I’m very good at being bad at things.
For many of us, it’s very easy to set up a life so that you don’t have to do things that you are bad at. We pick our professions, our hobbies, our responsibilities, and focus on what we do well. If we’re very lucky, we can outsource the rest.
When I started running as a hobby, I knew that I was never going to get very good. But not only did I enjoy running, I knew it was good for me to do something mildly humiliating a few times a week. I kept taking on new pursuits that made me a novice again: I learned how to cook, I learned how to garden. I was very smug about my willingness to be bad at something; I was proud of my lack of pride.
To not have to publicly struggle very often: This particular privilege of adulthood was on my mind as I looked out over the gathering of 8th graders prepared to be promoted to the high school this past spring. They have to be so brave in learning new things, I thought, while also patting myself on the back a bit for having similar courage.
They were getting ready to leave our middle-school division, but it felt like they had just gotten there. Had it really only been two years? Many of them had changed schools in the years leading up to middle school, too, between COVID changes and the regular upheaval of school life.
As I was struck by the frequency of change in their little lives, I saw plainly that this is another privilege of adulthood: the privilege not to change. Surely, life throws curveballs at all of us and so much is out of our control, but many of us can stay in the same job, live in the same place, and keep the same routines for decades if we choose to.
Doing this, we choose a different version of the security that comes with playing to our strengths. And I chose that security over and over, avoiding anxiety and hard goodbyes by simply staying put. Yes, I was privileged to do this, but the privilege was deceptive because it allowed me to indulge my fears.
Perhaps I could finally see this because I was in the middle of a big change. Just as the boys were preparing to move on, so was I, packing up my classroom and saying my goodbyes as I prepare to go back to school full-time. Soon I will begin studies for a PhD in Theology and Education, where I will surely have many chances to not be good at things (though struggling with something that I am supposed to be good at, like school, will surely prompt different waves of worry and shame).
Steeling myself for this transition was futile. It was hard to say goodbye, I had frequent second thoughts, I wake up in the mornings with the unplaceable uneasiness that hounds me when things are in flux. On one of my last days of work a wise dear colleague told me, “Just keep repeating the mantra ‘change is good.'” Thinking about how change-averse I am, I laughed and told her that I would never ever say that. Maybe “change is hard, but worth it.” Maybe “this change will be good.”