I’m not a musician. I haven’t been dancing since birth, nor have I been playing the same sport for 10 years. I grew up jumping from activity to activity, trying nearly every sport under the sun before deciding none of them were really for me. As a result, I’ve become an extracurricular jack of all trades, with a myriad of half-baked seemingly disconnected interests.
I’d go through phases of being really into something, whether it was magic tricks, picking up a new language, or cheerleading, but it would always fade as I moved onto a new obsession. This left me with nothing to show for my sometimes years-long hobbies.
I always felt bad about this. I never got the chance to carve out skills in anything I took up. I felt like I wasted time and money on these short forays. Eventually, I stopped looking into new activities, because what’s the point? I’m never going to excel in any of them because I keep trying to do all of them. It’s too late to start drawing now, because other people my age have been studying art since they were kids.
This is, I now realize, total bull.
I did musical theater as a kid, but stopped after getting into high school because I had too many other activities. Even though I don’t do theater anymore, those years I spent learning how to project my voice and conduct my body on a stage led me to love public speaking. I then joined Model Congress and United Nations, which inspired me to take a political science course. Now, political science is my major.
I tried my hand at nearly every style of dance growing up, which instilled in me a love for performing. When I grew bored of dance, I signed up for colorguard (the flag spinners in marching band) because I missed being in front of a crowd. Because of my background in dance, I had a better foundation than other beginners, and was able to pick up the basics a little faster and learn the more advanced skills a little easier.
We love the activities we do because they are vehicles of self expression. Our hobbies are a reflection of who we are. It only makes sense that as we grow and change, so should our interests. Old flames can lead to new passions, and that’s okay.
I used to be ashamed that I never established myself in a core set of interests. I felt like I’d missed all my chances to pick things up, and that I just wasn’t good enough at loving things the way my peers were. But by bouncing from club to club, I got to taste everything. In the year or two I spent on each new interest, I grew as a person. Each curiosity led to new avenues of learning, new friends, and new experiences I never would have had otherwise. Even though I don’t do marching band anymore, I had the chance to perform down Main Street, U.S.A. in Disney World. Even though I stopped going to karate after I got my black belt, I still have five more years of experience than the average person. Should I need to, I can defend myself that much better than a guy who’s never taken a self-defense class.
The world doesn’t operate in a vacuum. The skills learned in one area of life can intersect and connect with another, sometimes in ways we don’t expect. Of course I’m not an expert — I haven’t put in the time to master anything yet. But with each venture into something new, I learn more about myself and the world. I no longer worry about whether or not every minute I spend on a discipline will help me later in life.
Experience is never a waste of time. Just because something I like won’t immediately or obviously lead to money and fame doesn’t mean it’s not worth anything. We spend our whole lives learning, and then we die. So why not start learning guitar at 20, or 40, or 75? It’s never too late to pick up something new, if it will make you happier.