In the mirror: This time’s the charm

Coming to terms with my constantly changing interests


Graphic by Anushka De

Shivani Verma

So last week I got a ukulele. 

I didn’t buy one out of the blue — I just borrowed my neighbor’s. She was more than happy to give it to me without a second thought. I definitely had second thoughts, but not about the ukulele — rather, about the possibility that I’m starting something I’ll never finish again. 

The other day, my mom came into my bedroom and picked up the instrument, plucking on the strings in a discordant way that made me wince at my homework worksheet. 

“Put it down, you’re distracting me. Plus, I haven’t finished tuning it yet, so I can’t play any songs.”

“Why do you have to learn songs?”

I’d put my pencil down. “What else am I going to do with it?”

“Well, you don’t have to learn anything. Why can’t you play it for fun like this?”

 “I don’t have time for that right now.” Frowning, I’d pushed her out of the room and got back to that frustrating assignment.

The ukulele isn’t my first venture into the world of music. I learned to play the keyboard in second grade, took vocal lessons for a couple of months in eighth grade and spent my second period in ninth grade in choir class. In between those years I’ve done all sorts of things: art classes, swimming lessons, gymnastics classes, jewelry and friendship bracelet making and a multitude of dance classes. 

But nothing I’ve done can count as more than just a measly hobby. Every time I start something, the sparkling sheen of newness eventually dulls and with it, my interest fades. Sooner or later, I start wondering if I’ll be happier by doing something else, leaving me constantly dissatisfied. I can never just choose, because I’m afraid it’s the wrong choice.

In sophomore year, when I joined the MVHS Dance Team, I was confronted with a group of people who had made their choices. Here were girls who had stuck with dancing their entire lives, who had participated in multiple conventions and competitions and could do fouetté turns and bend in ways I knew I would never be able to. I had only done dance recreationally — dropping ballet after a couple of years, embarrassed at my lack of skill, then quitting tap-dancing after plateau-ing because the class wasn’t fun anymore. At MVDT practice, the weight of my teammates’ skill seemed to flatten me into the ground.

Oh, I thought. So that’s what it’s like to become good at something.

I am grateful that my parents never found it necessary to force me to stick with something I didn’t want to do, but now, realizing the benefits of years of practice made me wonder if I had missed my chance to be someone impressive. Could I have been actually good at something if I had stuck with it? Maybe it’s my fault because I’m lazy or lack the determination to push through obstacles and turn my hobbies into something more. But how could I even know? I give up before I can ever find out. 

So what’s the verdict with the ukulele, then? Have I found my soul in string instruments? 

Well… I’m not sure. I haven’t actually gotten past tuning the C string — the tuning peg is stuck.

Now, the ukulele just kind of sits there in my room, waiting for me to pick it up and use it, just another reminder that maybe I’m just too scared of commitment. Because anything that fascinates me for even a moment hums with potential, every new thing I start sparks joy in my heart. But in the end, I’m back to feeling like I’ve been aimlessly trying on activities like clothes at the mall — nothing feels right.

And that makes me absolutely terrified about my future. College seems to be lurking right around the corner, and dozens of opportunities are tugging me in different directions, calling me to make that activity my passion. But I’m paralyzed, caught between being better than a beginner but not good enough to make it my dream.

But despite how much I despise my inability to focus or be truly happy with something that I’m doing, I haven’t stopped. I just can’t resist the allure of all the new things that cross my path. I just can’t convince myself to limit myself to focusing on things I “should” do and deny myself the opportunity to explore new ventures. Is there really anything wrong with pursuing that glimmer of hope?

Society makes us believe that when we do something, we need to have something to show for it. Our environment is seeped in hustle culture, ideas of continuous progress and growth, and tells us that we need to produce results — but that’s not true. All of the best things in life come from genuine happiness, however fleeting, not chasing outcomes that we think we should achieve.

 After all, maybe this time I won’t give it up. And the thought of that is too captivating to let go of.