I remember when I was in High School and wanted to transfer to the honors English program the next year. I loved reading and writing and had ever since I could remember. A substitute teacher encouraged me to move up after grading our final exams, and so I made an appointment to see the guidance counselor with every confidence that the next year would be deliciously challenging.
The Honors English teacher had approved my request and all I needed was for the guidance counselor to sign off on the schedule change. That’s when things got interesting. Mr. Counselor wasn’t at all sure that was a good idea, and he was pretty sure it was his job to convince me of that. He spent every moment of our appointment pointing out to me the reasons that I wasn’t qualified, wouldn’t like it, would have to work too hard and should be happy where I was. Thud. Fortunately for me my excitement over the possibilities was a little stronger than the discouragement that had been spoon-fed to me in that meeting. I pushed and he gave in. That is one of the best lessons I learned in High School, because I absolutely loved Honors English. I loved the literature and the writing – even the really difficult parts. I loved deeply analyzing books and poetry. I loved learning about the ancient roots of our modern language. Later, when I moved on to the university, I loved feeling so prepared in my classes, having read more background materials and mastered more persuasive writing skills than I ever could have otherwise. The smartest thing I did was to refuse to believe that I didn’t have what it took to do something I really loved.
A few years ago a local artist was doing a beautiful watercolor painting of a barn. I’ve always wanted to try watercolor and thought that one day I’d find a class and learn. While I was admiring her work I made that comment out loud to my friend and the artist kindly informed me that she and the other art instructors that she knew hardly ever took on beginner students. I don’t know why that made me feel so small and insignificant in that moment. I’ve heard other artists inform people that they don’t really consider anyone who doesn’t do serious “fine art” to be an artist. It’s enough to make you want to pack away your crayons and give up. Of course, to balance them out, there are the artists who encourage anyone who wants to learn; truly talented and giving people who want nothing more than to help others find the joy in creating that they feel themselves. I love those people.
So Random Thursday is about loving to sing despite the person who tells you to stick to your guitar because your voice is too weak. It’s about picking up the paints, or the violin or the hammer or the glitter and turning up the music so you don’t hear the people who want to convince you that you’re wasting your time (or theirs). If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, just do it! It may just be the thing that feeds your soul and gives you joy. It may be the thing that helps you discover who you are deep down inside. It may be a lot of work to learn, but if you love it then you will feel more complete as you master it. Find a way to try it without spending a ton of money, just in case you find that you really don’t love it after all. What’s the worst that could happen? So your tower leans a little bit. It may just be the thing that makes your otherwise ordinary creation stand out in the world. And for heaven’s sake, don’t listen to anyone attempting to tell you not even to try it. It’s nonsense.