Letters from the dorm: University is the time to focus on all your interests, not just school

Cyril Ip

Despite the stress of classes, now is the time to develop your non-academic talents as well

Cyril Ip |

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One of the greatest challenges I face as a student is maintaining a balance. As students, we belong to a privileged class, spending our time exploring academia and adulthood, with fewer concerns than normal working individuals whose lives go far beyond writing essays and developing enduring friendships.

But I am acutely aware that university, despite the occasional stress, will be one of the easiest times in my life. In addition to the study and research for my degree, I have decided to also focus on legitimising my non-academic talents, one of which is songwriting.

For years, I felt this was just a hobby. I distinctly remember my mother telling me, “This can be something that you do when you have established your career and your lifestyle”, implying that songwriting would not be my professional career.

“Remember” is probably not the right word to use, as she still reminds me on a regular basis.

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To a certain extent, I agree. Success in the music industry is very much based on luck, which means stability is not guaranteed. She knows that I need stability.

I recently realised it does not necessarily have to be one thing or the other. My life does not have to follow the sequence of finishing my degree, developing a career, then, finally, writing little tunes. What if, by the time I have completed my degree and have a career, I have completely lost interest in music? Then I will be a regretful, yet established individual.

There is nothing wrong with trying to be multifaceted, or having more than one strength or interest. I often blame myself for wanting to do too many things at once, because it stops me from focusing on any single thing. While that is certainly a problem, trying to be more than one thing should never be discouraged, or disregarded. We all have a purpose in life, and when we find that purpose, we should express it, rather than suppress it. Pushing our passions aside for “practical” reasons is never good for our well-being.

Letters from the Dorm: university taught me when to let go and give myself a break

Since I have an opportunity to live an eventful life as a university student, I will make the most of it by being multifaceted. I enjoy doing my degree; I also enjoy writing songs.

Yet, academia and songwriting are just two things in my life. Trying to balance it all is difficult, especially when you know that your family expects you to take one thing (my degree) more seriously than anything else.

But again, this is probably the most appropriate time in my life to be taking more than one thing seriously, so I should not let this privilege go to waste.