Of Time, Talents, and Priorities

December 20th, 2009

I find as I grow older, having made the transition from teenager, to young adult, to adult with all the things that go with – finishing college, serving a mission, getting married, working, and having kids – that I don’t have as much time as I used to. More to the point, I can’t even use the time I have the way I used to.

In high school and early college, I had lots of time I regularly used to ride my bike (usually 10-20 miles per day), write random games and programs, and practice/play the violin. When I was a senior in college I spent inordinate amounts of time on the latter because I participated in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

When I started college I transitioned my music time to learning the piano. Again I spent countless hours in front of pianos going from simplified hymns to Polonaises and show tunes.

But this is where life took a turn, and priorities had to change. I served a mission for my church. For those who may not know, serving a mission is like a full-time job, plus a full-time job, plus a lifestyle. Three hours per day are spent in study and preparation for the day, twelve doing missionary work and service projects, and you need every second of the eight hours for sleep to keep this routine going. That leaves about one hour per day for yourself. Normally that time is spent – well eating. One day each week nine hours of the usual twelve for missionary work are used for relaxation and preparation for the week. This usually entails washing laundry, buying groceries, and whatever activity or relaxation the rules permit and the missionaries are up for.

As you can see, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for developing or even maintaining talents, unless you consider doing so study (by which is meant scriptures) or service (which some talents may count as).

Upon returning home I promptly got engaged. In six months I was married and supporting myself and wife while going to school. Once again, priorities got in the way of developing talents, and time was spent on those priorities first. Naturally it was important that I get good grades in school and keep my job so I could keep paying for school and so on. Here music fell to the wayside again and I poked back into game programming.

Needless to say, I had forgotten a lot. It took me months to remind myself of all the techniques I knew before (which were mostly outdated) and learn enough new things that I could feel good about what I was creating. Occasionally I thought about music or writing or the dozen other interests I have and felt sad about not maintaining them.

Summer came and priorities changed again. Getting outside and biking with my wife was important. Programming fell to the wayside where music was collecting dust.

Years passed, each season or semester bringing a new schedule or priority set. What was left over in terms of free time seemed to have different uses. One fall I spent endless hours sculpting. I got pretty good at creating eight inch tall figures. We played role-play games with friends and I created 3D art and animation. After I graduated and got a job, I made a series of web-page games.

Last year, I started playing the piano again and managed to interleave enough time to bunch of Christmas themed games. Meanwhile, my sculpting and 3D art skills fell in the gutter.

Recently, I did NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where I wrote over 50,000 words in a month toward a novel. For the first time in my life I felt like I was developing some decent writing skills. (I’d previously written some short stories that were pretty nice but nothing significant.) But even now I feel those skill waining as I try to maintain my piano skills (fell to the side during NaNoWriMo) and seek to revive my game programming skills.

So here is my issue: I have many talents and interests that I want to pursue, but time is so limited and priorities change often enough that I never seem to be able to develop any one of them enough to make me happy. Even as I make progress on one talent I feel sad as I watch my other talents decay.

I suppose it’s not really a complaint. At least I have all these options, right? Still, instead of feeling happy about the talent I’m making progress on at any one time, I seem to feel bad about the talents that are regressing at the same time.

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