“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” – Dr. Seuss
We need to revive the habit of purposely doing things that we are bad at.
Many of us have hobbies that we enjoy, the activities that we flee to instantly when we arrive at the weekend with a luxurious sigh and pack away our Real World personas for a little while. We shouldn’t ignore these passions that bring us sustaining fulfillment, but because we are accustomed to them they tend to lie gingerly within the realm of our comfort zones.
Every once in awhile, we deserve a playful jolt to the system.
Hula hooping is the latest fitness craze sweeping the globe, and when I walked into my first hooping class I was both excited to try something new and confident that after thirteen years of ballet I would be naturally talented at hooping. I underestimated the power of beginner’s awkwardness and quickly found out that I am horrible at hula hooping.
For some, the hoop is a friend, a collaborator, a creative extension of their bodies that shimmies and glides in space. For me it’s an awkward extra limb that I never asked for, a bizarre surprise that appeared on my body in the middle of the night that I haven’t gotten a chance to get used to, a weapon that careens towards my face after a wayward toss. I return from class with my ego and body both bruised.
A memory comes to me halfway through a hooping class, when I am feeling uncomfortable in my own skin in ways that I have not explored in almost a decade.
(I am sixteen again, I am on a dance company, my life has finally started to come together after three shattering years of depression. We perform our dance in the grey studio and I let my soul pour out in celebration of life – the life I recently started to cherish again, the life I once dangled on a string in front of Death’s face hoping She would bite. At the end of our run, my teacher talks to us as a group about the improvements we need to make. I am bathed in glow, dusted in sweat, smiling. She tells the huddled group that we need to be more expressive when we dance, that the world should experience our emotions and energy, that This is what art is all about.
Then she turns to me and says, “Except you.” I think it’s a compliment, I think I was the one who got it right, I think for once the other girls might finally see me as someone with talent, but she continues: “You just look spastic. Tone it down.”)
Why is this specific memory surfacing right now? And why have I unknowingly held onto it for so many years when it is clearly not serving me?
So even though I am terrible at hula hooping, I keep coming back to it because there is something enchanting about that feeling of being a complete beginner – something that brings insecurities to the surface that I didn’t realize I still had. I keep my hula hoop in the back seat of my car like a delicate child, warning my passengers that they will need to coexist with it if they want me to drive them anywhere. When daily life starts to blend into one grey boring mush, I cling to the feeling of being so refreshingly off-balance and awkward during hooping, so capable of making mistakes and so accepting of my own human frailty.
I hope we all continue to imbue every single day with the joys that sustain us, our dancing or skateboarding or journaling or knitting or sipping hot cups of tea while watching hummingbirds dance in the garden.
But there is something revolutionary about stepping into unfamiliar territory and giving ourselves permission to be vulnerable.
So let’s break the boundaries that we have used to define ourselves. You may still be a student or mother or teacher or protester, but you are also an extravagant life-embracer who deserves to learn a new skill simply because it seems fun. No practicality required – Real Life demands enough of that from us as it is.
I hope you jostle the membranes of your comfort zone, today and every day, and if it has been awhile since you have felt like a true beginner I hope you start thinking about what kinds of things you have always wanted to try. And I hope you let yourself laugh exorbitantly at the outcome, relishing in the knowledge that these new experiences have broken you open in ways that daily life could never hope for.