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I’m in my 20s so it’s time to commit to being an adult. But what if I make the wrong choices?

Any new hobby is a reminder that there is more to you than your comfortable, knowable routine might allow for

When my aunt was made redundant, her company offered to cover classes she would have to take to reskill or upskill in her subsequent job-hunt. Curiosity piqued and devilment sparked, she signed up for drumming lessons.

I always admired this as an exceptionally legendary move. She had never played any instrument before and, more importantly to my 10-year-old self, she was my aunt – she was not meant to be rock’n’roll. But off she went and invested in a set of electric drums and began weekly classes. What I remember of this period is her delight at demonstrating whatever new beat she had learned that week and, if she had not yet heard you come in, the tip-tapping of her drumsticks against the plastic set echoing down the stairs.

I was thinking back to this recently as I hummed and hawed over signing up to some Irish classes. I was struck by how long it had been since I had taken up a hobby and was embarrassed at the thought of being a novice again. A friend of mine who was considering returning to ballet after a decade-long hiatus was similarly self-conscious, and another who was flirting with the idea of taking up pottery cringed at the thought of being “a noob”.

As a child, you generally do not think like this. You are small and innocent and your freckled face compels adults to assure you that you can do anything. I am still small, innocent and freckled but I have, naturally, exited the terrain of potential child protege. At this point, I am supposed to have discovered the extent of my natural aptitude for things and shaded in the details of my identity. It suddenly feels difficult and far more daunting to try something new and possibly challenge those parameters.


As I have pondered my personal Gaelic revival, I have been thinking about my aunt’s drumming lessons. I am struck now by the gall it took for a full-time working mother of three to admit that yes, I would like to learn to drum and no, I have never done this before.

“I just wanted to discover that I was great at it,” she admits when I ask her about it now. She explains that she had always loved the instrument, listened for it in songs, focused on it at gigs, and quietly wondered if she would be any good at it if someone would just give her the chance.

It was, she says, utterly joyful to arrive at those drumming classes and dive into the potential of what could be. Who knows? She could be a natural talent, a drummer extraordinaire, Laytown’s answer to Ringo Starr. This could be it, this could be her thing.

As it happened, her electric drum kit is what she now refers to as her “very expensive clothes horse”. The initially joyful progress of the first month dragged into the discouraging difficulty of the second until it eventually reached the bring-your-daughter-to-class-to-deflect-attention-from-you phase of the sixth.

It was not to be, but that was not the end of her hobby-ing days, no, no. She marched forth and proceeded to take classes in both antique restoration and flower-arranging. In fact, the drumming was not even her first foray into the world of extracurriculars as an adult. In her early 20s, she attended car maintenance classes with some friends in search of men but, disappointingly, it was only women in attendance – evidently with the same idea. These days, with her retirement just weeks away, she has signed up for a candle-making class to facilitate her creative needs in the initial throes of change. I can hardly keep up.

I can rest easy in the knowledge that if the Irish is not to be, there is an electric drum kit languishing away under the last wash with my name on it

Emerging from all of this nevertheless, is the sense that hobbies are a source of possibility for her. It is as much about trying to find her passion as it is about meeting new people and mixing up her routine. We are at different stages of life but speaking with her about her hobbied-ways, this is the thing that resonates.

Your 20s are the first frontier of adulthood, the first stage at which you are really expected to commit to one of the many ideas of your adult-self you have had growing up. You are not the child who can be anything, but the grown up who is supposed to see at least one of those things through. It can be scary to abandon these other ideas of yourself and certain decisions are haunted by the possibility that you have gone with the wrong one.

The promise of my Irish lessons, or any new hobby for that matter, is a reminder that there is more to you than your comfortable, knowable routine might allow for – that you are still small, innocent and freckled and full of untapped potential. Reframed this way, fear of being “the noob” can be matched by the quietly thrilling possibility of surprising even yourself with a latent talent. Who knows, I may find my inner-Gael yet. And in any case, I can rest easy in the knowledge that if the Irish is not to be, there is an electric drum kit languishing away under the last wash with my name on it.