AKA "I'm not good at these things"
When I was 13 years old, a friend invited me to join them ice skating. There was an ice skating rink that recently opened and was all the rage. I never really went ice skating before, but thought to myself: "how bad can it be?"
Pretty bad, turns out. While others around me for which it was the first time ice-skating were more or less stable, that was not the case for me. I kept falling and had a hard time leaving the safety of the external rink wall. After 20 minutes or so on the ice, I fell and twisted my left ankle. It hurt like hell, it was swollen and blue-ish and I couldn't put any weight on that leg. At all.
A visit to the doctor's office and an X-ray later, I was diagnosed with a severely sprained ankle. I had a hard time moving at all for a week, and after that, I was still unable to put any weight on it for 3 weeks. That meant I had to hop around on one leg if I wanted to get anywhere.
Eventually, my ankle recovered. But my main take away from this experience was that I'm just not good at these sort of things.
"These sort of things" included everything that required balance and coordination. I had a hard time learning to ride a bike only a couple of years earlier, after taking a stab at it at the age of 6, falling, hurting myself and deciding that this is not for me.. (You may detect a pattern here)
And while I managed to ride a bike, that didn't transfer to other domains which required balance. I never set foot in that ice rink again. And friends that tried to convince me I should learn to rollerblade got a weird look in return. The same went for skateboarding, as well as surfing (which was a popular thing where I grew up, a 5 minutes walk from the beach).
So, "I'm not good at these things" became my thing. And it prevented me from ever trying anything that I felt required any of the skills I believed I inherently lacked.
Fast forward 20+ years later, and a friend suggested I'll join him and a few others on their weekly mountain biking rides. I live in an area that has some world-class trails, so in an atypical manner, I decided to give it a try.
I was bad! I wasn't in good shape for the climbs, and I was even (relatively) slower going downhill. My balance on the bike was completely off, and I made everyone wait for me again and again. The easiest, natural thing for me to do would've been to give up and go do something else instead.
But for some reason I stuck with it. The folks I rode with were cool and non-judgemental, and I felt like I'm improving from one bike ride to the next. Which got me thinking - if I can improve my balance and coordination on the bike, maybe I'm not a lost cause?
That brings us to skiing. I live about a 90 minute ride away from the Alps, and have been intrigued about skiing as a result for a long while. But it was always something others can do, and I just inherently can't. Plus, getting into skiing requires a significant investment. Ski resorts are expensive, especially when the kids are off school. There's also a lot of equipment involved. What if we spend all that money and end up hating it? Or worse, everyone would love it but me, and I'll end up dragging the rest of the family down?
But at some point a couple of years back, my curiosity overcame my fear. I took the plunge, rented a place for the family for a week, rented equipment and took a week's worth of ski lessons for beginners.
I was bad. I could barely stay upright with my skis on. I kept falling down, again and again and again. I managed to ski down very gentle slopes, by sheer brute force. At the end of the third day, I started having a throbbing pain on my left side between my abs and ribs, and by the end of the fourth it started feeling as if I'm being repeatedly stabbed there. A visit to the doctor's revealed that I strained the ligaments that hold my rib cage together (or something) and should avoid any physical activities for the next 6 weeks.
The main difference between this experience and the ice rink one at 13, was that in the few instances I managed to ski down the slope without falling, I realized I loved it, and I was determined to become good at this thing.
So, 6 weeks later once my ribs healed, I was back on the slopes, getting better and better at each run. I still fell, but a bit less. I was still unstable and using waaaay too much force in order to turn. But I was consistently more stable than I previously was.
Eventually I ended up taking more lessons to improve my technique and enable me to essentially be able to go anywhere on the mountain, and have the technique and stability to do that safely. This year, on most winter weekends, I catch a 6am bus that goes to a different ski resort for the day each time. It is GLORIOUS!
Beyond that, I found out that practicing my balance in one sport improves my skills in transferable ways. Getting better at skiing improved my mountain biking. And getting better at staying upright on a balance board improved my skiing. Getting out of my comfort zone in one area, increases my ability in adjacent ones.
So, I guess there are a few life lessons to extract from this:
- If you think you can't do something, you're guaranteeing you won't be able to do that.
- Persistence and hard work can compensate for lack of talent. Being bad at something shouldn't prevent you from doing it, and improving at it.
- A thing you're "not good at" may just become your favorite thing if you keep at it.
This all sounds so obvious in retrospect. I just wish it didn't take me that long to figure it out..