I want to take a dance class. Is that evil?
Q. For years, Iâ€™ve wanted to take a jazz dance class, and now, after having read the part of The Lifelong Activist that says itâ€™s good to meet your creative and other non-activist needs, Iâ€™m finally thinking of signing up for one. The only problem is that every time I actually get ready to call up and register, I get cold feet. (No pun.) I tell myself that I should use the time to do more activism, that I canâ€™t afford it, and that I probably will miss half the sessions anyway. The truth is that I have a hard time doing anything except activism â€“ although I donâ€™t work nearly as hard as I should and wind up procrastinating a lot. Help!
A. Iâ€™ll assume that there is nothing else going on in your life right now that is so urgent that you canâ€™t afford to take a couple of hours off each week to take the class. If so, then, in my view, itâ€™s not just okay, but almost obligatory for you to register. Registering will reinforce the reality that you are a complex human being with diverse needs and interests, and not a monofocused robot whose only purpose and value is to do activism. Some people try to live as if they are such a robot, but itâ€™s only the rare individual who can pull it off. Most of us grow deprived and unhappy if we try, and eventually burn out.
Of course, thereâ€™s also the fact that the class itself will probably be fun and inspiring - far from a waste of time.
When you register, you should count it a success even if you donâ€™t wind up attending a single session, since registering itself, in the face of your fears and obstacles, is an achievement. Of course, itâ€™s better to attend than not attend â€“ so preemptively clear your calendar, see if you can convince a friend to attend with you, or take other steps to support yourself in this endeavor. But donâ€™t sweat it if you miss some of the sessions; and, whatever you do, donâ€™t berate yourself for wasting money â€“ personal growth costs money, and even trivial-seeming actions such as registering for a class can pay off in unanticipated ways. As George Eliot said, â€œOur consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us; there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud.â€
Itâ€™s often helpful, in situations such as this, to imagine what advice youâ€™d offer a younger person who came to you with the same problem. Would you tell him that itâ€™s wrong to pursue a creative endeavor, or use his time for anything other than his activism? Or would you tell him that itâ€™s both okay and wise to take the class? The latter, I hope.
Remember, that although activism may be your most important endeavor, that doesnâ€™t mean that everything else is unimportant. On the contrary, being a happy, self-directed, well-rounded person will probably lead to your doing more and better activism.