Would you swap your talent for someone else’s?

Let’s say you’re a gifted painter. Maybe you don’t make a living at it, but it’s a source of pleasure and fulfillment, occasionally joy.

But for years you’ve wished you were a standout baseball player, even though you’re not so athletic. If you could wave a magic wand, would you swap your passion for a completely different one if you thought it would be more enjoyable?

It’s a fairy tale scenario, but it’s at the core of our sense of self — our happiness with who we are, and our occasional desire to be someone, or something, else.

In my case, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to give up my relatively meager running accomplishments for a life of performing music.

Some days it seems like a good deal.

It would be a step up, in a way. If I were good enough at music, my talents could be enjoyed by many others — in contrast, my success in running is a source of great satisfaction to me but doesn’t directly benefit others (except perhaps my loyal running companions).

Contemplating the swap is ridiculous, of course. But every time I hear talented musicians perform, it gnaws at my gut that I cannot do what they do.

The internal rumble returned last week, when Michelle and I took in several nights of live music on vacation in Northern California. The performers have other jobs, but music is a major part of their lives, a burning passion. And they’re damned good at it.

I sat in awe, watching and listening to beautiful art emanating from what to me is a foreign language.

Since I can’t wave that wand and turn myself into one of them overnight, I’m trying the old-fashioned approach. Practice. I’m taking mandolin lessons through a cool online site, pegheadnation.com, which offers instruction on a variety of string instruments.

Struggling through the basics and learning to crawl is humbling. I may never get to a point where I’ll feel comfortable playing in public, but it won’t be for lack of trying. And when I get frustrated trying to learn a tune, I go for a run.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in art, Irish Investigations, language, music, running, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Would you swap your talent for someone else’s?

  1. Thought provoking post. I find it difficult to answer, I have many interests but as hobbies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. markbialczak says:

    Good for you, Mr. McKeever. You’ll be crawling soon. Knowing you, more will come. I admire your wide swath. By the way, your photo of the NoCal music session reminds of the similar Irish session at Kitty Hoynes. As for me, I don’t think I’ll swap, but maybe I’ll learn something new. Hmmmmmmm.


  3. I sometimes wish….but no I don’t think I would trade. Though I would come precariously close to doing so. I love other’s abilities and skills and talents. I too wished and wished and wished. I finally got a guitar and started lessons almost 2 years ago. I am still learning. No where near playing. But ever so glad I picked it up. It’s not easy. I’ll never be good. But i can do more than I could before I started. 🙂 Congrats on the mandolin. And when you struggle and go for a run? I get a little jealous, I used to have dreams, actual dreams about running. Every time I tried to run I would get injured. So I got a treadmill and do the best I can, and I hike. And I don’t have the dreams any more because I do what I can. 🙂


    • Jim McKeever says:

      Colleen, that’s awesome about the guitar! Michelle’s family is music-oriented, and I figured I’d better start learning their language. It’s hard to learn anything at this age, but we have to keep trying (My brother is taking Spanish immersion courses at age 63). And I’m not going to be able to run forever, so I figure the mandolin is safer. 🙂


      • Ha! 🙂 I have to say I wish I had started this earlier! I believe this will help on many levels, including maintaining brain health. Good for your brother! Learning a language is supposed to be a fantastic brain exercise! Well here’s to encouragement for our musical endeavors!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Good for you for trying Jim – I hope you do feel good enough about playing in public one day. Whether that happens or not, it’s good for your brain to learn new things anyway. As to your question, I do not think I would swap one of my talents for another…it wouldn’t feel like me. ❤
    Diana xo


  5. chmjr2 says:

    You hit the high points for me. Baseball, music, and I will add writing have been talents I often wished I had. My talent is to be able to enjoy those talents in other people. My world is much richer for those people who have and use those talents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim McKeever says:

      Charles, you are absolutely correct about being enriched by others’ talents. (I am as well, but just a tad jealous now and then.) But please don’t sell yourself short on writing — you tell your stories very well, so give yourself some credit!


  6. Jim thats all it takes, is a little practice and a whole lot of passion. They say teach yourself many things, even the ones that scare you. We live in an amazing world where Google is your next best friend and you can learn something new everyday. Good luck with your lessons it sounds wonderful. Kath.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. cat9984 says:

    It is so awesome that you are doing that!

    Liked by 1 person

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