May 07, 2012

Lesson 9: New Hobbies

They say you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks. I don’t know whether or not this is true, having never owned a dog myself. Usually I hear this proverbial phrase used to encourage wives to accept the shortcomings of their husbands, or as advice to young girls not to marry men with unforgivable flaws.

A doctor friend of my dad’s, Keith, tells a story of coming into the waiting room and meeting a couple who had been married like 60 years. He sat down and asked the couple how they had made their marriage last so long. The man replied, “I thought about trading her in for another a time or two, but realized I would just be getting a whole new set of problems.” It’s so insightful. No one comes without baggage or imperfections. Everyone has their irritating habits. You don’t escape irritating habits by finding a new relationship; you simply get a different type.

I’d like to back up to the original truism, perhaps approach it from a less metaphorical position and bring it down to a more fun level. When making a list of possible dog tricks, I came up with shake paws, roll over, and fetch. I’ve also seen one family make a high bar with their arms and they had their dog jump over it. That was pretty cool.Tricks, in my mind, are sort of unnecessary things for a dog. In reality, they are impressive ways for their owners to play with them. Humans have these too. They are called hobbies.

Let’s translate the thought into human terms and put it in the form of a question. Can you teach old humans, new hobbies?

I have to say I think so, but I won’t say it’s easy. It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. I don’t know the amount of time it takes to get to a point with something where you can at least enjoy yourself. I think it helps if you try something that you have at least a base knowledge in.

Last year, my younger brother decided to teach himself the piano. Well, he started by taking lessons, but ended up missing a lesson and getting fired by his teacher. After that it was just the basic skills he had learned with some online tutorials and a whole lot of practice.

It sounds a bit funny for a former college football player, who works selling medical devices in New York City to take up something like the piano. And yet, talking to him now, it makes complete sense. His day is super busy, scrubbing in on long, intense surgeries, living with three roommates (and a dog), in a fast-paced go, go, go environment. He has found a quiet joy and mental peace in sitting and working away at developing his piano skills. Though at first frustrating, the pay-off has been great. Last year on my birthday, he picked out the birthday song. A few weeks ago, he played Free Bird using both hands.

This is a familiar story in my family, as my older brother, also a former college football player, took up the guitar after school. Only teaching himself, seven years later he writes and plays mostly original music. Best of all, he enjoys it.

To say I’m envious is an understatement. At various times in my life I’ve attempted both piano and guitar (and clarinet if I’m going to be honest), but I’ve never had the discipline to push through and reach a stage of proficiency.

I want a hobby. I have school, but it doesn't quite count. At some stage last semester when I was really frustrated with a Greek assignment, I told Mark that I was quitting seminary. It was after all, “his career, but my hobby.” His response was, “we have committed a little too much time and money to this thing if it’s only your hobby. Do your homework.”

I tried decorating for a time, but our current financial situation places barriers on this one. I can design a dream house all I want to, but at some point, it’s all a dream and probably an avenue towards coveting. Though I'm continually on the search for the perfect rug deal, I have slowed down the interest and time spent here.

As mentioned in my herb post, the gardening thing could be fun, but I kill a lot of plants and it turns out I’m allergic to fire ants. Ended up in the ER last bite. Though I religiously carry around my epipen (unlike my cell phone which I lose a lot), this is not a good prerequisite for an outdoor hobby.

So for now, I’m pursuing the writing thing. They say if you are going to be a writer, you should write something every day. I wonder if it’s just a hobby if the goal should be so high. Regardless, I have been finding a joy in writing, processing various ideas and formulating stories. Turns out writing has a lot to do with thinking, and as a mom whose home a fair amount, I have time for that.

Am I actually learning something new? Perhaps, I’m learning the consistency required to do something well. Is it productive? Time will tell.

I post this sort of as an encouragement. Through comments and replies I’m beginning to get a feel for who is actually reading this blog, and all of you are young enough to not be considered old. Thus, if we are still new dogs, then I think it is possible for us to learn new tricks. Today is the first day of the rest of your life (apparently a slogan associated with a drug rehab program, but hey, we’ll go with it.)

Lesson Learned: My brothers are awesome. 


  1. Try photography maybe? I mean, you do have two beautiful subjects!

    -Amanda R.

    1. That is definitely an idea! A sweet camera is on our list of future "wants," but for now we mostly just point and shoot!

  2. You definitely have a talent writing. I enjoy reading your posts :)

  3. Katherine!! Your blog is great and so insightful. I love reading it and hearing about your family, tell mark I said hello!

    1. Thanks Brenna! Hope you're doing well!

  4. "Dear TYLER,
    Thanks for playing your CLARINET during show and tell today."

    Love your blog!!! xoxo


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