her to watch my wife and I try and fail and try and eventually succeed. My wife and I agreed we will always try something new, whether a hobby, skill, language, etc. We hope it also teaches her you are never too old to learn something new. And what she wants to learn, we will learn it too.

I still practice guitar most days, and I keep getting better. My next learning goal is something I did when I was younger but gave up on and watched my friends continue to excel, skateboarding. This might hurt.

Related Topics: DOUGLAS COUNTY
Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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