Here in North America, pretty much everyone has access to education if they wish to pursue it. If you were raised in a stable environment, you probably went to school and had access to lots of extracurricular activities, intramural sports, etc. An educational environment and the freedom to pursue additional hobbies and interests provide a solid foundation of social behavior, discipline, and growth that leads to a healthy adulthood, and many folks can count themselves lucky to have benefited from these kinds of resources.
If, on the other hand, you grew up in a less stable environment, moved around a lot and had to help out with chores and cooking at home, you may not have had time to finish your homework, let alone play soccer or join jazz band with your pals. In the experience of someone who has fewer resources and is burdened with real-world concerns from a very young age, establishing social skills and figuring out what sort of work will ultimately lead to fulfillment can seem like an overwhelming task.
Sports, more cerebral games like chess, painting, acting or learning to play an instrument are all great options, but when you’re young it’s difficult to perceive how important these kinds of activities are, they can seem totally unimportant in relation to the burden of day to day life.
Thus, it is extremely important to encourage young people to take even twenty to thirty minutes a day to pursue some activity that they are passionate about, that they can lose themselves in. If there is a young person in your life who seems distant and unengaged, whether it’s your own child, a relative or the child of a close friend, it’s not a bad idea to gently encourage them to pursue an artistic vocation, which will hopefully give them some outlet for their angst and a way to celebrate life.
If you’ve got an old beat up a guitar in your basement or a keyboard you never use, consider gifting it to a young person or suggesting to your own child that they take a crack at it. Even if they don’t have any interest or time for pursuing music in an academic sense at school, you could always give the gift of music by paying for professional music lessons to get them off to a good start.
If you look back into your past, there’s probably some activity from your youth that taught you a lot. Maybe it was dancing, drawing, basketball or A/V club – whatever it was, it probably taught you the value of discipline, that sometimes work can be fun and that bonding with others over a common interest is inherently satisfying.
Learning a musical instrument is an ideal example of this type of extracurricular activity because it’s something that you can do with friends or alone at home. You can learn theory or keep it casual. Whether you’re interested in performing Chopin by reading music or jamming along to Led Zeppelin by ear, playing music is a cathartic activity that is emotional, intellectual and can in some occasions lead to a fulfilling career in music!