When was the last time you were new at something? Are you any better now? I do a lot of calculations when I consider starting something new. I use these calculations as reasons to try it. Like the banjo. Remember when I wrote about how I’ve always wanted to play the banjo? I think of it this way: if I start learning how to play the banjo now, then by the time I’m fifty I will be able to say, “I’ve played the banjo for 17 years.”
This, I have convinced myself, sounds impressive, as double digits sometimes do. Sometimes the math breaks down, though, because I consistently forget how old I am. So by the time I reach fifty it won’t matter how long I’ve played the banjo, because I won’t remember how old I am anyway.
I am still new at many things I thought I would be better versed in by now. I’ve had my fancy-pants D-SLR camera for four years now. I should at least be a pseudo-expert in taking pictures of my children by now. Not so, not so. I am intimidated, at best, by the vast amount of knowledge needed to even read a beginner’s book. I have found some good sites, some good books. That picture at the top of the post is what I consider my first real success. A clever student would have been paying attention to all of the buttons she pushed until she found what worked. Because photographers want to know, what settings did you use? (Here is where I emit from my mouth the universal grunt that translates “I dunno” as I shrug my shoulders.)
What amount of knowledge means you are no longer a beginner? I have always felt repeats are a good place to start. If I can repeat what I just did, I am no longer a beginner. Now I am officially scratching the surface. Scratches, at least, leave some kind of mark, even if only a memory for the scratcher. I have no work published, but I am not necessarily new to the novel-writing process. I have a total of fifteen unreadable chapters written. Yes, oh, yes.
What I love to hear is what other people are learning. Do you, like me, assume if someone is doing anything, they have been doing it for a long time? See someone with a fancy-pants camera and think to yourself, They know what they’re doing?
For the longest time I felt too embarrassed to appear that I needed some help in the understanding department. I hated walking into new places for this reason, or even parking somewhere new. This is complete foolishness, I know, but an offshoot if the social anxiety I struggle with. You might ask, in your mental-centeredness, what’s the worst that could happen? I can answer that in vivid and bloody detail. Someone usually dies. It’s usually me. And it’s usually slow.
So for the longest time I shied away from new. Why bother? Why induce a panic if I can avoid it? This was a plan that worked for me. Until I got so bored I started doing things like…organizing my closet, wiping down the inside of the fridge, going to Walmart. On purpose.
Not so long ago I started to get brave. I started boldly asking questions if I was unsure of something. I am not dead yet. No one has come from a back room to scold me, wearing low reading glasses with a furrowed brow. No one has laughed AT me, though I often begin with, “Feel free to laugh at me later, or now if it’s really funny, but could you help me with this?” We often have a hearty laugh together. What fun.
I am still intimidated by many things I figured I’d be a pro at by the age of thirty-whatever. Last week I bought material so I could make a dress. The pattern envelope says it is “easy-to-sew” and the letters are italicized to indicate that this will also be a speedy project. I haven’t touched the fabric since I brought it home. Eventually, I hope I will just suck it up and drag out my sewing machine. What’s the worst that could happen?
I could die.
In an ugly dress.
I love to hear what other people are learning. What are your latest adventures into the unknown?