Why You Should Embrace Your “Amateurish” Side and Get Over Yourself (Occasionally)
Photo courtesy of Tom Mrazek

Why You Should Embrace Your “Amateurish” Side and Get Over Yourself (Occasionally)

Written by Emilie

Topics: Confidence

I just got back from my favourite place on earth: music camp.

I’ve been going on and off for 29 years (since I was 5)!

The camp is called Cammac, and it’s located in the woods by a lake, midway between Montreal and Ottawa. It’s a camp for kids, teens, and adults; families usually go together. The musical genre changes each session. This year I went for Broadway week.

Cammac is for amateur musicians. Most people who attend have non-musical day jobs and Cammac is an outlet for them to express their musical side. Although some of the participants are incredibly talented musicians, the fact that there are few professional musicians (other than the staff) means that nobody takes themselves too seriously. Our simplified production of the Wizard of Oz, for example, featured two of every character (nobody gets turned away) and a lot of easy touch-step, touch-step, strike-a-pose dance moves. The Oz cast was composed of people between the ages of 15 and 80-something. It was dorky and delightful.

The Word Amateur

Amateur, in its original sense, means “a lover of something,” not “someone who’s kinda crappy at something.” I think we’d all do well to embrace our amateurish side from time to time–that is, our yearning to do something for no financial/professional reason, but because we derive great enjoyment from it.

Yeah yeah, we all need to pay the bills. But professional achievement isn’t the only thing that matters in life. Joyous, meaningful experiences that have nothing to do with money or career are important, too. Multipotentialites probably know this better than anyone, but it’s easy to be influenced by the hustle-obsessed world around us.

Pushing Myself

I will say that Cammac isn’t all laid back and chill. You decide how much you’d like to be challenged. This year, I took a class that really pushed me. I took the musical theatre masterclass and spent the week preparing one song, a solo, which I performed with piano accompaniment at the end of the week.

I sang Ring of Keys from Fun Home. It required a lot of vulnerability and a willingness to step into a character’s shoes, no matter how stupid I might look. I also had to be okay with essentially featuring my queerness on stage (not that I’m not open or that people can’t tell. It’s just a very gay song. :)

It was incredibly challenging and I worked really hard, practicing not the singing so much as the acting, again and again, over the course of the week.

The performance went well. It wasn’t perfect because I was super nervous, but it was good. I felt proud of myself.

What’s most amazing is that I apparently made some audience members cry. And a surprising number of people come up to me afterward to tell me that they have a child who’s queer and/or trans and that my song reminded them of how their child must have felt growing up. Every time that happened, it was so beautiful and humbling…I can’t really put it into words.

I can’t take credit for the genius work that is Fun Home but I am proud that I was able to get over my fear and put myself out there enough to share the beauty of that song with others.

Such a good week!

<3 <3

Your Turn

Have you ever embraced your “amateurish” side and done something purely for the love of it? Share your story in the comments below!

Emilie Wapnick is the founder and creative director at Puttylike and The Puttytribe, where she helps multipotentialites build lives and careers around ALL their interests. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is the author of the award-winning book, How to Be Everything (HarperCollins), and her TED talk has been viewed 5 million times. Learn more about Emilie here.

17 Comments

  1. Alice says:

    Hi Emilie, it’s the very first time I write you. I’m a humanitarian professional, I work for an NGO as Project Manager. I love my work, it was the dream of my life working in this field and I studied so much for having this job. Nevertheless, I often feel unsatisfied, I’d like to “cuddle” more my creative and literature-lover side, so I took my decision: starting from November, I will follow a training on editorial translation, which combines my love for books, reading and foreign languages. I think this is the first time I will really “embrace my amateurish”.
    Thanks for inspiration!
    An Italian follower

  2. Riccardo Bua says:

    This story truly resonated with me, this summer I got on national TV in a scientific research show by helping my hospital and paying back for the attentions received as a patient. I was a fake patient they needed for the reason the original medical program ended.

    I was an actor and a dancer in an international movie production few years back, just because the screenwriter saw me at a dancing festival.

    What can I say, we have multiple faces, some that go outside our day by day job, up to us to live them all whenever, wherever we can.

    Keep going!

  3. RitaJC says:

    An absolutely amazing article, Emilie!

