Every year, I like to take a class in something that sounds like fun, but that I know I’ll find impossible to master. A couple of years ago, it was pottery. The first time I tried throwing on a wheel, I made the most perfectly round bowl. Everyone oohed and aahed and I couldn’t help but wonder what everyone found so difficult. When I tried again, I wasn’t so successful and the “bowl” collapsed into a heap; in fact I couldn’t replicate anything resembling a bowl again and was only ever able to make imperfect, wobbly objects covered in layers of sparkly glaze to distract the viewer. I love their handmade quality though, even if they look like something a first grader would bring home.
Last year, I tried watercolor painting. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I just couldn’t get it. The instructor, who had an intimidating Russian accent, barked directions at me that were useless: “You yust have to veel it,” he’d say. Yeah, what I needed was more instruction. How much water am I supposed to splash around here? And oh, how do I draw things? He was a terrible teacher, but then I was a poor student.
This month, it’s hand drumming. I’m not at all musical, so I thought this would be the perfect complement to pottery and painting. At least I’d get to beat something. Turns out, I’m a terrible drummer too. Simple rhythms we’re meant to memorize and play repeatedly elude me. I’ll be fine for a turn or too and then things fall apart and I feel like I’m learning Russian, which would have been helpful in say, my watercolor class, but is useless when learning African rhythms.
Despite my failures, the subjects are fun, and I’m a firm believer that trying things we might not be good at is a healthy endeavor. Sure, it makes you feel inadequate, but it opens you up in some strange way and makes you remember what it’s like to learn something, to struggle. A little humility is a good thing.