In my previous post I talked about how many of us here are neurotic overachievers. For people like us, not excelling at something hurts. One of the best things I’ve done for myself here is to take up gymnastics, having never before done it in my life. Not only is it lots of fun and a chance to catch up with my three GBFs (yep, they’re accumulating…), but it keeps my ego in check. I’m a physical person. I’m at home on the dancefloor, and I handle myself fine in boxing. But trust me, when I’m jumping backward off a tall wooden block with nothing but coach’s hand in the small of my back to prevent me from landing on my head, I’m not elegant, I’m not cool and I’m screaming in terror.
In other words, I’m kind of shit at gymnastics. I fall on my arse, a LOT, as well as stumbling sideways, splatting forwards, tripping and generally fucking up. But it’s the best thing ever. You’ve got to get over the fear and embarrassment of falling over very quickly if you want to progress, and a lot of moves require speed and momentum, so you can’t go gently or play it safe. You’ve pretty much got to throw yourself in, and try it out, in order to see if you can do it. If you can’t, the padded mats ought to take care of you, but there is of course always a chance that you’ll hurt yourself. Jumping around and falling over and picking yourself up is quite freeing, and deeply satisfying. Before every gymnastics session I am a little apprehensive of what scary new thing the coaches have lined up for us, but I have found myself doing things I never thought I’d even have the guts to try.
You probably see where I’m going with this. It’s a perfect metaphor for life, my children! Imagine if we applied the same principles to all our endeavours. In gymnastics, my GBF has basically no fear, and this is more valuable to his progress than technical skill. I also know that it is fear and not physical conditioning that holds me back. But for the things I find the most difficult, the solution is almost always to worry less and just try. In fact, that’s exactly what GBF shouts at me, when he’s holding me up while I’m stuck upside down – “just try!” It’s the old feel the fear and do it anyway cliché. It is much easier said (or typed) than done, but the payoff is always worth it.
Last night a friend was messaging me at 4am, utterly mortified and dejected (and a bit drunk), having made an unsuccessful pass at some bird (who, by the way, clearly can’t see a good thing when it’s right in front of her). Now, I get that it’s embarrassing and discouraging to get rejected upfront, but like… who actually gives a shit? I’m proud of my friend for putting himself out there, as it demonstrates he’s a man with courage, who engages with life and its uncertainties. There’s nothing worse than living life hesitating on the sidelines; the most boring person is the one who takes no risks and always plays it safe. Does this mean my mate will never try with another woman again? Heck no. Just like the fact that my first attempt at a back flip resulted in both my coach and I flat on our backs on the mat doesn’t mean I won’t try it again.
There is not a person in this world who has never been rejected or failed, and I see rejection and failure as good things: a sign that you’re participating in life and taking risks. One of my housemates is a minor celebrity back in his home country, a musician. He told me once of an epic failure of his – the epic failure of his life. It happened in the most public setting possible, live on stage, yet it turned out to be the most formative and vital experience of his life too, both in terms of clarifying what he wanted to do with himself, and bringing him down a peg. If you have never fallen over or failed or made a bit of a prick of yourself, you are ill-equipped for life.
Because life is not about playing it safe, just as gymnastics is not about jogging up to the trampette and doing a weak little hop – you’ll never gain enough momentum to do a single somersault that way, let alone anything more exciting. It’s about throwing yourself head-first into whatever scary thing is making you feel like you might shit your pants, and not stopping at the possibility of pain and/or embarrassment. Go get yourself rejected. Try out something brand new that you know you will look kind of stupid trying at first. Fall on your arse more often. It’s good for you.