Hobbies and Societies: Why it’s ok to be bad at them!

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By Emma, Chemical Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham

During my first year of university, I didn’t join any societies – not even one. In my second year, amidst the peak of the pandemic, I decided to join a dance society. I remember messaging the committee to ask, ‘are you sure it’s alright that I’ve never danced before?’ as if to pre-emptively excuse myself.  I didn’t dance in front of anyone at first. Instead, I chose to have my camera off for all of the few sessions I attended (Zoom calls were a blessing in this instance).

It wasn’t long before one of my friends convinced me to join a group with them. I’d never done anything like it before, and to say I was out of my comfort-zone would be an understatement. But I did it. And then I did it again, and again. Each time, I watched myself get (very slightly) better, and I was thinking less of how bad I was and more of how I could improve. Slowly I started letting myself get convinced to do more and more. Somehow, this year, I even got convinced to perform at Comic Con in the NEC…

In the beginning, I used to record videos of the routines to see where I was making mistakes – before promptly discarding them after watching 10 seconds. At the time, all I saw was how much worse I was when compared to my friends. Now, those videos are my motivation to keep going. When I look at the people that I used to compare myself to, they’re people that have been dancing for years. There is no amount of natural talent that can rival practice and experience.

I think that often we don’t treat ourselves like beginners when we start something new. Nobody would shout at a baby for falling over when it’s learning to walk, so why do we consider learning a hobby as an adult any differently? It’s often said that it’s easier to learn things when we are children, but I think that it’s just that children aren’t afraid of making mistakes.

Do I consider myself good at dancing right now? No, but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. I can see how much better I’ve gotten and being bad at a hobby doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it. I do it because it’s fun, not because I want to be a professional. We all want to be good at what we do, but sometimes we can’t get there without being bad at it first. Make sure to join all the societies you’ve been interested in. Most societies at the university openly welcome beginners, and I have met some of the most wonderful people. I promise it really is worth it.