Sunday, January 13, 2013

Becoming a Beginnger

I aspire to do many things. I want to start rock climbing again, go to yoga classes, write short stories, run 100 miles, complete a Colorado bike tour. I'm fairly fit, have the time to invest in these endeavors, and yet I haven't done a single one. Sure, I talk about doing them. I think about starting them, look at information online, but I never actually follow through with anything. The fact that I can do these things, but simply don't is frustrating beyond belief. The only thing preventing me from starting and completing these tasks is me.

A few days ago I spoke with a good friend about this ridiculous paradox. He, too, struggled with something similar. Plagued with months of "hemming and hawing" about hobbies and purchases for theses new activities. Both of us made up outlandish excuses as to why we couldn't commit to these things. "Too expensive," "not enough time," "I have to watch paint dry," "I need to research it more," "I probably won't like it." These excuses only mask to real reason for not pulling the trigger, the fear of being a beginner. The fear of asking questions, making mistakes, being unsure, looking 'dumb.' Which is ironic, considering I work in a school where I encourage students to ask questions, try new things and to not worry about what anyone else thinks. Perhaps I should start practicing what I preach.
The cow that never learned to run from enemies.

Running is something that comes naturally to me (and shockingly, to a majority of the human species). So of course I find that I want to run. It is an easy part of my comfortable routine. Introducing something new would require a change. Something new might make me work, make me learn! Oh, heavens! (Again, ironic considering my job.) Interestingly enough, I enjoy learning. I actually crave it. I read, I attend educational classes, but I don't want people to see me stumble up the learning curve. I'll learn, damnit, but I don't want you to know I struggled. Passive learning, via reading and classes, there are not many opportunities for people to see your mistakes. Yes, you might pronounce a word wrong in your head while reading, but the chances of anyone noticing that are slim. When you start something new, like rock climbing or take up an instrument, mistakes stick out. That off key note, that slip from the wall, surely someone will laugh. Someone will notice. And from that moment on, you'll be known as the person who made that mistake. Forever. 

Really? Forever? I doubt it. First, if someone does remember you solely for the minor mistakes you made, you might not want to associate with them in the first place. Second, it is extremely probable that someone else, perhaps even the people around you, made similar mistakes.  (None of this is true for a suregon. I never, ever, what a suregon to make a mistake. I will hold a grudge.) Making mistakes, learning from them, seeing improvement is rewarding, not scary. Asking for advice or taking lessons doesn't make you a failure. It's probably more normal than stewing for 6 months about buying a yoga mat.


"You can learn new things at any time in your life if you're willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you." Barbara Sher

"Perhaps the biggest tragedy in our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns... We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small." - Tara Brach