“What are you doing tonight?”
I was walking out of work.
“Tennis clinic. You should come.”
Then the textual parade of excuses… It’s my only night at home this week. It’s my laundry day. I don’t want to wait around for two hours. I’ve never played before. I don’t have the right shoes.
(Inside, the mental parade of excuses…I don’t like looking stupid. I’m uncoordinated and awkward. I don’t like not knowing what I am doing. Shit, I’m just scared to be bad at something.)
The the opposing thoughts chime in…I’m always grouchy when I’m not invited to things. (I call it a case of the “pouty-pout left-outs.”) But how can I be mad if I don’t take people up on it when they include me?
I took the long drive home, started my laundry, got my stuff together for the next day, then changed my clothes and headed back out to go to tennis. I’m not gonna lie, my mental soundtrack was a long grouchy list of complaints. I was not fun to be around, so it was good I drove by myself. “Will there be other beginners?” I asked in text. “Yes” my friend said. Ok. Now to just jump into something completely new. Deep breath and go.
I felt kinda thrown in the deep end. Drills started without the “this is the racquet, this is how you hold it, this is what the parts of the court are called” ‘Tennis for Dummies’ I expected and needed.
But, I just hopped in line, asked some women their names, cheered for them when they made a good shot, laughed at myself when I made (many) bad shots, felt sort of accomplished when I made the occasional good one…and just kept going. I laughed. I moved. I listened. I tried. I did something entirely new. And then, miracle of miracles, I did it again the next week.
It does take bravery to take on new things. For some reason, it feels especially brave to do it when you can just be old and set in your ways. But learning continues at all ages, or at least the opportunity to learn does. Keep those bravery muscles fresh and limber. Keep friends around you who push you to keep trying things. Be adventurous. Be willing to suck at something new. It’s the only way to eventually get better.