Let me take you on a little bit of a rabbit trail here.
My favorite musical is Les Miserables. I truly love it deeply and passionately. I know every word to every song. I have debated more than one person on recent productions that use projection screens in the back in lieu of a turntable. I have read the book. This musical speaks to me in a way that I cannot even describe. It is simply the most beautiful thing.
(Side note: If you are not familiar with this show, I implore you to find a way to see it. The movie adaption is surprisingly accurate and extremely well done. Just be prepared with some tissues for the end.)
My love for this show being established, you may not be surprised to learn that I have seen approximately 8 stage productions of Les Mis. Now, it blows me away every time. But I saw it a few years ago when the touring production came through Kansas City. It was an astounding, knock-out production featuring Peter Lockyer as Jean Valjean.
Being the social media addict that I am, I found him on Twitter during intermission and tweeted at him. And he tweeted me back, and I spent a shamefully long time looking for it so that I could screenshot it and put it in here but then I decided I had better uses for my time.
So, I’ve been following Peter Lockyer on Twitter since then. And the other day he tweeted this: “Witnessing someone do the thing they have mastered is beautiful. Master one thing.” Now, he was talking about tennis. But it was such a beautiful thought and it’s been stuck in my head ever since.
Here’s why. I have never been one for sticking with things. I don’t want to say that I’m a quitter. It’s more that I pick things up fairly quickly and get bored. When things get challenging, I find it difficult to stick with them because sometimes my interest just dies out. So… I’m lazy. To give you a brief overview of things in my life that I’ve dabbled in, here’s a run-on list: gymnastics, soccer, crochet, horse back riding, painting, drawing, scrapbooking, guitar, piano, basketball, tennis, racquetball, pottery, photography, sewing, embroidery, fashion design, foreign languages (German and Spanish), gardening, songwriting, basket weaving, graphic design…
There are literally dozens more. I just want to try EVERYTHING. I see someone doing something, and I just think it’s so cool. Life is so cool, right? All of these activities everywhere. So I try and dabble in everything. Some of these I’ve stuck with for longer than others. I took piano lessons for about 4 years. I played basketball on and off through elementary school and one year in high school. But I’ve never been able to settle on one thing long enough to master it.
According to my mother, this runs in the family. Her dad is like this. My grandpa can pretty much pick up any new skill. And it’s kind of a wonderful ability. Most things I’ve tried, I’ve been able to learn how to do to a fairly acceptable level. But that’s where it kind of stops.
The only thing that has endured as something I have pursued is writing. Sure, I’ve dropped off the map where writing is concerned countless times. But I’ve stuck with it for as long as I can remember.
There is something scary about committing to one thing; about picking some skill or hobby out of a hat and saying, here, this is my thing. Because at that moment, that activity and your skill level in it become a defining factor in who you are. And all of a sudden, it can become a measure by which other people can judge you.
For me, I’ve always had the fear of failure. I know that’s cliche, but what if I spend years of my life writing and I never get published? That’s a crushing thought. It’s difficult to imagine putting so much work into something — anything — and not getting the results that you want.
But the amazing flip side of that is, if this is the thing that I dedicate my time and efforts to, I could master it. And the result of that will be beautiful, whether it is published or not, because it will be the product of passionate work. And the same goes for any activity, period. And so stop wondering what other people think of you. Stop feeling like you can be judged through doing the thing that you love. Don’t worry about them.
Go out there and pursue the one thing you love. The thing you haven’t been able to get rid of. The thing you still want to do even when it gets challenging or heartbreaking. Do that one thing. Master that one thing. The result will astound you.