About 10 years ago, I reached a stage where I sort of had my shit together, or enough to fool most people. I had a job where people respected me, I had my education plans on track and I did running. I had a few others sports and hobbies and did them well. So I stopped trying new things, and when I turned and asked myself, “Why not? What is so wrong with line dancing? (So, so MANY answers to that question!)” I realized that deep down, I didn’t try it because I didn't want to look stupid.
Anytime a person starts something new, anytime I start a new sport or hobby or art I am crap, I look stupid, I feel stupid. That is what being a beginner means. I had enough of that feeling from high school and the trials of learning to be an adult.
And I was scared. Scared of looking foolish, scared of being so bad at something that kids would laugh at me. That my peers would laugh at me. That I would look foolish.
Now once I figured that out, I had two decisions, with one I could stick with what I knew, or only try new things in very limited or very controlled situations. OR I could choose to listen to that little voice inside, the one that goes, “I wonder what it would be like to do that?” and I could face my fears.
Ever since then, I have at least once a year, deliberately tried something, thrown myself wholeheartedly into something new, something hard, something tricky and yes, into looking stupid, sometimes for months.
I can’t say it ever feels or gets easier. It is still humiliating to get a lecture on all the parts of a bow and arrow by someone who you MAY have taught in high school. I still get the red glow of frustration and humiliation when the assistant coach who MIGHT be 20 goes, “Okay! That was the IDEA! Good TRY.” I want to turn and scream, “I am a top level runner, I do a job where I am respected, I blah, blah, blah.” See, I just HATE looking stupid. I want to EXCELL. But first I have to start. If I don’t take the risk, I don’t get to learn anything, don’t get to try anything new.
It turns out that after a certain age, a lot of people hate feeling stupid and so stop trying stuff out, challenging themselves. I’m sorry that happens.
When I was playing the double bass for a couple orchestras people would say, “So at what age did you start playing?” (thinking I would say 10 or 12 or 8) And I would say, “Um, three years ago.” And they would goggle because NO ONE STARTS to learn an instrument as an adult.
But I had decided that was my THING for that year. I called around and no colleges of music would let me use their double basses (even when they had no students in double bass). I asked if they had any teachers. One gave me the name of M.
I called her up. She asked me how much experience I had. I said none, that’s why I needed a teacher. She said, “You know I only teach people about to take their level 8 and teaching certificate?”
I said, “Does that matter, you know how to teach double bass right?”
She asked, “Do you HAVE a double bass?”
“Well, if you GET one, call me again.”
Turns out a double bass is a VERY expensive instrument, just the bow costs about $1,000. I found a place in London that rented ones for six months. I went up there on the bus. I rented the bass. I humped it down into the subway. I went to the bus station. They wouldn’t take the double bass (it stood 6’ 8”). I missed the bus. I begged the next bus driver. He said IF there wasn’t much luggage. He took it. I hauled the thing up the stairs. Then picked up the phone and called M. “I have the double bass,” I said, “do I need anything else?”
“You HAVE a double bass, but I just talked to you last week.”
I explained going up to London.
She told me she played for the National Opera. I asked if that meant she knew how to play well. (Oh, you charmer!)
She laughed and said she would meet me and what her rates were. I told her I could only afford 30 minutes a week but that I would practice three hours a day. She said, “No beginner practices three hours a day.”
I told her to come and see. She showed up and there was my bass. She told me it was a crap bass but she lent me a stool and I got a music stand and she showed me what the notes where and left a list of books to work on. They were orchestra books, incredibly difficult; including double bowing (making two notes at one time by using the bow across two strings with specific finger positions); pages and pages just of double bowing. My hands went into cramps. I practiced three and half hours a day.
A couple months later she got me into an orchestra camp. I played 12 hours a day for weeks. She said she’d never seen someone get to level five so quickly. I thanked her for being a good teacher. She told me I was weird. I thanked her for being a good teacher.
Sometimes it doesn’t work out and after several months, I get past the “I look stupid” part and then go, “Hey, that was interesting but it isn’t me.” At least now I know.
Like last year I did the disabled sailing. My able body “supervisor” for disabled sailing was 16 I think. Oh well. I saw baby seals, I learned all the sailing terms and tacking, and found it a total bore (I would try to provoke the Canadian Navy to detain me just to see how they would get me out of the boat!). I went out in a storm with a boat with a broken rudder (Hey I didn’t know the rudder was broken!). So, no, not joining the disabled sailing team or the sailing program this year.
But right now I do have this itch for something NEW. I mean, a new hobby or activity, not a new symptom. So I am hoping Judo will scratch the itch; or dance.
So, if you are trying something new, how is it going? Are you still stuck in the “my kids laugh at me” stage, or finally getting the hang of it, and how do you like it? And if you aren’t doing anything new, what would you LIKE to do? Don’t worry, I am not the Hobby Police, you can dream and not sign up and I won’t think any less of you. There are still a few things I wish I had learned….like flying (expensive!). And maybe…..belly dancing; but first there was the ‘exposing the belly’ and mine was never QUITE perfect enough (Fear and Vanity make a powerful team); and now that it is, I’m in a wheelchair.
Wait a minute….when has that stopped me? Wheelchair belly dancing? Hmmmm…….
3 hours ago