When I was a kid I was in a lot of activities. I mean, I tried a lot of things: Ice skating, ballet, softball, saxophone, guitar, cheerleading, etc. Not one of those things stuck. I wish that at least the guitar would have. The things that I ended up kind of settling into in jr. high and high school were writing, visual art, choir, and a little flirtation with theater (I was part of the drama society but was only in two productions in high school. I couldn’t be bothered with all that rehearsal time!). So basically, the only activities I did as I got a little older were the things that came naturally to me. I can write (so I’ve been told!), I can draw reasonably and am good with colors/arrangements, and I can sing. Those are the things I could do as a child without any lessons or a lot of practice. They are also the same things that I love today.
The problem with having only done things that come naturally to me is that I never really learned to practice. After two or three sessions in a given activity, I would usually decide that I must not like it because I wasn’t enjoying the practice. I still wish that my parents would have made me stay in one of those things…dance or guitar or something. I don’t blame them, though. How would they know? Neither of them was ever able to be in any activities growing up, and by the time they were 21 they had a kid and had thrown personal development out the window in favor of getting by. They had no idea what a big deal it is to learn how to practice! Oh, actually, my mom did make me stay in softball for eight years because she thought I needed to do something less sedentary (I did – I was chubby!). That didn’t really help me though, because the ultimate truth is that even after practicing enough to be O.K. at it, I hated softball.
Knowing how to practice would have been a great skill to have in college. I majored in writing and minored in art, which was pretty much best-case scenario for me, but I squandered the opportunity. Here I was paying all this money to learn the practice of writing, the practice of visual art, but I didn’t have the patience or understanding to practice there. I took all the time that I had to really sink into the things that I love and used it to party like a rock-star. I could have just split the time I spent partying in half, still had plenty of time to party, and have learned earlier and easier what it takes to be successful in the areas where I dream of success. I didn’t develop as a writer or an artist because I didn’t have balance; a theme that would continue through the rest of my twenties.
All that aside, this isn’t a post about broken dreams; it’s a post about hope. Several times over the years David and I have talked about how both of us are resistant to just doing things, even when we enjoy them. We call the feeling that we have about showing up to practice “the I-don’t-wannas.” An example is that I have really had to talk myself into going to yoga for the first two months, even though I liked it once I was there. Something has happened in the last month that has opened a door for me: I have actually begun to want to go to yoga. It’s the first time I’ve actually stayed with something long enough to want to practice and improve. Suddenly a light-bulb lit up: the same thing will probably apply with writing and art. Even though my skills are rusty, and I’m frustrated with it, if I just make to time to practice, and just do it whether I want to or not, I will probably eventually start to enjoy the practice.
“Learn to love the process” is said so often it has become a cliché, but apparently I still had to go and learn it the hard way!
What has been your experience with practice, or with “enjoying the process”? Has it been hard for you? Or does practice come naturally?