Monday, April 29, 2013

Do What YOU Want..........

Just a brief note folks, to let you know that I have eliminated almost all Anonymous comments, unless those comments are signed so that I know who you are.  Hopefully I will not lose any readers and this will eliminate some of the wacky comments I get that you do not see. I do have some anon comment sources I know well, and those will remain. I'm unwilling to make people put in codes and the like so this is my solution for now...............Thanks for your understanding!

When my kids were young, there were two philosophies among the parents in general when it came to kids and activities. Many parents felt that once a child had taken up an activity or sport, it required long term commitment. If you played soccer last year, you had to continue this year. “Changing your mind” was not an option. In our case, our kids took many a sport or lesson for a season only. This was true until they got to high school. My son realized after one summer that softball was not for him, no matter what his friends were doing. Both kids played three different instruments in school until they found the one that was right for them.   We were more interested in allowing our kids to explore as many options as possible than we were in the idea of “commitment”. 

We were also willing to encourage their interest in an activity even when they were less than skilled.  My son played soccer into his teen years even though he was at best an okay player, because he wanted to (we were fortunate to live in places where recreation teems continued into high school).  One of the things I admired about the school system in Dallas was that EVERYONE could be on the football team. Yes, those top ten players were playing most of the games, but everyone who wanted to be on the team dressed out, practiced and continued with drills. Our high school had a three hundred person marching band, where tryouts were not required.

In general, I have continued that philosophy into adulthood and even into retirement. I take that old saw about anything worth doing being worth doing well with a huge handful of salt. For me, anything that is enjoyable is worth doing-well or not. We don’t need to be good at something to have fun doing it.  I also think that if something stops being enjoyable, it is time to put that thing aside-at least temporarily.

 My point here is this-if you have an interest, you should pursue it. Try it, play with it, experiment with it. If your interest wanes, go on and try something else.  Sometime in the future, you may come back to this interest.  If not, it wasn't meant for you. However, that doesn't mean the learning, the pursuing, weren't worthwhile in their own right. A long term commitment is not required.  The trying is its own reward-at least in my experience. More importantly, if you try something and like it-becoming an expert is not required. Do the activity, whatever it may be, simply for the enjoyment itself. Life is to short to be bored, or to be stressed about expertise. We should spend our time doing things we want to do and like to do. If interests change, let them change.

Now, someone might interject something here about "wasted money". As a money conscious person, I'm going to suggest that money spent learning anything at all is rarely wasted. I'll also suggest that most hobbies can be done cheaply-especially in the early learning states. I did learn to quilt on a sixty dollar singer sewing machine long before I got the one that costs three thousand. Third, even if I stopped quilting tomorrow the enjoyment factor relative to the purchase would be well worth the investment. Sometimes money spent on enjoyment does not have to be a "justified" expense.

Don’t get me wrong, improving skills and learning new things are important. Most of us have a few areas that we continue to improve on in terms of skill and expertise.  If I had no interest in getting better at golf I would not keep taking lessons.  And I continue to take new quilting glasses and seminars to improve my skills. But at this point in my life, even if those skills never got better, I would continue playing golf and continue quilting.

I also realize that on occasion we need to do those things we don’t necessarily like. I will NEVER jump out of bed and say “Oh, Joy, I get to go to water aerobics today”.  Limping around the block or doing water exercise is something I do because it is good for me and makes me feel better afterwards. Those types of things are also necessary in my life, but I will never enjoy doing either in the extreme. I do these things in spite of the absence of any specific enjoyment.

Just as an example, recently I put aside cooking beyond the basics, after being a gourmet cook for years and enjoying it (even during my kid's growing up years).  I still enjoy baking and have considered a cookie business, and I explore canning on occasion. Other than that, my cooking has reverted to using the slow cooker and relying on things like the old takeout rotisserie chicken. Even my entertaining menus have changed to more simple items. Since I still enjoy EATING gourmet food this means I allow others to cook for me more often than at any other time in history. I've adjusted my budget for more eating out and take out by eating lots of simple foods at home.  

