I’m interested in everything. Seriously. The more esoteric and useless the activity or subject, the more interesting it is to me.
In high school, I played the bassoon, an awkward-sounding double-reed instrument that most people only know about because Rick Schroder’s character on Silver Spoons played one. I love the instrument, but “bassoonist” is not usually synonymous with “chick magnet”.
I once fiddled around with Esperanto, a fabricated “universal” language. The grammar and words are ridiculously simple, and I love the idea of the Pasporta Servo (stay for free with Esperanto speakers worldwide). But the problem with Esperanto is that you can only speak it with the kind of people that have bothered to take the hundreds of hours required to actually learn Esperanto.
The total of all the knowledge in the universe increases every day. Well, actually, each subject just increases in depth — we’re not inventing entirely new fields of knowledge every day. This means that the forefront of what is known in each field keeps expanding towards more and more useless knowledge.
Clearly this is trouble for me. Looking up anything on Wikipedia is like walking too close to a black hole.
I’ve realized I need to create a “Things I Will Not Do” list. With a family, a career or two, and a desire to actually catch up on the social life that a former bassoonist missed out on, I can’t do or learn everything I might want to do or learn.
Here are a few of the entries I’ve come up with so far.
Learn another language. I love languages; I really do. I’ve dabbled in learning French, German, Russian, Japanese, and Esperanto. I’d love to be bilingual. But honestly, learning a language really isn’t worth the time for me, considering what I’ll get out of it.
I don’t travel internationally. I’m too old and too well-connected at home to do something crazy like backpacking across Eurasia for six months. I don’t make enough money to have a considerable travel budget, so the vast majority of travel I plan on doing is within the United States or Canada. Most people in off-the-beaten-path places I would venture to would immediately recognize me as an American anyway and try to speak English with me. So, I’m not going to waste my time.
This would completely change for me if ever planned on relocating to a non-English speaking place, or if I found a compelling reason (e.g., a child eventually marries someone who doesn’t speak English). I just don’t have that reason yet.
Take voice lessons. Yes, I sing professionally. Well, I used to until very recently, when I decided to take some time off of music to spend with my family. I should take voice lessons to improve my craft.
I’m not going to, for the simple reason that there are few tenors of my caliber in this town. I get as much work as I need, for the most part. All that taking lessons would do for me is to build a repertoire and connections, and therefore allow me more opportunities to audition. But in a small music world such as Albany, I don’t have to audition for anything. Jobs come through connections and experience.
Taking voice lessons would allow me to potentially get opportunities with higher-caliber groups, but most of those groups are looking for musicians with actual degrees and years of experience. There’s too much of a gap I’d need to summit for not much additional pay. Not for me.
Fantasy football. I like football. I like games. The idea of trying to maximize a set of players’ statistics is really attractive to me, while enhancing my own Sunday-afternoon experience by giving me a stake in games I might not care about.
No, I need to walk away. Unlike a pick-’em tournament where one can spend as little as two minutes weekly choosing game winners, actual research is required to do well in fantasy football. I’d need to follow more teams than just my New York Giants. I love watching football, but I don’t want each Sunday to be a nine-hour marathon of watching television.
Play Scrabble competitively. As previously mentioned, I like games. I played Scrabble with my mother growing up, and received a set as a Christmas gift right out of college. I played a ton with friends, and realized that I was pretty good at it (by living-room standards, anyway). I read and enjoyed Stefan Fatsis‘ Word Freak, and I’ve watched the documentary Word Wars by competitive Scrabbler Eric Chaikin. I really want to try to play competitively.
I won’t. Too much memorization. Too many hours spent staring at index cards memorizing sequences of letters that lose their identities as words. Going to hotel ballrooms to spend eight hours a day shuffling tiles around seems a bit depressing to me. I can still play at home if I don’t play competitively. Actually, I’m more likely to be able to play at home if I don’t play competitively.
MMORPGs. Massively-multiplayer online role-playing games. World of Warcraft. EverQuest. EVE Online. I spent a good amount of time on various MUDs (multi-user dungeons) while in college and beyond. I should completely be into these games.
I know I will be completely into these games, and that’s why I just can’t do it. I want to stay married, to see my son, and to still have a job. These games are wonderful but they can be life-wreckers, and I’m a little too wary of trying the first hit for free for fear that I’ll be an addict. Just say “No.”