Living Earnestly


“I don’t play accurately–any one can play accurately–but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.” – Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

I don’t consider The Importance of Being Earnest to be a mirror of my life in any way, shape, or form. Unlike many others in our world, I was blessed to have a happy home growing up. I never had a secret long-lost sibling, my sister and I aren’t serial romantics, and my grandma is not snobby nor particular to cucumber sandwiches.

I wasn’t inherently well-meaning like Earnest was, nor was I a clumsy sort of bachelor that Algernon made himself out to be. I just was, and that was enough. It wasn’t until I got older that I really started to grow up. I started to enjoy the ride more than the destination, the batter more than the cake, and the callouses more than the dancing. It took a while but my passions in life started to surface, and I started to follow them where they led me.

I’m about halfway through my bachelor’s degree and I’ve hit a sort of stalemate in my life. I’ll always be a writer at heart, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m not the most eloquent nor the most proficient at stringing together a sentence. I love my job at school, and as much as I yearn for it to continue after my graduation, all good things must inevitably come to an end.

Although I still have two years until that time, I still stress about the future. So much so that I impulse bought a ukulele and hammock to try to cope with the fact that time was moving faster than I could catch it. I’m proud to say that they haven’t gone unused, but it’s made me understand Algernon in a deeper way.

When I picked up the ukulele, I was no master, I wasn’t even skilled enough to call myself a beginner. I stayed up late learning the chords and strumming, and deciding to deal with the pain that came along with forming new callouses the next morning. Speaking earnestly, even though it’s been months, I’m still not any good.

What I’ve learned truly makes it worthwhile is being able to share the music with my friends and family. I’ve found a new way to connect with those around me that play instruments, and I take their advice on how to better master my hobby – because honestly, anything helps.

It doesn’t matter that I’m not any good at playing, all that matters is how positively it has impacted my life. This new truth bridges across other parts of my life as well. I’m a lousy writer but it’s the truth and passion behind it that makes it worthwhile. My time at school may soon be ending, and my job alongside it, but the ability to be there at all has notably changed me for the better.

 Many people that I have encountered have an incredible life plan. Go to school, work on the weekends, pay off debt by graduation. Register for grad school, meet the love of their life, graduate, get married, start on their big career. It blows my mind.

While their aspirations are admirable, I prefer to live my life day to day. I wish there were a way to accurately plan out my future, a way to commit myself to a set path of life, or even a way to force myself to like the taste of cucumber sandwiches. There’s no way to plan for life, so I just take the blows as they come. I don’t think there is a formula for a happy and fulfilling life no matter how many of my peers have created one. I keep science for life, not for describing it.

The reason this quote has become my favorite of any of Wilde’s work is clear; there is a bit of Algernon in me. He is becoming easier to see as I grow older, his personality quirks and inaccuracies show in my attempts of self-expression. The ways I’m letting my passions guide and shape me (not to mention my witty sense of humor) would undoubtedly make Oscar Wilde proud. 

And if you aren’t making your favorite dead authors proud, then are you doing anything right?

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