Once upon a time I was a twenty-year old in College and I read a book called “Master of the Five Magics” by Lyndon Hardy, and it was good. In it, young apprentice Alodar travels across his world, learning each of the five magics there, but consistently being defeated by his enemies. He doesn’t give up, though, and eventually overcomes adversity…
Fast forward to today, and here is me, S. Boyd Taylor, struggling to learn Mandarin, dedicating myself to 8 different martial arts — Baguazhang (Liang and Cheng Styles), Xingyiquan (Hebei Style), and Taijiquan (Chen, Wu, Wu-Hao, Yang and Sun Styles) — and doing my best to master the art of writing fiction. I am trying to be the Master of 10 Magics, and that doesn’t even count Spanish or any of the other languages that I want to learn.
This, I believe, is a noble pursuit: the pursuit of a better, more rounded self. Admittedly, I still need to learn music, but I have at least made a passable attempt at learning guitar, and one day I shall return to it.
There is a serious problem with this path, however. I am spread very thinly. I have very little time for each individual endeavor, and many skills that must be maintained or the fade quickly. And I also have a day job. And money problems. And, most importantly, I have a family, and I treasure every moment with them.
Arguably, it will take a long, long time to become a master at any of these skills, but my answer to this is that I have been doing several of them a very long time. I have been writing and alayzing fiction since I was 11. The internal martial arts I have been doing since 2005 (however, with a 3 year hiaitus — I am really in “getting my skills back” mode here). Chinese, of course, is new. And, accordingly, it is getting a lot of attention — Pimsleur every day on the commute, Rosetta Stone in the morning.
But there is anther, more insidious problem with all of these hobbies: Opportunity Cost. I could focus on one of them (presumably writing) and become absolutely as good as I can be at it, more fully developed, more fully skilled. And from there, if I get lucky, I could possibly, one day, in a perfect world, in a dream, make enough money not to need the day job.
I am deeply conflicted about this. I really love my martial arts, and this drive to learn languages is almost an illness. But, though I really do like my job a lot and love my boss, and I am reading the Michael Palin Diaries: The Python Years, and it is amazing how much brilliant work he cranked out by the age of 35.
I am 38 now. And what have I done?
This troubles me greatly, in a very fundamental way. How can I achieve my dreams if I do not focus more tightly, more intently? But can I really be satified if I leave my other dreams behind?