Relishing the Trek
I used to have students who would feel frustrated during the first couple of weeks of class because they were struggling with the course material and they believed they shouldn't be. They somehow thought that they were in the class to show the skills they had; not to learn new ones. It took a bit to get them to understand that the whole purpose of the class was to help them to gradually learn something new. At the time, I didn't realize how much we’re all like those students. Learning new things makes us feel vulnerable and shaky sometimes. At the very edges of all of that is our fear that maybe we won’t succeed.
What I want is to enjoy what lies ahead of me, even if it feels challenging.
I’ve said recently that I’m surprised at how much my desire to “get an A” wheedles its way into so many areas of my life. I want to be the best flosser at the dentist, the person who doesn’t water my lawn too much but still keeps it alive during the drought, and the one who can follow Xfinity’s directions on the phone and fix my entire TV system in moments. My frustration at rarely achieving these goals is similar to that of my students. Still, I know that the best things are on the other side of being open and brave enough to fall on my face while I’m trying to take in something new.
One thing I’m discovering as I explore around at this end of life is that my desire to “be the best” at things actually gets in my way of doing well. It’s like that old adage, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” If I’m struggling to learn something, or embarrassed because I’ve made up in my mind that I should be faster at taking in a new idea or skill, I get blocked, and it keeps me from just trying different approaches. The stiffer I get, both physically and emotionally, the harder it is to let myself stretch out and explore what I'm trying to grasp..
This is another of those areas that feels different to me than when I was younger. Back then, if I felt discouraged as I was trying to learn something new, I could always put it off for another time. But time is more precious now. If I want to learn something new or explore some untapped arena for me, I want to be in it as much as possible. That means I don’t want my preconceived idea that I should be really good at it to get in the way of just learning what it’s all about. I’d actually like to learn to just have fun trying new things. Fun and easiness are not exactly my forté, but why not learn to learn more easily?
As with so many things in this part of my life, I have to stop occasionally and lament the fact that I didn’t get this lesson earlier. My anxiety, self-consciousness, and ego often got in the way of letting myself make the discoveries I am making now. On the surface, we might think we can’t meander through life with greater ease because we have adult responsibilities, but I can’t help but think about how much more fun all of that would have been if I hadn’t taken it so seriously.
I also know there is no point in feeling bad about how I approached my life in the past. And, I'm determined not to focus on how relatively short this next part might feel. What I want is to enjoy what lies ahead of me, even if it feels challenging. I have an amazing life and I want to focus most on the loveliness of that.