Jocelyn’s Jottings: Creating room to fail

As I am writing this I am eating a popsicle and hopefully turning my tongue blue.

Now why on earth might that be important?

I was at the Aquaducks Swimmeet this weekend thinking about how I wished that I had joined the swim club in my hometown as a kid. I didn’t because, at the time, I was scared of wearing the necessary feminine products that would be needed once a month.

Very silly of me.

So why not take up swimming now? Just because that six year old is probably better at butterfly stroke than me doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. But I would look silly. And it would be difficult.

Besides free room and board, I think the thing I miss most about being a kid is not only not being scared of looking silly but being allowed to fail.

We all fell down when we were first learning one of the most basic human movements, walking. But now if I fell down people would think I was drunk.

Sometimes I think that way of thinking applies to other things as well.

I see it most often in others on the dance floor. I love to dance. I could dance all day every day. But maybe one in every 10 people I meet that I regularly hang out with, will boogey with me. I’m not sure why exactly they shy away grooving but I have a feeling it has to do with not wanting to look silly.

And I hate to admit it, but that way of thinking has rubbed off on me somewhat. I used to get up and dance even if no one else was. But I haven’t done that for a long time, for fear of looking silly.

I also haven’t sang karaoke on stage in a long time for fear of looking silly. And if I am being honest there are probably many other things that I haven’t tried for fear of failing and looking silly.

It seems that fear of failure, of looking silly when attempting to master a new skill, grows, seemingly exponentially, as we age.

And it’s sad.

No one can be good at everything, and it is admirable to keep learning as we get older, so why don’t I just jump in the pool and fail miserably at the butterfly stroke until I practice enough to get it right?

Why haven’t I start writing those first 100 short stories that are probably going to be awful before I get to that first half decent one?

Why don’t I pick up my charcoals and my sketchpad? Or my ukulele that has been sitting out of tune in my living room for months.

I wasn’t too scared to move to a new place on my own five times now. I’m not too scared to write this column admitting some of my failures, but I am still scared of trying something new and being bad at it.

It is ridiculous. Everything I have ever done I have been pretty terrible at it the first time I tried it. Talking. Eating with a fork. Using a toilet. Writing my name. Making friends. Taking the bus home from school. Reading. Throwing a baseball. Setting a volleyball. Driving a car. Writing an essay. Making Friends. Taking a photo. Cooking. Cleaning. Packing. Travelling alone. Making friends.

There used to be so much room for failure. But now I have to choose to make room for it. Because I don’t want to be 70 years old, still working at the newspaper, taking photos at a swim meet (will they be swimming in virtual water by then or something?) and wishing I had taken up swimming when I was 25.

Or maybe it will be sketching. Or finally mastering American Pie on the uke. Or writing fiction.

Or something else entirely. Or all of it.

But the whole point is, that it’s okay to have a blue tongue if you love popsicles, because who does walking around with a blue tongue and being laughed at hurt? No one.

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