This old dog learning new tricks



So it is nearing a month into the new year and I am valiantly trying to stick to my new year’s resolution of living outside of my box and generally being open to new things and trying to grow as a person. So I have been taking ballet classes at the local school as a means of getting some exercise especially since it gets dark so early and I can’t go on after work runs. Plus it is a social exercise which is a good complement to my solitary runs.

I took ballet when I was in high school after about 8 years training as a figure ice skater. In the ice skating world, you only spin in one direction. So like Zoolander, I am not an ambi-turner. I can only really turn in one direction. I am also flat-footed. So basically, despite having dance training, I am really a terrible dancer.

On top of that, things are so much harder to pick up, learn and do as you get older. Things that were so whimsically easy when you were a kid are so dang hard now. Like doing cartwheels. And memorizing stuff– like anything stuff. This point became explicitly clear to me when I tried to learn to play the guitar about 10 years ago. I had been a pianist as a youngster so I thought I would be amazing at the guitar.

I was not. I was terrible, in fact. I was convinced that my huge man hands, while making me a wondrous piano virtuoso, were simply too large and awkward to stroke the delicate strings of a guitar. And I think the fact that I had been such a good pianist when I was younger made it so much harder to stomach how terrible I was as a guitarist. I really drove home the point that things are so much easier to pick up as a kid. Math was easy. Learning new hobbies was easy. Making new friends was easy. It was all comparatively so easy.

And then you get older and you grow self conscious. You lose mastery of some parts of your body. You overthink. And just generally, the ease that you once experience just isn’t there. You have to work harder for such smaller gains. In ballet class today, there were moments where I flat out couldn’t figure out what my body was doing. During a glissade-jete exercise, I will fully admit that I resembled a dog catching a frisbee. And if you could read what was going through my mind during that routine, it was a mixture of “glissade-and-a-jete…. glissade-and-a-jete” and “oh my god, what is my left foot doing?” Everything requires so much more work and attention now.

Like with my short guitar career, it is tempting to give up. You don’t want to look stupid and you want to focus on things that you are good at. But I guess the point of growing up is you have to now do things that are uncomfortable. You have to take leaps in your career and do things that you don’t know that you’re 100% capable of doing. You have to engage in relationships without a strong sense of knowing exactly where it’s going to go. And you have to put yourself out there because the world is a big place and you know you will never be fulfilled standing static in your little corner of the world.

So I danced my little frisbee dog heart out. And it was fine.


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