I want to take a dance class. Is that evil?

Q. For years, I’ve wanted to take a jazz dance class, and now, after having read the part of The Lifelong Activist that says it’s good to meet your creative and other non-activist needs, I’m finally thinking of signing up for one. The only problem is that every time I actually get ready to call up and register, I get cold feet. (No pun.) I tell myself that I should use the time to do more activism, that I can’t afford it, and that I probably will miss half the sessions anyway. The truth is that I have a hard time doing anything except activism – although I don’t work nearly as hard as I should and wind up procrastinating a lot. Help!

A. I’ll assume that there is nothing else going on in your life right now that is so urgent that you can’t afford to take a couple of hours off each week to take the class. If so, then, in my view, it’s not just okay, but almost obligatory for you to register. Registering will reinforce the reality that you are a complex human being with diverse needs and interests, and not a monofocused robot whose only purpose and value is to do activism. Some people try to live as if they are such a robot, but it’s only the rare individual who can pull it off. Most of us grow deprived and unhappy if we try, and eventually burn out.

Of course, there’s also the fact that the class itself will probably be fun and inspiring – far from a waste of time.

When you register, you should count it a success even if you don’t wind up attending a single session, since registering itself, in the face of your fears and obstacles, is an achievement. Of course, it’s better to attend than not attend so preemptively clear your calendar, see if you can convince a friend to attend with you, or take other steps to support yourself in this endeavor. But don’t sweat it if you miss some of the sessions; and, whatever you do, don’t berate yourself for wasting money – personal growth costs money, and even trivial-seeming actions such as registering for a class can pay off in unanticipated ways. As George Eliot said, “consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us; there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud.”

It’s often helpful, in situations such as this, to imagine what advice you’d offer a younger person who came to you with the same problem. Would you tell him that it’s wrong to pursue a creative endeavor, or use his time for anything other than his activism? Or would you tell him that it’s both okay and wise to take the class? The latter, I hope.

Remember, that although activism may be your most important endeavor, that doesn’t mean that everything else is unimportant. On the contrary, being a happy, self-directed, well-rounded person will probably lead to your doing more and better activism.

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