I’m a serial dabbler. I’ve tried out many, many things. I’ve dabbled in pottery, learnt to play the guitar, I took up salsa, flower decorating, etc. I always entertain the most idealistic thoughts when I first start these activities – I’ll do salsa and I’ll discover that I’m a great dancer and I’ll travel the world performing / if I can start decorating flowers, I can open a flower shop and start selling my flower designs / I’ll learn to play the guitar and write my own songs and I’ll be like Joni Mitchell and sit at cafes and sing, etc.
But my hopes seldom matched reality. I hated the guitar. The instructor wanted me to cut my fingernails (I LOVE my fingernails) and also it was painful. So I never continued with it. Flower decorating was a bore. And I absolutely hated salsa. I never realized it till I did it of course. It looked like exactly the sort of thing I would love but that’s when I realized that I hated dancing with a partner, especially one that led. I DO NOT like being led. I don’t like being twirled around.
Every time I quit one of these things though, I’d suffer pangs of guilt. Why am I so flaky? Why can’t I just commit to one thing and carry on with it? What is wrong with me?
Cos you do think of quitting as a personal failing or dismal character trait. Our culture celebrates finishing tasks, commitment and perseverance. Quitting flies in the face of all this.
Nowadays, I have no such guilt. I recently tried something new but I realised (quite quickly) it wasn’t what I was expecting, so I quit. My friends obviously were like, “What? So soon? Maybe you should give it more time?”
This would have really affected me a couple of years ago but now, I don’t feel the need to justify. Firstly, although they all mean well, most of them haven’t actually tried doing what I just did so they don’t really know what they are talking about. And secondly, I think my lack of guilt comes from i) having tried lots of different things, ii) actually stumbling onto activities that do completely absorb me and to which I have 100% commitment and iii) having experience in spotting the difference between what I know I will like and what I know for sure I won’t.
I do get annoyed at people who tell me that every task, activity or situation has a bad side as a justification for hanging on to something. I agree – I do believe that everything comes with it’s own sh*t but you need to find that correct sh*t you are willing to put up with. I think that’s the task.
For example, baratanatyam (an Indian classical dance I learn) which by the way is usually performed solo :), is one of the most difficult things I’ve done. It also consumes a lot of my time especially as TFL thinks it’s completely okay to have train lines not operating on weekends. But something drives me through all the pain – I don’t even know what that something is. Before I first started, I was scared. I thought this was going to be another thing where reality never matched my hopes and I’d give it up. But actually it was everything I thought it would be and more. Through non-operating train lines, freezing temperatures, hangovers, I’ve dragged myself to class nearly every week.
To think, I might not have tried this out of fear that this would be just another thing I’d quit. So I’m going to keep on trying new things that take my fancy. And 90% of the time, it’s not going to match up to what I had in mind and I’ll quit. But that’s okay. At least I’ve tried and I can cross this off the list. I can then move on to something new and hopefully this time, I’ll stumble onto that 10% – pure magic.