Approximately two years is the amount of time it takes for me to get bored and lose interest in an activity. The activity could be a job, a hobby, a fitness activity or anything else. No matter what my level of contentment may be while engaged therein, when two years (give or take a few months) pass, I feel an urge to give the activity up and move onto something different. It is as if I feel a tickle and my reflex is to find something new. The amount of time that actually passes seems to vary at an inverse rate to my degree of engagement in the activity, or the amount of my free time said activity consumes. The more days of the week that I am engaged in the activity, the sooner the tickle occurs that prompts my abandonment. Anyway, I will call this observed phenomenon The Two-Year Tickle.
For the past eight years, I have worked five different jobs and stayed at none of them for longer than two years. Why did I leave each one? I’ve been laid off, I’ve been fired twice and I’ve quit on my own terms, in no particular order. The reasons for my departure vary, but the two (or fewer)-year intervals at which they each occurred got me used to things not lasting long enough to be long term. My professional experienced has primed me to feel The Two-Year Tickle.
I used to volunteer at a community theatre. Said theatre would produce plays, and I would help out in various ways: lighting, sound, stage management and house management and sometimes acting. I was involved in damned near every one of its plays for about a year, then The Tickle struck and I walked away from community theatre. Why? Because it was so damned time-consuming. It would require me to go to a rehearsal every weeknight, and that left me with little time for anything else. I was not able to cook, clean, exercise, socialize or sleep much. The worst was when the director of the play was impulsive and scatterbrained; his or her inability to stay focused on the schedule translated to the rehearsals running really, really late. When the play would open to the public, the perofrmances were on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There went my weekends. After a year of this, I gave up community theatre. I suppose I burnt out.
I got involved with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I quit after nearly two years. I started because I was looking for a new physical fitness activity that fell under the martial arts category. I exposed to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a few years ealier and was fascinated by the fundamentals of it, so I gave it a try. It also appealed to me because the nature of Jiu-Jitsu requires the practitioner to be aggressive. I am not an aggressive person, so I figured that Jiu-Jitsu would be challenging for me and that would make it fun. When my training started, I was challenged by the level of physical intensity, the intimidation I felt from my training partners and the complex techniques of the movements. Yet, underneath my exhaustion, I told myself that I was having fun. I would finally quit because after two years, I grew tired of the aforementioned difficulties. My heart was not in it, and it felt like a chore. For the last several classes that I attended, I had to force myself to go. The Two-Year Tickle struck again
I sang in a Barbershop choir for about a year and a half and then dropped out. As a youth, I sang in my school’s choir and I have fond memories from that time. It was fun to learn music and perform it at concerts in front of a live audience. When I discovered the Barbershop choir, I saw an opportunity to relive those glory days. I auditioned, was accepted into the choir, paid one hundred and thirty-five dollars for a one-year membership and began my adventure in vocal performance. We would rehearse every Monday from 7 till 10 in the evening; aside from learning the music and practicing it, it was here that I discovered the structure and bureaucracy in the choir. Despite this, I met some great people, learned some amazing songs and had a blast when we performed at concerts. It was fun for the first year, but The Tickle arrived after that. The allure began to dwindle when we got a new director. Her aim was to take the choir in a direction in which in won competitions more and performed less. To be a competitive chorus meant to rehearse the same two songs over and over and over and be tested on them. Rehearsals became three hours of singing, being chastised for mistakes and little variety. At the year-and-a-half mark, I decided that it was time to give up. It had become too much work and formality for something that I had pursued at first as a hobby. In simple terms, it was not fun anymore.
I started a business with a friend. It was an entertainment business that put on live circus shows and contracted out clowns for events. I have been a juggler for fourteen years, and it has been my favorite hobby for the majority of that time. I used to dream of one day being a professional juggler, so I saw the business as a chance to make that dream come true. We produced juggling shows for audiences small and large, made money and I felt the thrill of being a professional performer. We operated for four years total but the fun lasted only the first two. Revenge of The Two-Year-Tickle. The fun faded as the business grew and got busier. We still performed, but we had to deal with accounting, marketing, taxes, inventory control and management. The more shows we had, the more work we had to do. What began as a paid hobby had turned into a mundane job.
I was discussing the Two-Year Tickle with my wife about a week ago. She noticed that the tickle tends to occur in me especially when the activity changes from being new and interesting to routine. She remembers my involvement in the Barbershop choir; she watched my initial enthusiasm fade as I got more involved with it and quickly grew tired of the routine. She was a fly on the wall during the tenure of my entertainment business; she remembers how eager I was to work on it in the early days, and she is able to describe in details how that excited will of mine transformed into jaded apathy.
When I was 23 and getting ready to graduate from college, I was talking with my father about the professional world. I asked him if it was true that the key to career happiness is to find a job that you like. He assured me that it was true, but he added some commentary to that idea that I remember to this day. He said that it is important for one to like his or her job, but the thing is:
“You have to learn to like it, and the only way to learn to like a job is to work at it for two or three years.”
This got me thinking – all of the pursuits described in this article have lasted between one and two years, and that amount of time ends at the threshold of new/interesting and routine/boring. If what my dad said is accurate, that is the time when one really ought to power through and learn to like an activity. It seems like I have never powered through. I have always chosen to abandon the activity for something new. I have never stuck around long enough to learn to like anything.
The solution seems simple. I guess I just need to be more persistent, suck it up and gut things out. I will just tell myself to hang in there the next time I feel The Two-Year Tickle. As long as I am not miserable, i do not see the harm in keeping on keeping on.
Let me hear from you
What sort of patterns have you observed in your activities that deal with interest and its loss?
How have you learned to manage it?
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