Being a Beginner – I Hate the Feeling by Bob Lowry


Being a Beginner – I Hate the Feeling by Bob Lowry

As I was reading a book I had been sent to review, there was a phrase that jumped off the page for me and became the basis of this post. I can relate completely to the concept of fear when beginning something new. I wrote about it from a slightly different perspective just a few weeks ago. Of course, that fear is silly. No one is born good at anything, except crying. But, as we age I think we forget that basic fact and miss so many great experiences.

I have started and stopped tennis because I couldn’t put the ball in the corner after three or four lessons. Golf lasted longer, but my inability to develop instant muscle memory doomed me to once-a year-duffer stage when my brother visited town from Kansas. 

Playing the guitar? I have started and stopped and started again six or seven times. At some point, my inability to play chord transitions smoothly, or tackle a song with three flats leaves me feeling stuck in beginner mode. I slowly lessen my time each week with the instrument until it retreats to a corner of the room. Not being able to match what any 20 year old kid could do during the Beatle era leaves me disappointed. I don’t push through that wall, I stop. I simply cannot handle being a beginner at a new skill. Irrationally, I think others are judging me for my lack of expertise.

The fear of being a beginner probably affects most of us at some time or another. Being a parent for the first time might top the list. No one, I repeat, no one is ever really ready to be a parent. All the books and advice in the world does not diminish that feeling of being completely unprepared for the responsibility of parenthood. You learn as you go. You and the baby are beginners together.

Your first real, “adult” job is another time when fear of being exposed as a beginner can be a common response. No matter how dazzling your resume, until the work actually begins and the consequences become real do you find out what you are capable of accomplishing.

Retirement: we all start as beginners. As I have written many times before, the journey we take will not be the exact one you thought it would be. We will be a “beginner” over and over, though we may not recognize it as such. 

So, why is being a beginner as I navigate my retirement journey OK but not in other areas? I have no idea, but I wish I could apply the same mindset to both situations.

The book I’m reading focuses on artistic and creative activities. For her purposes, the fear of being a beginner keeps someone from trying to paint or draw, play an instrument or sing in a choir, sculpt or throw a pot on a wheel, write a novel or a series of poems. She urges those with this limitation to simply take the first, small step, then the next. If that creative expression is pleasing, continue. If not, shift to something else. But, don’t quit before giving something a real chance, just for fear of being less than perfect.

There isn’t one creative or successful person who started out knowing it all. Each one started at the very beginning, stumbling and searching for the right combination of technique and skill. Practice, followed by more practice, losing a lot, failing often, and looking for a teacher that could help get over a hurdle was the path to “instant” success. 

I know all that is true. Then, how come I allow the fear of being a beginner keep me from trying something I might find I love? 

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