Hello My Imaginary Friends,
As a parent, I have often been told that a toy or activity promotes something. (Eg: Playing with blocks promotes small motor skills and spacial awareness.)
It feels that our current society is very focused on the end goal. There are extremes where parents will structure and plan every activity towards a specific goal. But even the laid back parents fall into the trap of assuming that their kids will want to do a job because they enjoy an activity.
I’m guilty of this for myself and my kids. It’s a dangerous attitude because it turns everything that you can do as a stress reliever into some form of marketable product.
Even things that were once just hobbies have started to be marketable. There’s an entire new economy for Professional Game Facilitators for table table games. (AKA Dungeon Masters or Games Masters) Video game testers, reviewers, and streamers are huge.
It’s an attitude that made me choose to give up hobbies because I’d never be “good enough” to make money from it and I didn’t want to waste the time it would take to get to that point. Poetry, bass guitar, drawing, soccer, fencing, photography, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something.
When I was in high school, I took music. I had to take it in the English school since mine didn’t have the option. I must have been okay because I made the cut for the band and we won several competitions. I played the tenor saxophone and my first exam the teacher told me I sounded like a tortured cow. Despite that “tough love,” I continued to play and enjoyed it. That was the thing, I enjoyed it. I’d play waiting for the late bus or on Sundays. When I graduated, I had to give back the instrument and a tenor sax is not cheap.
It’s now been 19 years since I touched a sax and I doubt I’d remember how to do a scale. I’ve seen used ones and considered getting one, but it never seemed worth it.
In university, my brother wanted to start a band, so he bought me a bass. I practised, but wasn’t great. After a while, I just decided I wasn’t good enough. Also in university, I was in the residence life choir.
I made some great friends and had lots of fun. I did karaoke with my brother (who was super supportive) and my roommates (who were hyper-critical).
Like the sax, I liked singing and since I was being told I wasn’t that great (I wasn’t), I decided it wasn’t worth doing it anywhere but the shower.
This summer, to avoid copyright infringement, my wife decided to write an original song for a novel she was writing. It turned into her deciding to learn guitar so that she could include the chords in the book. At the same time, we were binge watching High School Musical: The Musical The Series.
I watched the show and my wife learning guitar and something inside me became sad. I wanted to make pretty noises. I wanted to recapture the joy I had at playing the sax or singing.
I struggled with the idea that I would have to dedicate a lot of time, which I didn’t have, to become good enough to perform or join a band. How could I make money or show that the work was worth it if I did decide to learn or continue with music.
That’s when I realized that enjoyment can be enough. I don’t have to be good, I don’t have to make money, I don’t have to do anything with it. So I decided:
Fuck money, fuck side hustles, and fuck society’s need to monetize everything! I’m going to learn the ukulele.
We bought a used tenor ukulele which will come in the next few weeks and a really cheap soprano uke that I’ve been learning on. It’s fun and frustrating, but when I get into the groove, it’s just as wonderful as I remember.
I’m terrible and I have a lot to learn, but I’m having fun. I’m still struggling with the idea that doing something for just me isn’t selfish or silly. It’s stress relieving and fun.
And you know what? To paraphrase Dragon’s current catchphrase, “I’m allowed to have fun.”
Stay safe and be kind,