I had been busy deafening my parents for years by creating high-pitched squawking melodies on my “recorder”, the closest thing we had to a wood instrument at home. On band day I was so excited to finally get to see and hold a genuine, shiny flute in my 10-year-old hands.
I picked it up, my eyes gleaming, and held it to my lips. “Pfffffffffffffffffffft.” Nothing. I tried again, blowing into it like the 12-year-old owner of the flute had showed me. Again, nothing but a music-less “Pfffffffft.” I couldn’t believe it. My heart-felt heavy in my chest, and tears pricked at my eyes. I gave up, and handed her back her flute. Next, I decided to try the clarinet. It wasn’t the flute, and I wasn’t a huge fan, but at least it was still in the part of the orchestra that got the pretty melodies. “Honk-screech!”
Feeling even worse, I made my way to the back of the room where the brass instruments were. Someone handed me a French Horn. I held it to my lips, and out came a full, rich sound totally recognizable as belonging to a musical instrument. I shrugged, and wrote down “French Horn” next to my name, as by default this was obviously my instrument.
I played the French Horn for five years, including the first couple of years of junior high school. I hated the thing. I never got the good parts of any musical piece. In my second year of junior high school, my apparent “rare talent” for this instrument got the attention of a professional French Horn player in the city. He even offered me free private lessons after school. (It really was so kind of him to do that, I hope he never reads this). The plan was that I’d play in a major youth orchestra, and eventually play professionally.
I don’t remember how, but somehow I managed to quit the darn thing, despite everyone’s excitement about my supposed talent. I didn’t get much respite though, as fairly soon after I got sucked into the vortex of being a “gifted student in the Sciences”. I was finally spit out by the system at the age of 28. By then, I was not surprisingly a suicidally depressed Emergency Medicine resident. Same phenomenon, different vocation.
People don’t mean any harm by identifying talent in kids and giving them opportunities to develop that talent. If the child actually enjoys the activity, this is a fantastic thing. A friend of mine in junior high was discovered by a professional ballet company, and within weeks accepted an offer of a full scholarship at the best ballet school in the country. She dances professionally today at a well-respected company. But she loves ballet – this is the difference.
I so wish that some grown-up had encouraged me to choose the musical instrument that I loved passionately, along with the reassurance that I could learn how to play it. I wish that someone had seen past my “gift for science” and paid equal attention to how much I loved my creative writing classes.
You can only go so far on talent alone. If you’re good at something, it gets noticed and valued by others, and it certainly opens doors. It can generate much-needed income, which can be important. Yet when it comes to truly fulfilling your potential and knowing the joy of doing what you were made to do, the only thing that will give you that experience is what you love.
I fully appreciate that you can’t always do what you want. Economic realities are what they are, and it would be foolish for many people to abandon the job that pays the bills in order to pursue their passion. Then again, there are plenty of people who have done just that, and have done very well.
Regardless, if you’re honest with yourself about what your true passion is, you owe it to yourself to pursue it in some form, even if you never quit your day job and you never earn a penny doing what you love. The key is to do what you love, somehow. From “Being Good at Something Doesn’t Mean You Should Be Doing It” by Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201203/being-good-something-doesn-t-mean-you-should-be-doing-it
And so it is with great gratitude within the last year I discovered what I have long done as a profession was never what I truly loved, but instead what I chose to make money doing. The avocation has treated me well, but is far from the work I want this life to leave behind. This is the year I change direction and follow my dreams. For the inspiration and new courage to try something new, I am thankful.
Until a person can say deeply and honestly,
“I am what I am today because of the choices
I made yesterday,” that person cannot say,
“I choose otherwise.”
Stephen R. Covey