My perceptions and memories of my childhood are prone to gross exaggerations. I don’t know whether I just had the kind of vivid imagination that turns reverie into reality or if I was once a compulsive liar. Either way, I’m pretty sure this one is true. I remember early on in my time in Miss Pearl’s class at LIFE ARTS, she took my Mom and me aside and said that I showed a real aptitude and natural ability for dance and that I should stick to it and maybe even move up a level in the classes.
I didn’t go on to pursue dance in any serious way (or really casually either), but that vote of confidence from an almost stranger fueled my ability and desire to try new things for years afterward. And I did. I tried new things. I tried basketball and painting and piano and archery and guitar. Each came with a similar oo-ing and aw-ing at my natural aptitude and each ended as surely and shortly as it began.
I’m currently enrolled in a modern dance class at BYU and though I’ve been struggling with it recent compliments on my improvement and a sidenote comment about how I am flexible led me to believe that my natural aptitude took a little longer to come through this time around, but there it was.
That class boasts stretching and warm-ups and sequences and exercises that make me wish that I could somehow have a day in someone else’s body just to see if it stings for them as badly as it stings for me. What I didn’t count on after all of that was the periodical taping sessions of our sequences so we can get a visual update on how we are doing in the class. So I got to watch myself in all my “natural aptitude” glory and I realized that my knack looks the same now as it did when I was five, only everyone else moved up and got better and moved on.
I look like a child in the middle of all of those other people that actually listen and practice and take to heart what is said in that class. I tried all of those new skills and activities that I mentioned before and did well; for a beginner, but I don’t think I’ve ever honed in and practiced and improved at anything in my whole life. (Except for things I get tricked into practicing like writing papers for school and making dinners for my starving student self).
Someone somewhere sometime said something about how you have to be willing to look stupid to improve yourself in any area. But it seems for me I decided early on that it wasn’t worth pushing through the vulnerability to acquire the excellence. I don’t like to look stupid or be embarrassed which is funny because I find new and unexpected ways to embarrass myself almost daily.
So as it stands now I am a jack-of-all-trades satisfied to remain skilled at nothing. From where I’m standing it looks like I’ve either got to decide that I’m satisfied with mediocrity or knuckle down and be willing to look like a fool; a necessary sacrifice on the road to the kind of cultivated and capable person that I want to become. I have dance tomorrow morning and I’m not going to lie; I’m scared out of my mind to continue to be the weakest link and look silly and feel sillier, but rather than being the person whose mantra is “if at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried” I’m going to try, try again.