A dear friend’s daughter just learned how to walk. Toddling around at 14 months old, she delights all of us present by delighting in her own abilities, grinning as she moves towards a formally unreachable toy, or stretching her eyes wide in surprise when she unexpectedly loses balance and plops onto her bottom.
We applaud when a child takes those first, halting steps, or uses the potty for the first time, or pronounces their first recognizable word. We profess astonishment when they sing their ABCs, recite their numbers or stumble over their first words on a page.
They’re learning, and growing, and the process may be a little imperfect, a little messy (think feeding themselves for the first time!), but these learning processes are usually celebrated with joy. We expect there to be mistakes, bumps along the road, otherwise how would they learn? And yet, when it comes to ourselves, as adults, we often take the opposite approach.
Giving Up As Adults
I don’t know how many times I’ve thought, “well, I’m just no good at that” and given up. And even if I stick with something I perform less than perfectly, I make sure to remind others (and myself) just how bad at it I am. “I kill practically everything I try to grow” is my go-to statement when discussing plants of any kind, and while it doesn’t hurt to be honest (I do seem to have a knack for killing houseplants – I’ve even managed to over-water cactuses), I’m not being entirely truthful with my self deprecation.
Yes, I once grew only three minuscule carrots after planting an entire bag of seeds. I coaxed one tiny eggplant out of four lush green plants that looked like they should be dripping with purple fruit. I managed to not grow even one zucchini on my shriveled vine (yes, zucchini, I still don’t know how it happened!). I also, however, have grown tomatoes, green beans, arugula, kale, broccoli, collard greens and even popcorn.
So while I’m not winning any gardening awards any time soon, I am learning. And that’s a good thing. I may not have managed one zucchini, but I did learn about pollination and male vs. female flowers for my next go-round. I also learned that it’s OK to admit defeat – the farmer’s market has lots of delicious carrots; I’ll turn my attention to things I can easily grow – as long as I know that I’m really OK with it, that everyone has things they struggle with, and that focusing on my strengths is fine as long as that’s what makes me happy.
Learn From Your Mistakes
If growing full sized carrots is truly a goal, I can come back to it knowing that it might take five or six tries, but that each time I’ll learn a little more about row spacing, thinning and soil amendments, and perhaps get a little closer to a carrot that’s longer than my thumb. The old adage tells us, “Practice makes perfect” but perfect doesn’t really exist for us humans.
What exists for us is “Practice makes confidence” (eventually!), or “Practice makes enjoyment.” The more we learn, the more we grow, no matter how old we are. We don’t expect children to run after they take their first step, or read the day they learn their ABCs. We may be older, but it is just as unfair to expect perfection and immediacy from ourselves. Even adults need to start somewhere; even adults need to take those baby steps until we are steady and sure on our feet.[Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography]