I own a piano, a guitar, a clarinet, a djembe, a tambourine, a violin, and a banjo. How many of these instruments can I play? I mean, really play? None.
Piano is probably as good as I get, and that's only because I took 10 years of lessons. Right now I can play a song and a half of original material, and 1/4 of Canon in D by heart. I can also sight-read simple sheet music. But that's it. That's the extent of my musical expertise.
Every piano teacher I had informed both my mother and myself that I was very musically talented-that I wasgifted. But sadly, most of the 10 years I took piano lessons, I failed to practice regularly, or even at all. And today, the same story is true. I am capable of playing even less today than I could 9 years ago when I quit playing. And since knowing how to play piano wasn't enough, at age 16 I bought a guitar- convincing myself that since it was so much more portable than a piano, I would absolutely learn to master it and would play it wherever I went. Eleven years later, I still know the same 5 chords I knew back then. My violin I played for a semester in college- "Applied Violin" (easy 'A'). My clarinet I played 5th-8th grade and one summer in college in order to pass the time while my dad rebuilt my 94' Altima. The banjo I bought off Craigslist I gave up on after a week and a 1/2. The tambourine and djembe I shake and beat every now and then but mostly haven't a clue what I'm doing. And what did I almost purchase at Barnes and Noble the other day? Why- a harmonica of course!
Because I am a lover of music- and also partially because I grew up being taught that "Tomlinsons are musicians"- I want to excel at all of them. i want ot be able to jump from piano to violin to clarinet to djembe to tambourine to banjo to guitar and be able to excel at playing them ALL. So instead, I continue to collect various instruments, thinking, "Oh this is the one I'll really practice and learn and master. "
And I master none.
They all sit in my closets or corners collecting dust, waiting for the promise of mastery to finally take place. And the thing is, I don't just do this with instruments- I do this in virtually every area of life. I want to do everything- to master everything- to experience everything.
And instead I accomplish nothing at all.
My passionate desire to touch the world, to make a difference in every capacity for every human being in every situation every second of the day- results in my being entirely ineffectual.
I went to school to study Psychology. But then I decided I'd rather write and switched to English, but then decided I wasn't so passionate about writing when forced to do it- so I switched back to Psychology. And although I greatly enjoyed studying Psychology, I decided I didn't feel like becoming a counselor as I had planned at first--and it seemed that's what all Psych majors planned to do. So I decided to become a teacher, and switched my major to Education, because teachers seemed to me to be some of the most influential people on earth. But after one semester as an English major and barely passing my Education courses, I dropped that major as well. This not only due to my poor course grades, but also because my Education professor looked me straight in the eye one day and told me point blank that I needed to choose a professsion involving helping people, not teaching people, as that was clearly where my passion lie.
So back to Psychology/Sociology I went. It took me 4 years to complete my college degree-which seems normal, except that it was supposed to only take me 3. It was due to my constant changing of majors/dropping classes that I ended up taking 4 years-at 18-19 hours a semester plus Jan-term plus a summer school session. Why? Because I wanted to do everything. I wrote and edited for our collegiate newspaper all four years. I wanted to be a counselor- then a writer- then a teacher- then a . . . I don't know that I ever did really figure it out. I wanted to understand people's minds, to understand them that I may better serve them. But somehow I got lost along the way, wanting to be everything-to do everything- and instead seemed to do nothing at all.
I put my hand in every possible venture- from rebuilding New Orleans post-Katrina, to working at a group home in southwest Missorui, to clean water well projects in Africa and Haiti to sex slaves in India to victims of domestic violence in Northwest Arkansas. I want to do it all. I regularly search out volunteer opportunities with United Way, Habitat for Humanity, etc. I sign up for countless projects and promise my time and efforts to all kinds of people and organizations and end up doing . . .not much.
I work up to 60 hours a week at a mental health facility and spend 1/2 the day making lists of things I need to get accomplished. Then I re-write my lists and add more things. Then I add ridiculous things like, "take off old nail polish" just so I can cross it off the list and feel like I actually accomplished something.
* * * * *
The other day I found a journal entry from March of 2010. I was listening to some sort of sermon or inspirational speech or something and had taken notes on it.
"What FEEDS YOUR SOUL?"
And I responded with the following list:
*Music! Playing, listening, writing
*The Abba Water Project
Three things. Not 75. Three. And you know what? Those are the same three things I am still most passionate about. There is nothing about working in a for-profit mental health institution on that list. Nothing about working 60 hours and sleeping 4-5 hours a night and being sick non-stop because I am overcomitting myself. Nothing about writing grants for domestic abuse rehabilitation, or volunteering at a thrift store every Wednesday in between shifts, or trying to do all of the above while also raising $10,000 for a future water project.
Here's to Three Things. I cannot do it all. I can not even do a lot of it. But I can do something. I can write. I can promote clean water. I can expound on those 5 chords I know. And I can continue to love on the unlovable until perhaps I narrow the three things down to one- that I may master.