There seems to be several different stages when you start something new. The first stage is inspiration. You see the thing you want to do and it excites you. You see a purpose behind it and your mind eagerly jumps ahead to the place in the future where you have mastered it and crowds are cheering at your accomplishment. Whether it’s a sport, a project or a career. It starts with a desire, an inspiration and a blinding glow of excitement.
Then…there’s the awkward phase.
The phase where you’re trying to get the hang of it but you feel clumsy and stupid. Everyone around you seems to have a better handle on things. Some of them are just more talented or faster learners, but most of them have just been doing it longer. That knowledge doesn’t seem to infuse you with patience however, because all you want is to skip this phase and get to the place where it feels comfortable and fun. What we don’t realize is that the awkward- often painful- stage is the most important of all.
Here skill is built.
Here purpose is relied upon.
Here endurance is strengthened.
Here character is proved.
When I first stepped into the jiu jitsu class, there was the eager glow of excitement coupled with the convenient excuse of “it’s my first time.” That glow has faded. Sure I’m still glad to be doing something I’ve always wanted to, but the reality of just how much time and embarrassment I’m going to suffer along the way is dawning on me. I now find myself living in the awkward stage.
I can draw a lot of parallels in my journey with martial arts and my journey with music. Both are fairly new to me. Well, I’ve been exposed to music most of my life but never knew I should actually be building a skill of it. Last year I had to take several “first steps” in music that required me humbling myself and admitting my ignorance of a lot of things. In jiu jitsu, it seems I have two choices. I can keep going, keep practicing, and keep taking each next step. Or I can quit. It’s the same with my music. I can keep taking lessons, keep practicing and keep taking each opportunity God gives me. Or I can quit.
Either I fight through the land of awkward, or I sink back into the person I never wanted to be. I never wanted to be a person who couldn’t persevere in challenges. I never wanted to be lazy, unhealthy and struggle to get consistent exercise. I never wanted to be apathetic in my purpose and talent. I never wanted to sit by the roadside and watch everyone else walk down the path towards the real adventure.
So through the land of awkward I must trudge. I will take the awkwardness, the bruises, the voice-cracks, the embarrassment the sighs and the tears. Because anyone who hasn’t fought through the awkward stage will never last in the thriving stage.
So each day I wake up…and sit at my piano to fumble with the keys…and stretch what I think is possible with my voice…and each time I step onto the mat wondering if I tied my belt right…I’ll just remind myself:
I don’t have to be the best, I just have to be better than I was yesterday.
Right now, the victory isn’t in what I have to show for it; the victory is in showing up.