Club auditions or tryouts at Stanford tell you that all experience levels are welcome. While I understand wanting to encourage everyone to apply, most of the time a lot of experience is needed. Being at an elite school means most people are incredibly good at the things they choose to do; their many talents are one of the reasons they are here. But I have to ask if we all have to be the best at everything we do. Is there room in life at Stanford to have hobbies you don’t hope to make a career out of? Does everything we put time into have to be worth putting on our resumés?
I believe in doing things simply for the joy of doing them. No, I didn’t get into any of the a cappella groups I auditioned or got call backs for, but I also realized how intense those groups can be. Even though I wasn’t deemed good enough to sing for any of them, that doesn’t mean music isn’t worth my time. Just because I am not the best doesn’t mean I shouldn’t dedicate time to it. I play the piano and sing or sit in my room and hum along with my ukulele, not because I think I’ll go viral and go on Ellen. I do it because it’s a way to ground myself and to do something I love without expectations for my performance.
The same thing applies to jazz. I was in a highly competitive band throughout high school, and while I love the people I met through that experience, the stress took its toll on me. While I still love playing my trumpet and listening to Duke Ellington, I knew when I came to college that I didn’t want to re-enter that intense musical environment. I tried my best to look for a middle ground in which not everyone seemed to be the next Louis Armstrong. Even though I appreciate the many talents of my fellow students, the high level of performance leaves little room for casual playing. I know myself well enough to know I don’t meet that incredibly high standard; I’ve chosen to focus on other things while music remains a part of me in a more personal and less serious sense. You can have potential and decide you care more about something else, but you should still be able to participate and appreciate that which comes secondary.
Do something even if you’re not amazing at it. Do something even if you’re terrible at it, but you still enjoy it. Write a really cheesy poem that rhymes “fire” with “desire” purely for your own entertainment, not to get published. Take one thousand photos, only one of which seems artsy enough for Instagram, simply because you like the click of the camera shutter. Kick a soccer ball at a net 50 times because you like pretending you’re in the World Cup, even though half the time it rolls into the road behind the goal and almost gets deflated by a car. We’re allowed to do things simply for the joy of doing them and for no other reason at all.
Contact Nina Knight at ngknight ‘at’ stanford.edu.