I Am a Dilettante, and It’s Ruined My Life
The definition of a dilettante is a “dabbler or a person who cultivates an interest without really committing or learning anything in depth.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a good starter but never finish anything. I’m perpetually like that guy at the office who is all ideas, running around coming up with grand schemes, but when the time comes to put everything to work, they have already moved on to the next thing.
Unfortunately, I’m a dreamer, and it’s unfortunate because my whole life I’ve been so busy dreaming about what can be, that I never finish anything. I’ve never been a success at anything because, by the time I get to a point where I could potentially make something of myself, I’ve already moved on to something else.
Multipotentailite, generalist, renaissance man, dilettante — give me whatever label you want to assign. Some look at this as a gift, but for me, and everyone who has ever counted on me, it has been a curse.
The Filipino people even have a term for people like me — Ningas Kugon:
“Ningas-kugon is a Filipino term for the tendency of individuals to start a new task with much enthusiasm, only to stop working on it entirely soon after. It literally means the burning of cogon grass, which burns brightly only during the few seconds after it was lit.”
I’m a starter, not a finisher, in everything I do — marriage, career, sex, life — I approach it with gusto, only to lose interest later on. I’ve never done anything long enough to gain mastery and make any amount of money doing it, even writing, which is something I have been serious about for the last four years.
In 53 years of life, the longest I’ve spent getting good at something has been four years, because I am pogo-sticking from one patch of grass to the next.
At different times in my life, I picked up notebooks and started writing, started blogs for a month at a time, and freelanced from time to time, but the last four years have been the only time I have ever spent getting proficient at something.
What does that say about me?
My wife trusts nothing I say and is frankly tired of my shit. I can’t blame her. Every week it’s something new for me — it’s van life, buying a piece of land, a new business, or moving to the US. I dream and dream and never stick around long enough to see if it even comes true.
Worse, I will spend a week with a new scheme, deciding that I can’t get started until I buy all kinds of expensive equipment. By the time the months pass and I have saved enough to buy what I need, I’ve lost interest, and a lot of times, I’m stuck with stuff I can’t use anymore.
I had studio lights and professional-grade microphones for podcasts. I bought an expensive laptop and a huge monitor for video editing and would have bought a lot more if the situation had allowed me. Thankfully, the laptop and monitor have been put to good use as I sold them to pay off the debt I incurred when I had my heart attack. I just never used them for what I originally bought them for.
Year after year, day after day.
First, back in the day, I wanted to start a business selling bunk beds, but I needed tools and a workshop. Later, I wanted to grow cannabis, but I had to have the expensive lights and hydro setup. I wanted to road-trip the US, but I had to have a van or an RV, and I needed all the equipment to vlog and Instagram.
Every week I had a new scheme to get out of debt and finally get the things my wife and family wanted in life, but she never got them and finally grew tired of waiting for me to get my shit together. She is going to do it for herself now. Now, she doesn’t ask or expect. She doesn’t count on me for anything.
It’s painful to think that I can’t be the person in her life that will give her what she wants.
So, I’m 53, and my wife has finally realized I’m too different and she cannot count on me to support her and the kids. I’ve had eleven years to prove I am the man that she and the kids need and have proven that I am not and never will be.
I will never stick with anything long enough to see if it will work for me. Is this what is going to doom me to a life of poverty, always looking for that big payoff?
I hope not.
I am at the point where I am close to losing everything again, and I can’t make myself commit to anything long enough to see if it will work in the long run.
I fear I’m going to lose it all. Again.
Still, I hang onto writing for dear life, because it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do every day without fail. I want to be a great writer, and I want to be a paid writer. I don’t know what I am doing differently with writing, but it has stuck around. I never get tired of it. I sit every day and write thousands of words and every word is more passionate than the last.
The problem is that I haven’t figured out how to make a living from it. I’ve freelanced, but grow tired of clients and all their bullshit. I start novels, only to quit after a few chapters. I pitch to magazines and never follow up.
The only success I’ve had writing has been Medium, and I have already proven that I cannot make a living from Medium. Four years should be long enough to figure out how to make more than pennies from each story, but I can’t even do that.
But I keep writing and publishing, hoping something will catch fire.
I still make grand plans, hoping that one day I will stick with something. The thing is, the time for me to prove that I can succeed at something has come to pass. I have everything to gain and everything to lose, even though I’ve already lost the respect of my family and friends. I am putting all my chips in the pile, hoping that I can get that last heart for a full house.
I’m a dreamer, a dilettante. I am Ningas Kugon.
This is my last chance. I hope I can prove the past wrong.