Recently I read an article that compared what it means to be an amateur to a professional. The gist of the article was to say that a professional puts in effort to improve and grow in whatever it is they are pursuing, while an amateur remains stagnant. So much more blood sweat and tears – as they say – goes into the making of a professional and the result is only a deeper love and devotion for your art. After reading this I thought back to when I was younger at a time when I tried and explored everything at a surface level.
Today, I would consider myself a singer and a songwriter because that’s what I ended up pouring most of myself into over the years. This leads me to wonder what my life would be now if I had been more devoted to dancing, or painting instead. But, I am realizing it is never too late to learn and throw our efforts into new things. I also know I can’t let where I am at now scare me away from where I could be.
After I graduated high school, I made plans to go to a University and get a Bachelor’s degree because I didn’t know what else to do. In a panic, only weeks before I was set to attend my first semester, I finally questioned what I was going off to do. I wanted to be a musician. But, I couldn’t study music in school; I didn’t know any music theory. So at age eighteen, I thought I had missed my chance. In hindsight this sounds so ridiculous to me, despite the fact that this thought still creeps in the back of my head when I tell people I am going to pursue music while my Sociology degree sits lonely in a drawer. In no way do I regret studying sociology. I loved it and learned plenty in the classroom and in life throughout college. However, I do regret that I didn’t believe I could learn music and go from “amateur” to “professional.”
Today, I still struggle with music theory and don’t nearly have the amount of skill I desire, but what I do have is a heart to create music that is meaningful to me and to others. Recently, I made a lot of new musician friends that attended the Berklee College of Music. Their talent and credentials are intimidating. I still feel so far behind in my pursuit of music. Then, I am reminded what that article really said. It never gave a timeline or an age limit, nor did it say no one could become a professional depending on their current skill – although natural raw ability is an important component in this equation. The article didn’t guilt anyone who hadn’t been investing the time they probably should into their artistic abilities but rather encouraged others to give it their all.
When it comes to art make sure its what you really love, because if you want to go after it you must empty all your love and experiences into it to cultivate and encourage the raw ability you already have. And, it is never too late. Seriously, whether you recognize a new passion at age eighteen or eighty: go for it. What matters more than what we are doing is why we are doing it. The “why” draws us deeper into our skills and abilities without worrying so much about the “how,” until one day we realize we have improved and grown in the ways we feared we couldn’t. What once intimidated us becomes a part of us.