Last Friday, I hit the town with some friends to celebrate someone's birthday. Least you get the wrong impression, by "hitting the town" I really mean "let's go iceskating tonight when the prices are reduced because no one in their right minds goes ice skating on Friday night."
We got there a little early to rent skates and lessons were ending. A bunch of small children, mostly girls, were skating around in miniature skate costumes practicing jumps and spins and extensions that I once did in ballet but would be entirely incapable of performing on an ice arena. A few older women were there, helping to coach the munchkins, and getting in a couple moves of their own.
There were two particular girls who stood out to me as I stood by the side of the rink. The first was a little girl who looked so innocent you just knew she was hiding something. She was, at most, two and a half feet tall - no more than maybe three years old. Bundled up with coats and a hat and a couple scarfs over her pretty skating dress, it looked like, should she fall, she would just bounce softly off the ice. She toddled and teetered around the arena, performing a routine - complete with spins, twinkle toes, and a little pose at the end - led by the other woman who had caught my attention.
This girl looked around my age, and had a very pleasant face. It was soft and amiable, but at the moment I saw her, had an expression of fixed concentration. You see, while she was not helping the toddler, she was practicing her own routine, which the toddler continued to imitate. The older girl was very elegant, moving across the rough ice serenely.
I am a very competitive person. I challenge myself to do things excellently, even if I do not win or gain in any way: It pleases me to be excellent. As I stood watching the munchkins, I started feelign that desire for excellence rising up in me, especially as I watched the toddler and her teacher. I want to be able to skate like that. I'd love to be that elegant and move with such serenity.
Well, the lesson ended, and my friends and I were allowed to step on the ice. It was roughed up by all the spins practiced on it just before, but it didn't matter much because our skates were so dull they could have slipped on anything. I took a turn around the rink, tottering and holding on to the wall. Soon, however, a thing or two about skating came back to me. I'd taken a few lessons when I was younger, and was pretty pleased I could remember it.
As I slid my way around the rink, gaining momentum and a sense of confidence, I had another Big Idea hit me. It crept up from behind and just kind of jumped me, with no prior warning.
It's okay to be an amateur.
I'd like to point out that there is a small rebel inside of me sitting in a corner and shooting nasty glares at me as I type.
I wanna be perfect! I wanna do it right! I'm going to be amazing at everything I do even if it kills me. SO THERE! Just see if I have a life! I'm going to be flawless!
I have one thing to say to myself: Shut up. Think about it for a second.
Ice-skating is most fun when it's accompanied with plenty of friends, a couple spills, and all the weak-ankled, wobbling that comes with not knowing how to do it. It's a romantic activity to be done with your significant other, it's a signature of winter, and if done correctly, it's good fun.
Do you think an Olympic figure skater ever goes wibbling and wobbling around a public rink with some friends, racing and trying to skate backwards, before retiring to the side for hot chocolate and Hot Pockets? One word: NOTACHANCE. (That's one word. There are no spaces).
Do you think a concert pianist ever sits down with some friends, fumbles around on the keys, plays something that unexpectedly sounds good (with no application of years of music theory and experience), and then have everyone chime in on their instruments and have a good, old fashioned, not-always-sounding-good, jam session? Unlikely.
Do you think a clothing designer ever goes into a thrift store, picks all the ugliest clothes off the rack, and then has fun laughing with friends at the ridiculous combonations. Probably not.
My point is, while it is admirable, even best to strive for excellence and mastery in areas you're interested in, there is nothing wrong with not perfecting everything. Goals; yes. Obssession for perfection: no.