I’ve always been terrible at track. Perhaps that was a bit misleading — yes, I’m slightly faster than the average person within my age group and gender, but compared to the sort of people that are found on the track team, “faster than the average person” generally translates to last or second-to-last. Despite my ranking, I have not made the decision to quit.
Track may never be one of my strengths, but it’s always been the one class I’m never stressed about and the one class I’ll always be grateful to be a part of at the end of the day. To some of my friends, however, my decision to stay in an activity that I’m not good at relative to other people is a waste. Why waste time in something you’ll never be recognized for when you could be spending the time adding another AP class to your résumé or doing something you’re actually good at?
According to a poll conducted by the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13. And while there might not be any empirical evidence to back it up, other activities are abandoned as well when it becomes clear that one simply isn’t “good enough” to compete in that field. From sports to music to art, the list goes on. And when the activity is no longer about whether or not it’s fun and more about whether or not one can win, that’s when the quitting begins. Years and years of experience dropped simply because that time can be better spent on other “worthwhile” activities, and in an increasingly competitive academic atmosphere, those “worthwhile activities” often translate to taking an extra class, picking up extra volunteer hours, or taking prep classes for standardized tests.
I, too, am guilty of giving up. I played viola for five years, from sixth grade through my sophomore year of high school, but now that I’m a junior, I haven’t even touched my viola in nearly six months. It’s not that I wasn’t good at viola; I was decent at it, usually principal chair in my school orchestra, but compared to the viola players in my honor orchestra and the music prodigies at competitions, I simply wasn’t good enough.
Even long before I stopped playing, I knew the viola would do little, if anything, for my college applications. So I stopped. Making music was something special, and I never minded practicing, but as each month of high school went by and I got busier and busier with activities that I knew would matter on my college applications, the viola simply slipped farther and farther away until I stopped thinking about it altogether. There are days I miss playing the viola and being a part of a full orchestra working together to create music, but in the scheme of high school striving for college, a bit of lost joy seems unimportant.
Caught in the moment, it seems as if hobbies and activities are so easy to give up; for the “greater good” is what we tell ourselves. More time for other things, and sometimes, less stress, too. But it seems that the more years that go by, the more I regret the activities I gave up. Piano, dance, viola… giving them up seemed like the smart choice at the time, but after a couple of months, then years, I realized how much I missed them. It hurts even more when I realize I can no longer read the piano sheet music and my fingers feel awkward and strange on the keys, and I can no longer remember the exact movements to a dance sequence. I can only hope it hasn’t been so long that I’ve forgotten to read the alto clef that viola sheet music is written in.
I’d like to think that one day, I’ll finally put down the homework assignments and research papers and put college behind me for a few hours to pick up my viola instead. Until then, I won’t make the mistake of quitting track. Instead, I’ll keep the piece of joy I do have left in my life that doesn’t have the primary purpose of contributing to my future and keep on running.