    There are so many things that I do just for the love of them, even though I am not a professional (painting, textile art, writing, music etc.).

    My most emotional and fulfilling experiences might be singing in churches, especially – the Gregorian chants. Haven’t done it for ages and am really missing it now

    • Emilie says:

      Aw, thanks Rita. <3

      My mom loves Gregorian chants, too. You should look for an opportunity to do it again sometime. Singing with a group is really so wonderful!

  4. Sanj says:

    The pressure to impress others by doing something exceptionally good, stops us from trying anything. Even our own expectations on ourselves add too much pressure. It’s indeed ok to be an amateur sometimes. Great post Emilie!

  5. Therese says:

    What a great story, thanks for sharing!

  6. Gabi says:

    It sounds like you had a great time and even helped some people in the process. Lovely.

    I am not sure if I have time for anything else right now but if I did, it would be to take piano or guitar lessons.

  7. Paco says:

    I follow a modified “Einstein Approach” that Emilie outlines in her book. I like my job, and it’s somewhat fulfilling, but it allows me plenty of time and energy in the evening to pursue my amateur interests. Just this weekend I built two flower presses to press blackberry bark for various art projects. I will probably make a YouTube video about my technique, because that’s the part I enjoy.

    Will I make any money doing this? Probably not. I’m very interested in the discovery and creation stages, but never interested in the marketing or sales side. And that’s fine with me.

    Some people say you should find what you love and find a way to make money *doing that thing.* I say, find what you’re passionate about and find a way to make money, *period.” If I can continue being an amateur, and still be able to provide for my needs, that’s a fulfilling life for me.

  8. Susanne says:

    First of all – YES Ring of Keys! I cried in the theater when it was performed. It’s a powerful song. I felt SEEN.

    Thanks for sharing – love your openness.

    Since February, I’ve been playing rugby. I’m a perfectionist in so many areas of my life and so used to being good at the things I do. It is HARD to fail, to continually not measure up, to drop balls, not make a tackle, and generally not perform up to my standards. It’s also been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m so glad I shook off my fear of being an amateur, not being good enough. It’s a savage, joyful sport.

  9. Eileen Larsen says:

    What an inspiring post, Emilie! It shows just how much we are always learning and growing IF we push ourselves. Kudos to you for stretching!!
    I participate in a mindful art FB group (Creative Self-Care) that challenges me to be more creative and deepens my identity as an artist. It’s non-threatening and therapeutic, and inspires me to push myself creatively on an ongoing basis. It also provides a strong sense of community.

  10. Claire Nyles Suer says:

    I LOVE Fun Home and I LOVE Ring of Keys. Thanks for sharing this, Emilie!

    Also, fans of “Fun Home” should check out the excellent podcast, “Nancy,” which has en entire episode dedicated to adults recalling and revisiting their real life “Ring of Keys” moments…. it was so, so good. :)

  11. Darren says:

    I love this article. It is such good advice, and so many of us multipotentialites need it. For me I would not have ever survived the last 20+ years with a zillion different interests without this kind of outlook. It is okay to work hard for something that does not turn into a career or a business. You might even be every bit as awesome as the pros, but if you are not quite there, that’s just fine too.

    Give yourself permission to learn, and grow and even be awesome at those things you love, just for the sake of enjoying that thing and nothing else. All of your activity in life does not have to be a either a job or just dumb consumerism. Making money in the process does no make you better at a thing, and sometimes it just ruins all the fun.

    And as Emilie’s story illustrates, sometimes if you can just get over yourself enough to have fun with whatever it is, the awesomeness at the core of who you are can make whatever you do really special.

  12. Jen says:

    Love this article – it’s like a balm for my mind and soul!

    I also jus tread the one you just sent on clutter. Thank you. Maybe I’ll go tackle my ‘studio/heap’ a bit now.

    You rock!

    Millions of thanks – just for being you! <3

  13. Morgan C Siem says:

    Emilie –

    Even though I’ve embraced my multipotentiality years ago, I still am so moved hearing examples of how it plays out in your life. I love hearing about how you pushed yourself to sing and how you support that interest by going to Cammac. Sounds like something I’d really love to do and have been brushing under the rug. Just thought I’d leave a note to say thanks and wow and keep it up.

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