Wednesday, July 01, 2009

new experiences

I like to have new experiences. I'm interested in learning things, going places, meeting people, trying stuff out.

So, this summer, I thought I'd try a new experience, something I've always wanted to do but never have...I signed up for an adult ballet class.

I'll wait while my family members recover from snickering.

So this class, I thought, would be full of people who, like me, were beginners but didn't want to try to take a class with 3 year olds. Or at least people who were dancing for fun, not for a career. And maybe some exercise would happen, and I'd learn some basics, and maybe then I'd be brave enough to try out the adult class that happens at my local ballet studio during the regular school year.

This class is at a convenient time for me--Tuesday evenings. It didn't take much trouble to clear my Tuesdays, since my small group doesn't normally meet in the summer and we don't have Taize in the summer (normally those two things take up 3 of the 4 Tuesdays in any given month). It's only an hour and a half, for six weeks, for a mere 82 dollars. So I did it--I took the plunge and signed up for all 6 classes, I bought ballet shoes, and I went to class.

Last week was okay...not great, but it was my first time ever and I didn't understand most things but I could try them and I'm flexible and I generally think of myself as a fast learner so it was fine. A little of my enthusiasm waned when I discovered that there were professional dancers (and other advanced students) augmenting their workouts in this class, and that I was the only true beginner, plus maybe 3 or 4 others who were relative newbies. But I made it.

Yesterday, not so much. An hour into the class, I literally broke down and cried. That's right, I, an adult person, cried in ballet class because it was so overwhelming.

I'll freely admit that I brought a lot of stuff into class with me yesterday--I was tired, there's been lots of stress at work, etc--and that definitely played into this, but the pace and difficulty of the class were a part of it too. I stood there in the studio with 30 other people twirling and leaping around me and felt as though I am not good at anything--not my job, not friendships, not relationships, not ballet.

I know that's not true, but there you have it--ballet was the last straw.

On further reflection, I think the issue is that I've never not been good at something I *wanted* to do. The only other times I remember being really, obviously not good at something were softball (the summer after 8th grade--I don't think I've ever been so miserable) and calculus (junior year of HS, but I was taking my classes at the college by then so it was a college class).
Softball was something mom made me do, and I begged to be able to quit but was lectured about commitment, and I stuck it out even though I was terrible. I think my batting average was somewhere around .066. I was an okay pitcher, but if people hit the ball back at me, I would duck. I would rather have been reading in my room or even practicing the clarinet! PLUS, to add insult to injury, the uniforms were bright yellow and black. we looked like bumblebees.
Calculus was a class in school, something you did because it was part of schooling. And after I figured out that I really wasn't good at it (I failed a 3-question test with a 30%. That's right, I didn't even get one whole question correct) though I'd been good at basically every other class I'd ever taken, I worked harder and ended up with an A anyway.

But ballet--this is something I personally wanted and looked forward to. I intend to stick it out--4 more weeks to go--but at the moment it feels really hard and scary and overwhelming and also like something I will never be good at. Add that to some of the vibe from church right now and we have a recipe for staying home and eating mashed potatoes all summer, because if nothing else I can make mashed potatoes, darn it, and I AM good at that, I swear.

I'm thinking that for next summer's try-something-new experience I'll look into either horseback riding lessons (horses pretty much terrify me) or maybe a new language. Or maybe I'll stay home and read more books--I already know I'm good at that....


  1. I did ballet as a kid and all the way up until high school--9 years K-8. Know why I finally gave up? They didn't make ballet shoes big enough for my feet! :)
    I want to get into an adult tap dance class. I did some of that as a kid too and really liked it. A whole different dynamic (don't need as much grace--which is better for me!)

  2. You are brave and inspiring!

  3. Oh, boy - are you self-aware, or what? And you are very good at learning in all situations, and you are obviously learning in/through this one.

    You are in the class b/c you want to learn, not b/c you are a professional trying to get in an extra workout. Have fun, do the best you can with what you have to work with - and you will contiue to learn about yourself and ballet.

    Said from one who took ballet from about 3rd - 8th grade or so and while never super good, really enjoyed it.

  4. I've been reflecting on this for the last day.

    It's interesting how some people's lives are built around "can" and other people's are built around "can't"

    I've known all my life that most things I've wanted to do were unattainable.

    Part of it is being trans, part of it is a lack of any real talent and part of it is a parent who was always ready to point out why I couldn't do things. (We used to watch game shows together and whenever somebody won big, my mother's first comment would be "you wouldn't want to win that, the taxes would be horrible")

    Preaching was a revelation for me, because it was something that I wanted to do that I was actually good at. Naturally, then, my presbytery came up with a way to stop me from being able to make a life of it.

  5. Meghan, I think you have shown exactly why affirmation is so important. And I think my experience also shows, in some ways, how unrealistic expectations can be created by something good too.

    Oh, for a balanced life! Lacking that, though, I think I'd still choose affirmation. I hope you find some--you can always get it from me! Amy S-M is one of the best at affirmation, too. :-)

    This experience reminds me of a couple of years ago when I was feeling trapped in the US (about a year after I returned from Egypt) and would have done anything to travel somewhere...anywhere. I said to my colleague that part of the difficulty I was having was that I had been told all my life that I could do anything and everything I wanted, and now I was finally learning that I couldn't do all that at the same time--I'd have to take things one at a time, and that pace was excruciating for me then. This feels like that in some ways--that the things I've always been told, while good and (mostly) true, are also in some ways not true, or at least true with limitations.

  6. If I lived closer, I would totally take this class with you! Too bad there's not a true beginners' version-- maybe we could find one here in the city! Of course, I'd be up for horseback riding, too, if you can find a place accessible for next summer!

    Stick with it! If you're feeling down after your next class, check out Margaret Atwood's novel Lady Oracle-- the first third has a very humorous (and yet heartbreaking) account of the heroine's experience in ballet class. =)

  7. Thanks Jenny--I can always count on you for a good book suggestion! If I ever finish the Masters of Rome series (I'm about a quarter through the 6th and final book!) then I'll pick up Atwood's. Actually, I'll put it on hold at the library now....

    I did talk with the owner of the studio and they are going to try to find a way to have a second, really beginner, class at the same time as the class I'm currently in, so that the 2 or 3 of us who are really struggling don't feel like we utterly failed. LOL. That's good and helpful and I'm sure it will be more fun next week.

    Or at least, I hope. :-)