Have you ever thought about some hobby, lessons, type of exercise, or similar that you used to do when you were younger that you suddenly stopped? Then years later you thought to yourself, “Dang! If only I had only continued that instead of quitting. I’d be so much better off now for X and/or Y reasons.”
In the past, I have written a bit about my years as a serious dancer. I started ballet lessons at 8 years old, and then stopped rigorous lessons (7-8 classes per week) at about 16. I was invited to audition at one of the best ballet schools in the U.S., and was already dancing for a small ballet company led by a previous principal dancer of the New York City Ballet. But something happened that made me stop, and I’m afraid a major depression followed. But by 18, I was feeling well again. I could have resumed dance lessons, perhaps less rigorously, but I didn’t.
Sitting here writing this I’m thinking “Why the heck didn’t I take ballet or modern dance at college as an elective class? I would’ve been one of the better dancers. Who knows what could have happened if I had never stopped lessons. Maybe even today at 46 years old I would still be dancing, and quite athletic. I surely wouldn’t be a professional dancer in my 40s, but I could still be taking classes and dancing very well. Maybe I could even be a part-time instructor or choreographer. That would have made me happy. Too bad! Instead, I’m now out of shape and overweight, rarely exercising, and even have high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and low endurance.
After the depression I suffered from quitting ballet, I decided to take piano lessons. I loved playing the piano, though I was only a fair musician. I swear that I don’t remember why I quit piano lessons. I’m imagining it was for a silly not so well-thought out reason. I remember that five years after quitting I was married and owned a home. My parents offered me the piano, but I refused because I didn’t think it would fit well in my house. I guess it could have fit, if I had really wanted it, but instead my mom sold it and gave me the money. The money is long since spent on who knows what. Twenty six years have passed since I touched a piano. Imagine the music I would likely be able to play if I had taken almost 30 years of piano lessons? Or close to that? Instead, my piano playing skills are nil. I’ve even forgotten how to read music well.
I have always loved learning foreign languages. In high school I studied four years of French and one year of Chinese. When I first went to university I was placed in Intermediate French and Beginning Chinese. I dropped the French class for who knows what reason. Maybe because I thought two language classes at the same time would be difficult. I don’t know. I did continue Chinese through my senior year. I also lived briefly in Taiwan. My Chinese skills were pretty good, but then after getting married I barely spoke the language. [My hubby is a Czech.] The last time I studied French was over 20 years ago. Why didn’t I continue French? I was always an “A” student in French. I could have continued my Chinese in the U.S., but I didn’t. Now I have forgotten so many words in these languages, and have forgotten so many Chinese written characters. A real shame!
I’m not going to say that I abandoned or forgot all of the skills I learned in my youth. I am a better cook now than ever. My writing skills have improved a lot since college, too. I honed and retained skills I learned on the job. But as I wrote, I do have regrets. Could I start taking dance, piano, French or Chinese again in my mid 40s? I suppose so. I’ll have to think about it a bit more, or think about new things I could learn. For example, I did learn flower arranging at age 42. I love that skill and hobby. I guess it’s not too late. As for other skills or knowledge, some I’m OK with having forgotten. Remembering advanced algebra or calculus isn’t a big deal to me, unless I someday wish to take the GRE or GMAT.
The main point of this post is to encourage young people to think twice before quitting lessons similar to ones I’ve outlined above. Ask yourself “Will I regret not being skilled at X or Y when I’m middle-aged?” And yes, you will someday be middle-aged.
For older readers, are there lost skills you had as a youth, that you’d like to work on again?
What do you regret quitting?