I’ve been hearing these words a lot lately from many different people.
I could never…
- Do yoga
- Do math
- Ride a motorcycle
The list is endless; as are the reasons why…the sheer volume of excuses is mind boggling and sometimes, when I hear people speak like this, I think there’s something very, very wrong with me.
I look at the list above, and think of the myriad of other things I’ve heard that I could add to the list, and I think why couldn’t I?
I don’t say that to be boastful, I say that sincerely. “I can’t” has never been much a part of my vocabulary. And I’ll admit, that line of thinking caused me some pain from time to time, especially when I was young.
I was quite the wild-child, the adventurer, the kid with no filter for safety or any other measure of self-preservation.
At 10 years old I thought, “Why can’t I ride my 10-speed bike down this massive dirt hill left from the beginnings of a housing development?” So I did. Over and over again, until I went head over the handlebars and wound up with a shiner and a concussion. This was 1980 so, of course, two days later I was back at it again. Until I succeeded.
Also at 10, my neighbor had allowed me to steer the wheel of his car a few times, therefore I must know how to drive. I waited a few years before testing the theory, quietly observing all the adults I knew who were driving until I was brave (or crazy) enough to try. At 13 I took my mom’s car out for my first joy ride and by the grace of God, I made it home in one piece without harming anyone else along the way.
The point is, “I could never…” was not a part of my vocabulary. I must have been sick in school the week that concept was shared because I never got the assignment to self-doubt.
When I hear someone say those words, it makes me think one of two things. Either a) they must really not want to do the thing; or b) they must really want to do the thing, but somewhere deep inside they carry fear.
Fear of failing, fear of not doing it well the first time out of the gate, or fear of not doing it as well as someone else.
All the above are truisms. When trying something new, you will probably not be amazing the first time you attempt it, someone else most definitely can do it better than you, and you will fall down before you learn to run with it (though as long as you don’t give up, I don’t see that as failure).
Why are those bad things when in the pursuit of some new skill? There’s a lot to learn from trying something new and just sticking with it while you learn more about it.
I like to sing. Once upon a time I was actually pretty good at it. I’m not so great at it anymore, but I still enjoy it.
I started freshman year of highschool in the mixed chorus. We had an amazing teacher. Mr. K pushed us and by the end of the year, all singing our parts in unison, we sounded pretty darn good. He would bring one of us from each part (soprano, also, tenor, base) to the piano and have us sing our parts for a bit. If you did well, or stood out in a good way, he would shower you with praise. Let me tell you, as a words of praise girl, I worked my tail off all that year. And then all the next year. And then all of junior year.
I was defnitely better by year three than I was the first day of the first year, but I wasn’t great. I certainly wasn’t amazing, but I never gave up. somewhere along the way of learning to sing, I fell in love with the act of singing for singing’s sake.
That summer, I decided I would put in some extra effort. Mr. K let me take home our sheet music for the next year. I spent the entire summer in between work and social outtings singing my lungs out in my bedroom.
Senior year started, and there I was, ready for my praise. First time up at the piano, guess what? I opened my mouth and let her go. Not only did I not earn any praise, Mr. K reminded me this was a choir and I needed to blend with my counterparts, not drown them out. I was a bit crushed, I’ll admit, but I took his criticism and set out to work even harder.
Weeks would pass, and months, and finally, finally when I least expected it, at the very end of the first semester, the praise came. I took my place as the alto at the piano’s side and just sang the notes as they were played. I could feel it in my chest, I was on key, I was on beat, I was beautifully blended. The moment was a little bit of magic, if I can admit that. And Mr. K stopped playing the tune for just a moment and looked at me. “That sounds fantastic!!!” And then back to the music he went. It’s a moment I will never forget.
I believe somewhere along the way, people are given a message that they have to be amazing at something to be good at it. I wasn’t amazing at singing, I just kept at it. I didn’t give up, and I genuinely enjoyed it. I still do, I’m just not as determined about it as I was back then. Singing is not my calling, and that’s okay.
I write this today as an encouragement for anyone reading. If there is something of interest to you, something you’ve always wanted to try, do it. Life is short. Put aside your fear, your need to do it perfectly from the start, and just spend a little time with it.
It’s not always about being the best — sometimes it’s just about doing something for the sheer joy you get from doing the thing…