Tuesday, October 5, 2010

getting thicker skin.

During my two years of Bible school I volunteered myself to embark a courageous venture: to play the piano for classes and church meetings ranging from 100-4000 people in attendance.  My only formal piano training had been for a total of about 2 years, and only as a secondary instrument.  What was I thinking?  Having a hundred or two persons waiting, listening, poised for you to lead them in song is not a situation of a little pressure.  So, initially, of course, I botched it big time.  Once, I began an introduction, butchered it, was mortified, and apparently the best option at the time seemed to be to STOP, yell "I'm sorry!" loud enough for half the classroom to hear, and timidly start again.  And many times after such experiences I would come away promising that I would NEVER play for a meeting again.  Yet, I did.  All two years.  And I gained the necessary confidence and skill.

Here is my point:  My being able to play the piano for large groups of people came at the cost of many cringes on the part of my listeners and accompanimentees, and many bangings of my head against the wall in mortification on my part.  There was no number of hours of practice that I could have put in that would substitute for simply getting over the stomach-wrenching fear of playing in public.  I had to learn by failure.  And my failure affected other people.  That's just the way it went.

The reason for this story is that I believe the same thing is happening again as I learn how to do my new job.  When it comes right down to it, I'm a recent college grad that still hasn't learned how to walk the professional walk and (especially) talk the professional talk.  So every time I get that desperate cringing feeling when I say "yeah" instead of "yes", "just a sec" instead of "one moment", or "can't go" instead of "unable to attend" (all of which I occasionally pessimistically view as a fake, political mask), it has helped me to realize that I have lived through repeated failure before and came out stronger because of it.  Though the aforementioned failures sometimes make other people feel offended or put out or awkward or uncomfortable -- as much as I hate it, unfortunately I believe there may be no other way.  I guess I'm on the oh-so-bumpy road to professionalism.

After giving it even further thought, I realized parts of this principle can also be applied to a much more frivolous, yet also very practical matter: new shoes.  Usually beautiful, rocket-high-heeled new shoes such as this recent purchase:
The following scenario has repeated itself with many a pair of new shoes:
1) buy new, beautiful shoes that I insist to myself are "pretty comfortable".
2) wear for 4-12 hours, feel fabulous for 1-2 hours, then develop blisters and raw wounds from new shoes.
3) I admit the shoes are NOT AT ALL comfortable and wonder why I wasted the money on shoes I will NEVER wear again.
4) two weeks later the blisters and scabs turn to callouses and I am willing to give the beautiful shoes that I am still secretly itching to wear another chance.
5) repeat steps 2 through 4 as many times as necessary.
6) eventually, the shoes again become beautiful, fabulous, and "pretty comfortable" and I wear them completely out.

So, I've been learning every day.  To pick myself up.  Shake off the dust.  Dress the wounds.  Try again.  And hope my skin gets thicker for it.

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