Why don’t we do what makes us happy??
Last night I went to choir. As usual at the start of every choir rehearsal we do some silly exercises like shaking all our limbs, huffing “Hee hee hee”, making siren sounds and scrunching up our faces. The first time I saw this group of middle-to-old-aged men and women doing this I was highly embarrassed for them. Didn’t they realise they looked stupid and were making a fool of themselves?! It was awkward to watch. I cringed. They didn’t seem to mind looking like complete idiots. I guess they thought it would improve their singing technique or help them relax their vocal chords. Or perhaps they just enjoyed the silliness of it all?
6 months in and I’m an avid “singer” as well. I relish the funny exercises at the start of practise because let’s face it, how often are we allowed or encouraged to be ‘silly’ as part of a group of fully grown adults? It’s fun! 🙂
My parents have always encouraged me to pursue the things that I loved doing, but society seems to push me in a different direction. Society tells me that I should do the things I love doing only if I am actually good at them. For example, how many grown women with odd shaped bodies would take up beginners ballet? How many adults would begin gymnastics classes? What’s holding us back? You could say that in these examples as adults our lack of flexibility, fitness and our age are all obstructions. But these are only obstructions as long as we want to be good at what we do.
Really anyone with their limbs intact (and also many of those with not) can attempt a beginner ballet class. The reality is that most won’t because they already know that they won’t be good at it.
Why should this matter? Why is our enjoyment of something so closely linked to our ability?
At an early age we are encouraged to try loads of different activities and to see what we enjoy. Children have many different hobbies and they also spend time playing just because they enjoy it. As a teenager we are at a very sensitive time when other people’s negative comments can affect us a lot. We are therefore discouraged to continue those hobbies that we are not particularly good at. Schools also put a focus on academic studies so unless your hobby will look good on your university application or C.V. (look!- I am well rounded!!) then there is little point in doing it. Then as an adult we have the old sayings – “Oh I’m far too old for that!”, “There’s no beginner classes in X for adults”, “I’d look silly”
For one reason or another society stops us from doing those things we enjoy. It seems we have to wait until we go through a mid-life crisis or we retire and become a ‘purple lady’ before we can have fun without feeling shame.
This crisis seems to be so intrinsic in society that many people claim that they don’t even know what they enjoy. Given an afternoon or evening off work many people would go to the gym out of duty to their body, get some chores done or get drunk, (an activity which appears to filling the gap where ‘an activity that I like to do’ should be). The shortage of adult’s beginner classes in different activities doesn’t help. Most places have children’s to adult’s classes at a ratio of over 15:1. Why should kids get all the fun?
I admire my singing group. I admire slow cyclists. I admire awful acts on Britain’s Got Talent.
I admire them because these are all people who know what they enjoy and enjoy doing it despite the fact that others think they are rubbish at it. They don’t feel embarrasment or shame. They just go out there and have fun!
Happiness is necessary in life. I used to get up on a Monday morning for school because I knew that we had choir during assembly, not because I was eager to work. Life is made up of happy events. If you enjoy doing something then, like the slogan says, JUST DO IT!
What do I enjoy? Well, shockingly, I love nights in more than going out. I love latch hook or cross stitch. I like watching birds from my window. I love the feel of gravel under my feet. I really enjoy singing, especially as part of a choir when all the harmonies blend so well together. I love dancing (but still feel that I’m only ‘allowed’ to do it
when I can blame my actions on being drunk). I love dungarees (but I don’t have the confidence to wear them). I love the skipping and clapping games we did in the school playground. I love ice skating.
Imagine what life would be like if everyone had the confidence to do what they enjoyed and weren’t judged for it.
The commute to work would perhaps be more colourful as people wear the colours they love. Some people might be skipping or randomly running just because they get that ‘weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ feeling. Spontaneous singing would be a regular part of everyday life. One person on the tube or in the office may take up the tune and other people would gradually join in, completely unselfconciously and just because they enjoyed it. The lunchtime gym session would be replaced by a range of more varied activities as people who have always wanted to try taekwondo don’t worry about the fact that they are only 5ft tall and the beginner dance classes have participants of all shapes, ages and sizes. The cafeteria may have colleagues playing chess together, or dungeons and dragons, or clapping games. In parks people will roll down the hill, or teach each other how to do cartwheels, or climb trees.
In short, it will look and feel like a kids playground! And I think we would all be happier for it.