A Journal of My Mid-Life Crisis
17 January 1999 - Adult Education
I was fairly depressed on Monday about the ice skating lesson debacle of last Sunday night. I was too fully aware that the barrier between me and being able to move comfortably on the ice, instead of clutching the rail at the side of the rink, is a psychological one, not a physical one. But I also don't know how to get past that barrier.
Which has got me thinking about the whole problem of learning to do things as an adult. Children are natural risk takers. Adults come along and do everything they can to stifle the spirit of exploration, because it's been so beaten out of them that they can't allow it to run unfettered without feeling horribly uncomfortable. Then I had a conversation with my mother which put the whole matter in sharp focus. I told her I was going to sign up for this 3 day walk, which is a fundraising event that Avon organizes to raise money for breast cancer research. (More about that when I get the post-registration info back from them.) And her immediate reaction was "how are you going to be able to do that? It's harder than you think." Now, walking 55 miles is not an easy thing, I admit. But the event is in October so there is lots of time to train and I am attracted by the challenge. What disturbed me was that her first reaction was so negative, an immediate "you can't do that" rather than something like "it's a good challenge but an achievable one."
I realized how much I've absorbed that negative assumption, that idea that things are too hard to bother trying. I suppose I'm fortunate that academic achievement was easy and natural for me, or I'd probably have ended up dropping out of school in the belief that I just couldn't learn. Instead I absorbed the message that the stuff I wasn't good at wasn't important and how dare I even want to try to find pleasure in things that I wasn't talented at.
I thought I had gotten past that ridiculous idea that only people who are good at things should bother trying them, but it has crept back in. I want to recapture the child-like spirit that says I can do anything. But somehow this whole adult burden of not wanting to make a fool of myself strikes.
I'm sure I'm going to end up writing more about this in future weeks as this whole question of challenge and learning seems to be becoming the dominant issue of my 40th year, much as the quest for simplifying my life dominated my 39th year.
As for things that actually happened this week, I am happily researching going to Fairbanks, Alaska in March to see the aurora borealis. In one of life's serendipities, after I mentioned my auroral obsession here last week (and briefly mentioned it in some email as well) I was reading the airline magazine on Reno Air on the way back from the Bay Area on Tuesday and they had an article on Alaska and the aurora borealis. So I realized that Alaska is actually quite easy to get to. (Though I will probably do it on Alaska Air, not Reno.) There's a winter carnival and a big ice art championship right around the right time of year and I have a few leads on other activities. I need to do a tad more investigation before I call the travel agent, but it is sounding better and better.
By the way, the trip to the Bay Area I mentioned in the last paragraph turns out to be part of a campaign the universe has to turn my Tuesdays into complete hell. Because we have to fly Reno Air (the geniuses in corporate travel say so even if Southwest has a much better schedule) and because they changed their schedule so the flights back are 5:20 p.m. and 7:50 p.m., I ended up putting in a 16+ hour day for the sake of a 7 hour meeting. The same evil cosmic forces have set up a video teleconfernce for 6:30 a.m. this coming Tuesday. And, since the item they want me there to address is the first thing on the agenda, I have to show up on time. I don't mind getting up early, but I really don't like to leave the house before 7 a.m..
A major sign you travel too much: You know your frequent flier numbers on at least two airlines without looking at the membership cards.
Copyright 1999 Miriam H. Nadel
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