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Well-Being
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Reembracing Your Childhood Dreams

Looking for an infusion of pure joy and fulfillment in your life? Look back to the hobbies you loved as a kid.

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by Cate Lineberry

Well-Being
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When Eric Barsness was in his mid-forties, working at a major magazine publisher in New York, he found himself thinking more and more about his childhood passion—singing. He’d first started performing in Manhattan church choirs at age seven, but he hadn’t sung on stage since high school. He realized just how much he missed having this form of expression in his life and decided to do something about it. Barsness asked a singer from a local opera company for a recommendation for a voice teacher and was soon taking lessons for the first time in his life. He eventually performed informal recitals, started to audition, and won the leading role in several local operas. Stepping on stage was a revelation. Now in his mid-fifties and working for a non-profit, Barsness performs in front of audiences as often as his schedule allows. He believes that reembracing his childhood passion has opened up his life to new friendships, new experiences and a newfound sense of joy. “It sounds corny,” he says, “but it really does feed my soul.” Barsness isn’t the only one looking to the past for inspiration; the trend is catching on with adults as more people look for work-life balance in a frequently out-of-balance world. But how do you decide what dreams to pursue? Rich Luker, a social scientist in St. Petersburg, Florida, who studies what Americans do with their free time, advises, “As you look at how you’ve spent your life, what things do you find, time and time again, have held your passion?” Here are a few additional things to keep in mind: Taking a class can be helpful in getting started. John Morgan, a dentist in Boston, Massachusetts, loved riding horses as a teenager and continued into his twenties, but he rarely rode after the age of thirty. “Life got busy,” he says. After decades away, he decided to get back in the saddle in his mid-fifties. “At first I took lessons once a week, then two to three times a week,” he said. He’s now taking lessons in hunter jumping techniques and has no plans of giving up any time soon. “Riding gives me a chance to work with animals, reminds me to be focused in the moment, and the horses are always offering some new aspect of their lives,” he said. “No ride is ever the same as another.” It doesn’t have to be about competing or performing. Jeanne Maglaty, 59, a copy editor from Silver Spring, Maryland, started taking piano lessons again after a thirty-seven year break. She now spends four or five hours a week practicing, but has no plans to perform in public. “I’m doing this purely for myself,” she says. “I love the fact that I can concentrate on playing and turn off the rest of the world.” Her goal is to be able to play a Chopin Polonaise again. “That was the level I had achieved when I stopped so many years ago,” she says. Age doesn’t matter. Deirdre Duffy, a former medical secretary, recently revived her love of drawing and painting and gets together every week with a group of artists at an arts center near her home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Duffy, who is in her sixties, says, “Some of the artists in our group are in their forties, and two ladies are in their nineties. They are amazing.” Duffy too recommends looking back to what motivated you as a kid to find fulfillment as an adult. “Children naturally gravitate to things they enjoying doing,” she says. “They don't do things to impress or for gain. They just do what they like to do. It’s all about living well. About four years ago, Donna Amice, 61, a hospital worker in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, realized she missed “the sheer joy, freedom and accomplishment” she felt when she had performed as a ballroom dancer in her teens. Now single, she was also looking to fill a void in her life. “I realized that I had given up all my dreams and was waiting for something else to complete me. I had to get myself back.” She organized a group of friends from work to take dance lessons at a local studio and enjoyed it so much that she began taking private lessons. Amice, who now dances two to three times per week, says, “As adults and parents and partners, we tend to forget what we love and who we are, but now it's time to remember those things for our happiness…It's a great example to our children in the art of living well.” Dancing photo: Danita Delimont/Getty Images Opera photo: Courtesy of Cast of Delaware Valley Opera