From the first time I gave a third of what I made that month to a landlord, just so I could have a roof over my head, I realized that the world can be a harsh and unforgiving place.
In high school and in college, we are given the space, time, and resources to enrich ourselves, but in the working world, the only thing most people care about at the end of the day is the check you are supposed to give them.
As an adult, that has always been my dilemma. If we lived in a perfect, rent-free world, I would be the most talented person in the world. I would probably spend a few weeks learning how to be a farmer, the next few weeks learning how to ride a motorcycle, and then take a year off to train for the U.S. Olympic Swim Team.
Alas, I know the rent is due on the first of every month, and I have to spend a good amount of my time making money to survive. I've always said that the best part of being an adolescent, as opposed to an adult, isn't so much the free rent, but the free range to dream, explore, and discover your inner talents.
Growing up, I was gifted with many talents, many of which have now been buried under paperwork. However, music has been the inner talent that has stayed with me throughout the course of my life.
For me, music has been a lifesaver, an escape hatch, and a meal ticket.
As a young child, playing the violin took my mind off the pressures of bullying and helped me focus on the task ahead. As a high school student, my ability to play put me before giants of the industry, such as Yo-Yo Ma and Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg.
Music, not my ability to write, was what got me into college with a scholarship and, eventually, took me to Europe to further my studies.
In college, I realized I also enjoyed writing and was halfway decent at it. I eventually chose to pursue that as a career, in the form of journalism.
While I never forgot about music -- the spark that got me to where I am -- the fire did get put on the back burner when I started working full-time. Sometimes, days, weeks, and even months have gone by without me touching an instrument other than my computer keyboard.
Our careers are tied to our earning potential and prestige, so like anybody else coming up in an industry, I've tried to donate as much time as possible becoming better at what I am paid to do. However, our talents are tied to our spiritual happiness, and it is important to spend time nurturing those as well.
In Matthew, Chapter 25, in the Bible, Jesus talks about the Parable of the Talents. In the parable, "talents" are referred to as a form of currency, of which only two of the three servants in the parable spend wisely, to their benefit.
The bad servant takes his talent and buries it in the sand, much to the dismay of the master. In modern times, the sand is the paperwork we often bury ourselves under.
Just as money is a tool to be used, physical and mental talents are things given to us by God to glorify Him. Whether it is singing, jogging, yodeling, clog-dancing, bowling, skeet-shooting, or playing the violin, doing what we are born to do is not only good for the soul, it demonstrates to people the power that God has bestowed upon all of us to do something wonderful.
This holiday season, I urge you to pick up your ax, whatever it may be, and try it out for a while. You might be surprised and pleased with the results it has on you -- and others.
Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.