Column: Being bad at something can be therapeutic, a healthy escape

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

I do not have the greatest track record when it comes to instruments. I quit playing the piano at age 11, the violin after two years, and I will not go into the disaster that was the recorder.

So it might seem strange that eight years after I stopped playing any musical instruments at all, I decided to learn how to play the harmonica this summer.

No, I do not want to drop out of school and start a band, and this is one skill that will not help me as a journalist- unless I need a new way to annoy my sources into talking.

But truth be told, this was one of the aspects of playing the harmonica that appealed to me. In college, it is so easy to be defined by what your major is and what your future career will be. After all, a large part of college is finding one’s passions and figuring out how to pursue a job in that field. It can become easy to become single-minded and even easier to become burnt out.

In my case, I started to realize just how focused on journalism I was after filling out a questionnaire about myself for an internship I did over the summer. In the “activities” section, all I could write was that I worked for The Daily Eastern News, was in The Society for Collegiate Journalists and that I am in the Student Publications Board- all things that pertained to my career.

This was all on my mind when I saw the harmonica at a bookstore about a month later. On a whim, I decided to buy it, thinking I could pick up a new hobby to make future questionnaires about myself more interesting. What I found instead was a great stress-reliever. The harmonica was one activity I could allow my perfectionist self to be horrible at. (Although, I like to think I have moved up somewhat to “below average” after practicing for a few weeks.) There was no pressure to do well at it with the idea that future employers would be looking at my performance. And since playing the harmonica is something I do just for myself, there is no competition or need to be the best at it.

This upcoming semester, I know how busy everyone gets, between classes, working a job or two and personal lives. But to beat the stress of a busy schedule, my advice would be to take five or ten minutes to do something for yourself that has nothing to do with work. It does not have to be learning a musical instrument- it can by anything you enjoy. But just give yourself the permission to be bad at it. Let it be the one thing you do for yourself without worrying about what anyone thinks. Just five minutes. You might be surprised at what you learn.


Cassie Buchman is a junior journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2821 or [email protected].