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
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.