Enjoying, Not Excelling

Recently I've been completely taken with Sky Arts' Portrait Artist of the Year competition. I love nothing more than watching an artist hard at work from the comfort of my own sofa. After a long day of writing and staring at speadsheets, I can't get enough of observing how they put the image together.

In the past I might have been inspired to take a painting class or get out one of my old sketchbooks. Because, like many things, I've dabbled in drawing. I took art classes from time to time, with my most notable stretch during the time when I was in Catholic school. Sister was not pleased when I painted a flower green. It was not some sort of anti-realism protest on my part, just a mistake. 

I've sampled just about every possible hobby out there, from tap to belly dancing, from scuba diving to skiing, from singing to piano lessons. The piano was definitely my longest lasting -- 12 years of studying from the time that I was six years old.

Hobbies can be a great thing -- but I am starting to wonder if my typical approach to them is healthy at all. Because I think I mostly like the idea of being good at something much more than the actual thing I am planning to do. And so whenever I set out to learn something I feel like I have to be good at it for it to be of any worth at all. I get mixed up between the idea of enjoying something versus being able to do it.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not regretting trying new things. I think my attempts at being on the swim and soccer teams in high school served a great purpose: to tell me that I'm not athletic. But I also learned how to be a very good swimmer -- something that has served me well every time the Hub wants to swim as far away from the boat as possible when we are sailing in the Mediterranean. The high school swim team (well, mostly my friend Jessica's personal coaching) probably has saved my life and kept my marriage intact.

But I'm not 12 anymore. These days I know what I like, and I know what I'm good at. I don't need to sign up for drawing lessons anymore to realize that I like watching people paint or looking at art in museums. Nor do I need to learn how to tap dance to know I like going to see musicals or that I tend to like a boogie on the dance floor at a wedding. And I've discovered that I can have a very healthy approach to golf: one hobby I know I will never, ever be good at. So I can just enjoy it.

But I do plan to resume playing the piano -- as soon as the Hub and I can agree on what kind of piano to get and where to put it in our house. But I'm not going to study anymore. Instead, I'm going to decide what kind of music I want to play these days and maybe even sing along -- loud and on my own, for no one one else to hear but me.   

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