All In

I know,  I know, I’m delinquent. I promise I was going to do a post about addictive personalities on Thursday that got swallowed by the demands of my multiple jobs. Someday you’ll get my musings about that. Not today.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s read about my various monthly personal challenges, but I’m the kind of person who gets easily excited about new ideas, jumps into them full-on, and then…

…doesn’t…

…always…

…stick with them.

I don’t mean like New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, let me tell you a story that will illustrate my point.

When I was twelve or so, I read a magazine article about a girl my age who’d begun a campaign to save a rare kind of horse with naturally curly hair. There was information about how to get involved, and I got super excited about it. By the time I went to bed that night, I’d decided that if this girl could do this, so could I. I was going to raise money for these horses, work with adults to set up a place for them, find and purchase a couple, and work my butt off to raise awareness for these awesome creatures (note: I don’t remember why this was such a big deal; it doesn’t seem, according to Wikipedia, like they’re endangered or anything). I spent the entire night having trouble falling asleep because I was planning so much.

I woke up and was still decently jazzed about the idea.

It lasted until dinner that night.

It wasn’t even necessarily the amount of work involved. I’m not afraid of hard work. I can fit an entire to-do list into fifteen minutes. I can spend days without enough free time to even watch one episode of “Parks and Rec.” The problem was that this was something cool, something interesting, but just not something that stuck.

I could very easily be accused of being a perpetual dilettante. The whole “Renaissance Woman” idea has always appealed to me. When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be an actress; I wanted to be an actor/singer/writer. I would literally say the slashes. I tend to be interested in a million things, which leaves me less than a ton of time to dive deep into any one area, with the exception of theatre. In my life I’ve learned to sail, tried my hand at mosaics, spent quite some time making clothing, learned French and Hindi, recorded a cappella albums, sung jazz and Madrigal music, learned shadow puppetry, gone with only natural shampoo for a month, cut off all my hair, grown my hair really long and learned to French braid it, learned to swim and snorkel, played volleyball, played softball, joined a bowling league, practiced my pool game, tried my hand at decoupage, worked on decorative paper cutting, played piano, played violin, played guitar, read poetry aloud every day, tried various diets, learned how to run, dabbled in gardening, studied and lived in India, delved into physics, read voraciously about consciousness, learned about probably hundreds of world religions, and so on and so on.

To some degree everyone does this. I just do it kind of compulsively. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, curiously. It’s not that I don’t still enjoy the thing I just learned how to do; it’s that I get excited about something else, and there’s only so much time in a day.

The good thing is, I’m aware of it. To some degree. Which means I can use this to my advantage.

For example: As I’ve mentioned before, a month is a great amount of time. Long enough to get some depth into something new and establish a habit if you want to keep with it, but short enough to feel manageable. If I get excited about cooking meals for myself, or trying to write more often, or working on a physical art project, I can focus on getting better at that thing, the one thing I choose, for a month. Then at the end of the month I can choose to implement the new habit into my life, while staying aware that it might take time from the day that I could be doing something else, or I can move on to the next thing. Building in time for exercise, for example, was very helpful in getting myself into running shape. That’s a habit I kept (although I could stand to get back into it more consistently). Reading aloud a poem every day was fun, but I don’t feel like I need to keep doing it.

Yeah, some things I’d like to do still fall off the radar. I haven’t done anything with those story ideas from last month yet. But having come up with them, and having written them down, I’m ready for the time (summer, anyone?) when I do have a chance to get to some writing done for myself.

Right now my “thing” is personal finance. My brother got me a book about it for Christmas, and I thought (with full disclosure) that it was going to be boring. Instead, I honestly could not wait to call my credit card companies, optimize my bank account, open a Roth IRA, start up a budget, etc. I recognized that eagerness for what it is (i.e. potentially short-lived excitement about something new), and decided that May will be my Personal Finance Month. I’m going to take this month to set up a bunch of systems for myself, and then, knowing what I should be spending on everything and understanding investment a bit better, I’ll only have to spend a little time each week on maintaining it so that I can move on to something new. It’s great to harness the energy of the “new and shiny” phase. You just have to be realistic about its ending.

What about you guys? Any stories about sudden new passions that you dipped your feet into and then abandoned? I’m sure you have them, and I’d love to hear.

Heck, maybe I’ll even tell you about my summer of Harry Potter FanFiction.

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