On the other hand, even though my thumb is less than green, I play with growing veggies in pots ever year, even though most years those pots yield  as little as one or two tomatoes. I've taken numerous college level art class purely for fun-even when my end results of often unrecognizable. I will never be artist. This doesn't stop me from taking paints out on the patio and playing. I'm equally comfortable with not painting for awhile until the mood strikes again.

There's an old saw about knowing a little about many things and much about a few things.  That's my general philosophy of life, I suppose, as long as I can qualify it by saying enjoyable things. I am one of those people who has a pile of interests, many short term, some long term. I have  little skill when it comes to many  things and a fair amount of skill when it comes to a few things-all of which are fun for the moment.

Every semester i take a couple "real" classes at the university or community college (sometimes online, sometimes in person). I have absolutely no interest most of the time in using these classes for a career, or even to become an expert in a subject. Sometimes I take a class "series" (Design one through design three, or theater makeup, costuming and design), thinking that I can use it for fun or volunteering. More often though, I take a single class simply because it sounds fun at the time. For some time after returning from Germany where I traveled constantly I was "traveled out" I was certainly finished with flying. I have now increased my travel to more than those two trips a year, but I still continue to refuse to fly. And while others travel up to six months at at time, I limit my travel to primarily spur of the moment road trips traveling where the mood takes me at the time rather than scheduled plans.

One of the joys of reading other blogs is observing the different interests we all have. I have seen interests change, expand and wane. Often those interests are different than mine. What's important is that we do what we want to do, what we like to do, and that we find out what else we might like to do in the future. Otherwise we end up in a rut, and that's not what life is about at all.


  1. As someone who has tried many things, and is not good at any of them, I like your treatment of this always-present issue in our lives. But I agree, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained in developing an expertise in something, perfecting style and technique, going above and beyond the average. Never really done that myself. But once or twice, I got a piece of it.

  2. I think it requires a great deal of love (sometimes to the exclusion of all other interests) to get to a certain level of dedication. Most of us I expect would rather have the multiple things rather than do one thing to the exclusion of everything else......

  3. Barb, I do what I enjoy doing and perhaps some day I will get good at what I do. Quilting is one that jumps to the forefront of my mind.

    God bless.

    1. Just remember that good is a relative term.

  4. Just read this quote today and it seemed like the perfect comment for your post:

    Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in."
    --Leonardo da Vinci

    I just started studying piano again after a 30-year break. I think Leonardo is on to something--I'm loving it (desire) and am seeing such improvement (retention).

    1. Im glad to here you are still only problem is I desire in too many areas at once, I expect.

  5. I was in my adult years before I realized this - I took twirling lessons -wanted them so badly- but the teacher was bad(mostly gymnastics which I zilch interest in) and I looked for any excuse not to go. My parents held this over my head forever it seems like whenever I wanted to try something 'this isn't gonna be like those twirling lessons is it?' and when I did find something I enjoyed it seemed I felt pressured to do better and better vs just enjoying myself. I was never good under pressure. now I try things that interest me - quilting has been off and on but mostlyon - I always come back to it even if I take a long break - same with cooking (though never gourmet LOL!), music is off and on mainly because of the practice time which is scarce for me. I intend to explore different areas that interest me until I can't (which is when I'm dead I guess!)I dont' have kids but I would think I'd encourage them to stick with something unles they just really hate it (vs not liking the practice for instance because piano, guitar, etc take time) but wouldn't want to force them to continue- my brother knew he hated little league baseball yet continued until my parents finally relented. I think sticking with something teaches some discipline but wouldn't want to force someone to do something they just dont like. sounds like you were good parents.

  6. Barb, I've been playing catch-up with your blog. I've posted a few comments under anonymous because of the profile selection; I don't have a blog/URL site of my own. I don't see an email address for yourself under contact; mine is
    I think variety is key to an interesting life. In the words of my neighbor when my son was deciding what to do with his life: all work is an education and no education is wasted.


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