I read something recently that resonated with me strongly in its truth: Adults can forget how hard it is to be a beginner, and everything worth doing starts with an awkward beginning.
When you are a kid, you are surrounded by people who know more than you about what you’re doing, and you are constantly a beginner. You learn the letters. You learn to read. You learn to work with numbers. You learn to swim and bike. You have nothing familiar to stand on; it’s all completely new.
By the time we get older, those new experiences are harder to jump into. We want to feel like experts or at least like we have a clue what’s going on, and to step into something totally new is scary. We have enough solid, tested ground that we often don’t do it for that reason. We don’t have to. We do what we know and stick to that because it’s easier and feels comfortable.
I have perpetually, as an adult, felt like I should already be an expert at this or that field, like I somehow missed out on my opportunity that I should have learned how to ____. The right answer is that it’s never too late to learn, but that’s easier said than done. I think I should already know how to use this tool or fix this bike or jump into this project and it’s embarrassing to admit you are clueless, especially around someone else who does have more know-how. It’s easy to be a beginner surrounded by other beginners, but to admit to a more competent person that you are not, is super uncomfortable. Instead of having the attitude of learner, I am on the defense, which is not a posture of learning.
Another part of the struggle is that it take mental and emotional energy to do new things. I am poured out much of the time with my kids and to be a beginner is beyond my capacity (or so I think). Adventures tend to fuel me, and creative space fuels me, but when I don’t have either, it’s hard to jump into something new.
My little adventures of late have helped me. I can move from them to something I don’t know all about already and it does not intimidate me nearly as much. But I still struggle to have the posture of a beginner, take off the mask of pretending I know something, and really focus and start to learn.
And really, having an interesting life requires being a beginner often, don’t you think?
What about you? Do you find yourself on the defensive when you don’t know about something or have a ridiculous list of things you think you should already know? What helps you to be a beginner? Or anything you are glad you learned after putting it out there that you didn’t have a clue?