I enjoy painting. Finding a subject, gathering the paints, and priming the canvas. I like the sound the brush makes on the surface. By the end of a session or class, however, the result is never as good as those around me. The artwork I produce is mediocre at best. I still hang it in my house, but I occasionally get asked if my six-year-old niece made it for me.
And yet, I still take painting classes. I go to paint and pours. I sit at the easel and let all my cares fly away. The experience of painting the piece far outweighs the quality of the finished product. And that’s okay.
Society seems hellbent on telling us that we should only be passionate about that which we are good at. If you’re tall and athletic, you should be wholly invested in basketball or volleyball. If you draw well, that should be your life’s work. And if you’re not so good at something, you should walk away from it and focus on other things, no matter the enjoyment it gives you.
It’s a damn shame. Because life is too short to give up on something you enjoy. And too long to commit to something just because you have some talent at it.
My parents started me in piano lessons at the age of seven. I stuck with it until my senior year of high school. And hated every minute of it. I fought practicing it. I avoided the instrument as much as possible. I had no natural talent for the piano, though I did okay. But there was no passion for it. I didn’t yearn for it, I didn’t miss it when I’d been away too long.
My mother’s great passion in life and something which she was immensely good at was child therapy. She had a way of putting troubled children at ease and got them to talk. This is how she made her living, and she truly enjoyed her work. Yet, at night, she came home and, now and again, would sit at the dining room table with a drawing pad and a box of pastels. The same sunset scene every time. A little hill done in ink and a rosy-colored sky fading into night. Nothing that would fetch any money in an art gallery, or even a garage sale, but good enough. Each piece would hang by her desk until the next one was done, and then she’d throw the previous away.
You are allowed to have passions that don’t earn you money. You can pursue activities that you have no talent at. You can spend your life working on something that is only important to you. Don’t cave to the pressure only to do those things for which you show some aptitude if they don’t also bring you joy. Give yourself permission to be bad at things. You will live a more fulfilling life, I swear.