I went to Jasper last weekend to go snowboarding with some friends. Being from the south end of this province, I’d never been and was excited to ride a new hill.
Up until about a season and a half ago I’d been a skier. Sure I’d tried the old snowboarding gig on a junior high ski trip when it was the trendy thing to do but I got fed up with being so much slower than all my friends that I gave it up just as quickly as I started. I’d periodically tried again a few times on day trips but I just never really got into it. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t ski often so I may as well enjoy it when I do.’
I hung up the board and decided to keep my feet uncomfortably in rented ski boots with mis-matching poles. I have no complaints about being a skier though, I really like skiing, but I always had this nagging ambition to learn how to snowboard. I hated that I felt I would never be good at it. I needed to get over that. The trouble, though, was it meant spending days on the greens, the bunny hills, falling down, being awful at something, and not getting to go up the fun chairs with my friends to the powdery blue runs. Ugh.
Being a beginner is tough.
I found that it wasn’t until I committed to just being awful at it for a while that I started having fun with it, and eventually, actually improving. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t going to master this in a day, or five days, or even five years and it would take a lot of practice.
I’m not usually averse to being a beginner so much as I’m averse to being a beginner in front of other people who aren’t beginners. I like being good at things so if I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep up, or I might make a fool of myself I have, in the past, avoided trying the things I wanted to.
As kids we’re granted a lot of freedom to try. We’re given room to be bad, find what we’re good at, and then move on to something else. So many of our experiences as kids are new that there’s little expectation to be great at any one thing right away. Basically, we succeed if try our best.
It seems something happens between elementary school and adulthood that takes away our right to be beginners. We become timid and afraid of failure. If we aren’t immediately good at something, we don’t want to try.
But lets be real. That’s so silly. Why should I stop myself from participating, when I could have a lot of fun, just because I might not be as good as everyone else? I guess one day I realized that we’re supposed to be bad at new things, and its going to take a long time to get good so we may as well start now.
Last year mid-way through the ski season I decided to commit to learning how to snowboard. I wasn’t allowed to go back to skis, and I wasn’t allowed to give up. It’s been really great and really hard all at the same time.
As I sat on the hill last weekend, fastening my board to my bright pink and orange boots for the first run of the day I was nervous. I was hoping I didn’t fall of my face all day, that I could keep up, that my friends wouldn’t get tired of waiting for me, and I was hoping I wouldn’t be an abject failure.
I followed them down the first run and found myself thinking I should apologize for being slow. As quickly as the thought entered my mind so did a strong second opinion, “I’m not going to apologize for being a beginner. I’m as good as I can be right now, even if that means I’m slow.”
That gave me the room I needed to relax, have fun, and enjoy the day. The pressure I was feeling wasn’t from them though, they’re my friends and I don’t keep jerky friends around that would be mad at me for being slow. The pressure I had felt was from myself, to perform at a certain level and not look like a fool.
I have a hard time being a beginner sometimes but reminding myself that being shitty is part of it, and accepting the struggle makes it way easier.
For years I’ve been meaning to take up golf again but I always hated the pressure of the angry golfers behind who thought I was slow, and I really want to try to play tennis, and baseball, and ride a motorcycle, and maybe take some art classes. I might be great, I might be awful, but either way I’m really excited to try.