Embracing the Suckage

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When I was in Grade Four I almost drowned on the first day of swimming lessons. We were divided into groups, and the instructors asked if we could swim or not. The non-swimmers went into the Yellow group and the swimmers went into Orange, Red, Maroon, or whatever based upon their skill level.

I told the instructors I could swim, even though I could barely even float. When it was time to jump in the pool, I leaped in with my mouth, nose, eyes, everything wide open. Water closed over my head and I swallowed about a gallon and flailed around a bunch until one of the instructors fished me out by my bathing suit straps and sent me back to the shallow end and the rest of the Yellow noobs, looking very much like an ashamed drowned rat in a neon-green one-piece.

Why did I say I could swim? I guess I just assumed I'd be able to. When I was little, I figured I could do anything I tried, and do it well-and swimming was no exception. Why not? A) It looked easy enough on TV, and B) Stupider kids than me could do it just fine. You just swirled your arms around and kicked, right? Easy!

In addition to my Situation-sized childhood ego, there was also the bigger problem: when I realized I wasn't an instant expert at something , I didn't want to bother with it anymore. In swimming lessons, I went from being all "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY SWIMMING! I'M GOING TO BE THE NEXT MICHAEL PHELPS!!" (exceptmichaelphelpsprobablywasntbornyet) to "Meh." If I wasn't going to be the very best at swimming/skiing/art/music/whatever, I immediately lost interest, preferring to stick to what I COULD be the best at...which is why I was the best speller and the uncontested hurdles champion at track and field day from grades one through four. Hurdles and spelling. My talents.

With swimming, over time I grudgingly came around. I passed Yellow, then Orange, then Red, and it wasn't long before I was one of the swimmy kids splashing my way through the Red Cross badges. Unfortunately I have always had a hard time accepting that there's a learning curve to every new thing I try.

The mosst recent example occurred about a month ago when Pete tried to teach me to drive a standard in an empty mall parking lot. Here's the thing, I don't have six hours to sit around after starting the car to make sure I let the clutch out...ever...so...slowly...and...gently...so as not to piss it off and lurch at me. I have places to go! So after half an hour of stalling repeatedly (and failing to get out of first gear) I decide that people who drive stick are all jerks and car manufacturers shouldn't even be making these barbaric pieces of shit anymore. I give up because I can't do it like an expert on the first try.

I know the key is learning to embrace the suckage, to accept that not everyone can be a rock star at every.single.thing. on the first go, and to figure out how to enjoy the process of improving. I just don't know how to deal with being so bad at things like driving stick...and baking bread...and painting pictures. It's too bad adults no longer get spelling tests.

This post was inspired by Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop. Hop on over to her blog to see other posts from this week's writing prompts!

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  1. Loving the story - I can totally relate! I was never a great swimmer. I took swimming lessons as a kid, and regularly went to the pool - but completely sucked at swimming! Still to this day (I'm now 26), I'm not a confident swimmer. I finally gave up on "swimming" the last time I went to the beach, which was also the first time I swam in the ocean (age 21). I was picked off by a monstrous wave and washed ashore like a dead fish, my bikini hanging off everywhere. Right then I knew - swimming was just not my thing.

    P.S. Stopping in from Mama Kat's Blog! I enjoy your writing style, so i'm now your newest follower!

  2. I do love this story, because I have the same tendencies - I want to be able to pwn at everything on the first try, and I hate NOT being able to. It's great that you're recognising this tendency though and learning to embrace the suckage with determination of getting to the other side :)

  3. This is a great piece! I too had almost drowned myself stupid in elementary school after thinking I could win a swimming competition - in a lake! :D

  4. I'm with you! If spelling could get you through life's hurdles, I would be so much further ahead!!