My husband loves to snow ski. He grew up skiing a lot and it’s very natural for him. I did not grow up skiing, so he was excited to introduce me to his favorite winter activity. We were newly weds, and I was excited to learn and had hardly any idea of what to expect. He bought me the full gear before I had even been to a ski resort in the winter.
On my first day of skiing, we went straight to the ski lift… instead of the bunny hill. I didn’t question him at all; I figured the bunny hill was for kids, as the name sort of implies. We got off the lift without incident, got our pole straps in place, and started to move. Or at least Mark did. For him, this was easier than walking. For me, I felt trapped in my boots and skis and had little idea of how to proceed. Approaching the hill below felt daunting and I became nervous.
Mark is a very kind teacher and started to teach me. I followed his instructions, yet relatively soon I took my first fall. I experienced no injuries, just a remarkable inability to stand back up. It’s a bit humbling to be on the ground and unable to do much about it. Mark tried to teach me strategies to stand up using all the extra appendages that I was not accustomed to. Luckily, I could see humor in the situation and I found myself giggling. This actually made standing up more difficult. He got on the ground, and showed me how to stand up. Then he did it again. And again. And again. Seeing him do it wasn’t helping me figure it out any faster. I had the giggles, and he had to practice patience. This day of fun was more work than I think Mark had anticipated. I eventually came to standing (I believe it was by holding the end of Mark’s pole as he pulled me up), and I was suddenly quite interested in the bunny hill.
It’s no wonder why most adults don’t enjoy being a beginner. It’s generally not a lot of fun in the beginning. It’s a vulnerable place to be and it can be a bit humiliating and scary. None of those things feel very good. I once invited someone to attend a yoga class with me and the response was “I don’t think I would be good at that.” I wanted to say “what do you think the purpose of taking a class is?”
Being a beginner seems acceptable for kids because they are clearly still growing and gaining new abilities. As adults, we somehow forget that being a beginner is still okay, and can actually be quite rewarding. Certainly it’s a lot easier to keep doing what we are comfortable doing; that way we can avoid pain and vulnerability. Our primitive brains prefer that.
However, I believe there is a lot to gain from being a beginner. Being a beginner means that you are putting yourself out there to experience more and to gain new understanding and skill. Beginners may live more presently because the new thing requires focus and effort. I think beginners can be more kind and patient with their own mistakes and short-falls because after all, they are a beginner. Beginners inevitably grow if they want to. Beginners often have the advantage of lots of help. Beginners can learn from the mistakes of others. Beginners are humble, which is always admirable and endearing. Beginners find excitement and reward in small victories. It’s good to be a beginner!
I believe we are here on earth to grow and become something more than we have been. Growing requires change, which often means being a beginner. I might be a beginner at patience or a beginner at managing my thoughts and emotions. I might be a beginner at cooking, organizing, gardening or understanding politics. I might be interested in trying a sport or musical instrument or a new form of art, all of which require being a beginner. All of it is good! All of it is worthwhile! I am never too old to begin something good and it is not too late to keep learning.
Our next skiing excursion together occurred 6 or 7 years after the first one, once our kids were just old enough to give it a try as a family (ages five and three). I learned to ski at the same time as the kids did, on the bunny hill– right where I belonged.
(P.S. I’m a total beginner at this blog thing. I have never written like this until the past ten days. So far it’s been fun and challenging and helped me use my mind in ways that I haven’t before. I find it quite rewarding!)