The pleasure of abandoned pursuits

How many times has it happened that you start a project all excited and determined but after a while, it becomes monotonic, boring or just dull? Sometimes you get stuck or disappointed and decide to postpone it. A day, a week, a month goes by and you are deep in guilt for not working it through. Most of these projects get abandoned, never to be picked up again.

I have embarked upon a ton of such projects in the last 5 years and have ‘postponed’ most of them. I have tried to learn music theory, Korean, German, Sketching, Baking, and god knows what not. At one point I was sure I’ll take up a career in Photography and abandon Science altogether, only to find myself panicking when I actually got an assignment. I thought something was seriously wrong with me, I wasn’t giving my best to anything.

It felt like I wasn’t doing justice to the things I started if I wasn’t finishing them.

It reached a point where I was afraid of starting anything new, afraid that I’ll never finish it. I changed cities, steered my career in entirely new direction and stopped updating my website (not this one). It all seemed too much of a burden to bear and the guilt was increased by the realization that the things I am abandoning, are the kind which many people only dream about. I consoled myself by saying that I’m not actually leaving anything, and will get to finish them someday.

I think this guilt is what stops many from starting anything new or different, if not for financial or time constraints. Being an adult today somehow includes the clause that you shouldn’t pursue what doesn’t lead anywhere, financially or otherwise. On the flip side, we have so many opportunities to learn or do things differently than our previous generations that one feels the paralysis of choice when asked to choose one.

We are too afraid to make the wrong choice.

A week ago, my friend recommended a new TV series. I said “hey, I’ve got to finish the other one I am watching first. I can’t start anything new.” She didn’t understand, she asked if I actually like that. I was like I’m not a fan but everyone seems to like it and I think I would too, with time. I just have to finish it. She replied saying “it’s not an assignment. you don’t watch a show or movie just because you are supposed to, you do because you like it. If you don’t like the new one either, just stop it. There is no shame in not liking a show”.

Then it hit me. I could stop. I could stop feeling so much pressured to finish everything. Many projects that I started had lost their appeal and were not adding to my life in any meaningful way. If I’m not deriving joy or purpose in doing something, why the hell do I feel guilty for not pursuing it?

I cleaned up my phone of apps, deleted a ton of bookmarks that I thought I’ll read someday and donated a book that had been sitting on my desk for a year, unopened. I felt so light. There is a freedom in letting things go. It is not that I didn’t like those things/projects, it is that I don’t like them enough to pursue them further. I learned and gained experience in all of them even if I didn’t do them completely. I can at least say hello in Korean and read sheet music.

Once you realize you are not obliged to do everything, at least not to completion, you can go out and try random things. You can explore, enrich your life with experiences and pursue something just for the sake of joy, rather than to finish or achieve something. It is liberating.

You are enriched by the experience of pursuing things, even if not to the very end.

So go ahead, indulge in the pleasure of abandoned pursuits. Let go of the guilt and do things for sheer joy!


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