This weekend, I surprised myself by finding evidence for something I didn't even know I believed.
We were at Topgolf again, this time with another couple. Hailing from India, neither of them had ever visited a driving range, and the woman (let's call her Shira) hadn't even held a club or an iron before. I was only one step ahead of them, having visited Topgolf several weeks back with a very patient and loving partner, who fielded many an "I suck" from me while I struggled with first-timer imperfection and awkwardness. A few things I observed about Shira from the get-go:
- Not once did she demean herself or draw attention to her beginner's ability (which, for most of us, often looks a lot like inability; Shira was no exception).
- When she swung the iron and missed the ball completely, she didn't laugh at herself or make self-deprecating jokes; instead, she seemed to concentrate a little harder on connecting the stick with the ball.
- Sometimes, she barely knocked the ball off the tee; when this was the case, Shira giggled, but that was all. She didn't say, "I'm bad at this" or "I can't," nor did she abandon herself by detaching from the game and half-assing it to give the false impression that she didn't really care. Each time, she went ahead and waved the iron over the sensor, got another ball, and tried again.
At this point in the story, it's important for me to let you know that Shira placed second in that round, her first ever time trying the sport. The second round, she came in third place. (And, in case you were wondering, yours truly claimed last place both rounds. Ahem.) From a technical standpoint, her form was terrible. When it came to exhibiting force, she wasn't ambitious. It seemed accidental that any of her balls traveled toward targets and sheer coincidence when they made bullseye. However, Shira was focused on playing—playing the game of Topgolf, yes, but also playing in the sense of having fun and trying something new without the expectation of mastery—and this allowed her to earn points steadily and consistently, using the 20 yard target closest to us. Meanwhile, her husband (let's call him Dev) wailed each ball, sometimes creating that magic thwack that signified a beautiful shot, but always aiming for one of the more impressive, far-off targets...and nearly always failing to reach them.
Both of them seemed to have a lot of fun, so the moral of this story isn't to lower the bar when it comes to trying something new. In fact, I don't think there's even a moral here. What I discovered this weekend, however, is that my embarrassment at being a beginner—and being a beginner in front of others who might or might not be beginners, too—is my choice. Shame isn't a valid default setting for first-timers at anything. It's a deliberate decision not to extend yourself the same courtesy you'd extend to a fellow beginner. It's like saying, 'Even though I've never once tried this in my life, I expect myself to be better than any other beginner, and as good as any seasoned player, right off the bat.' Unreasonable, right?
What are you trying that's new and unfamiliar and, maybe, uncomfortable? If you were to reframe your efforts as play, how might your experience of this new thing change? Hit 'reply' and share with me.
Notes from the week of October 25
+ Laura, "vanquisher of soul-sucking jobs," interviewed me about my career change experience! [link is now defunct]
+ Hillary Rain's new website (she calls herself a 'soul doula,' which just sounds so cool)
+ orangey sunsets, happening earlier in the evening
+ the paper art of Cybèle Young (you'll want to click on that link and scroll through all the breathtaking miniatures that she's created; found via Ann Wood's brilliant newsletter)
MEALS EATEN, DRINKS DRUNK
+ delicious, hipster pizza (though I wouldn't ever recommend ordering a slice of anything with the word 'evil' in its name; my lips and tongue hurt in the worst way for a good 20 minutes)
+ Mexican vanilla cold-brew coffee (I found it in the grocery store and have no opinion about cold-brew—is there supposed to be a difference in taste?)
LOCAL COLOR EXPERIENCED
+ Halloween at a sleepy RV resort (which is to say, the night was just as uneventful as any other night; we were prepared—porch light on, candy at the ready, The Addams Family playing on the television—but, not a single trick-or-treater materialized)
+ Shira & Dev (names have been changed to protect the identities of the inexperienced golfers ;-)