broken walls and narratives

A not so revolutionary blog about feminism, socialism, activism, travel, nature, life, etc.

Archive for the tag “new year’s resolutions”

140 Resolutions for 2020

140 Resolutions for 2020

H. Bradford

2/9/2020


Last year, I had 100 New Year’s Resolutions.  This may seem like a lot, but, sometimes a person needs to Go Big or Go Home.   In all reality, my New Year’s Resolutions are more of a “wish list” of things I should try to do over the course of a year.  Some resolutions (such as reading 40 books) take more effort than others (send Valentine Days cards or wear more leopard print).  Some of the resolutions are more subjective.  For instance, the fruit of the year is apple.  What does this mean?  Eat more apples?  Learn about apples?  Ideally, these sorts of resolutions are a way to focus on a theme or topic to learn about or experience.  If I add more resolutions next year, I may need a microscope to read all of them!  In any event, here are my 140 New Year’s Resolutions in their lengthy glory.  I wonder how many I will check off from the list?


Resolutions140

100 Resolutions for the New Year

100 Resolutions for the New Year

H. Bradford

1/30/18

I like making New Year’s Resolutions.   In the past few years, I have had about 50 resolutions.  I accomplish about half of them.   And, to be honest, my New Year’s Resolutions tend to be more like a a giant “to do” list.  So, many of the things on the list are things I hope to do over the year.  Another portion of items on the list of resolutions are things to track.  For instance, last year, I tracked the books that I read, birds that I saw, and political events that I attended.   This year, I am going to be even more ambitious and have made a list of 100 New Year’s Resolutions.  (I am a little short of 100 in case I think of anything important to add to the list).  Some of this requires data tracking.  Some is more like a check list.  There is no science behind this.  I don’t expect that it will make me a better person.  Perhaps, it just creates a weird frenzy in my life to check things off or write down data.   But, I think it does shape the year and gives me things to think about or plan.  Here is my 100 Resolutions for 2018!


    1. Travel to Romania and Moldova:  This will be my big trip of the year- in late August.  I will visit a few other countries as well on this trip.

 

  • Take an additional trip:  I am not sure where else I will travel, but I would like to take a mini trip somewhere….

 

 

  • Read 30 Books

 

 

  • Read a Classic Non-fiction (among the 30)

 

 

  • Read a Classic Fiction (among the 30)

 

 

  • Read a socialist feminist book (among the 30)

 

 

  • Continue Ballet Lessons

 

 

  • Attend Yoga Classes

 

 

  • Play Soccer in the Fall or Summer

 

 

  • Take up Fencing Again

 

 

  • Run a 5K

 

 

  • Try Fat Tire Biking

 

 

  • Go to Two New State Parks

 

 

  • Try Paddleboarding

 

 

  • Go Camping Four Times

 

 

  • Go Snowshoeing

 

 

  • Go Skiing

 

 

  • Practice Violin

 

 

  • Study Russian

 

 

  • Study Spanish (so it is easier to travel to Central and South America)

 

 

  • Study Romanian (for my trip)

 

 

  • Find 50 Geocaches

 

 

  • Add 50 New Birds to My Life List

 

 

  • Substitute Teach

 

 

  • Visit the Planetarium

 

 

  • See a Meteor Shower (this did not make my list last year, but was on it the year before)

 

 

  • See the Northern Lights

 

 

  • Create a Painting

 

 

  • Celebrate International Bog Day

 

 

  • Celebrate International Squirrel Day  (I already failed at this goal!)

 

 

  • Write a poem about each book I read this year.

 

 

  • Get a Snowy Owl Tattoo

 

 

  • Get an additional tattoo

 

 

  • Take saunas for self care

 

 

  • Plant a tree

 

 

  • Attend Zumba

 

 

  • Do Polynesian dance with my DVD or in a class

 

 

  • Watch a Classic Film

 

 

  • Plant a Free Garden

 

 

  • Attend 50 Political Events 

 

 

  • Keep a Food Log

 

 

  • Try a Vegan Challenge (1 week?  1 month? Every Monday?)

 

 

  • Really Clean my Room

 

 

  • Donate 2 bags of clothes

 

 

  • Get rid of one tote bin of belongings

 

 

  • Try to survive one month on the USDA food budget challenge

 

 

  • Try to spent Less than 10% of my income on food  (yeah, yeah, I eat out too much…)

 

 

  • Attend the ballet

 

 

  • Attend a musical event

 

 

  • 365 Mile Challenge (hike, bike, swim, kayak, canoe, etc. 365 miles in one year)

 

 

  • Volunteer

 

 

  • Write 50 Blog Posts

 

 

  • Regularly Floss

 

 

  • Reduce Junk Food 1/2

 

 

  • Try a New Activity

 

 

  • Regular Dr. Visit

 

 

  • Regular Dentist Visit

 

 

  • Regular Gyn visit

 

 

  • Save Seeds

 

 

  • Successfully Dehydrate garden produce

 

 

  • Visit a New State

 

 

  • Visit a National Park

 

 

  • Attend an artistic event

 

 

  • Visit the Museum of Russian Art

 

 

  • Finish Book 5

 

 

  • Promote the Christmas Spider tradition

 

 

  • Focus on a Fungi of the Year

 

 

  • Focus on a Butterfly of the Year

 

 

  • Focus on a Spider of the Year: White Lady Spider

 

 

  • Attend a Conference

 

 

  • Hang out with someone new

 

 

  • Hang out with someone old (someone I haven’t spent time with for a while)

 

 

  • Send Valentine’s Day Cards

 

 

  • Focus on a Fern of the Year: Lady Fern

 

 

  • Focus on a Tree of the Year: birches in general?

 

 

  • Learn to Make Jam

 

 

  • Learn to watercolor

 

 

  • Grow in Domestic Violence advocacy

 

 

  • Grow as a patient educator

 

 

  • Try something new each week

 

 

  • Make a travel album

 

 

  • Start buying for x-mas in July

 

 

  • Do something towards teaching re-licensure

 

 

  • Try a new fitness class

 

 

  • Try a new food

 

 

  • Put more money away for retirement

 

 

  • Buy a kantele (this has been on my list for a long time, but I don’t really need any new hobbies…)

 

 

  • Read the news each day (already failed, so perhaps just try to do it more often!)

 

 

  • Try a new restaurant

 

 

  • Create a podcast

 

 

  • Go Shooting

 

 

  • Take a self defense course

 

 

  • Write an article for S.A.

 

 

  • Write something monthly for the Northern Worker

 

 

  • Take vitamins

 

 

  • Study Finnish (I have to many languages on my list, but we can dream…)

 

 

  • Learn to identify 50 birds by their song

 

 

  • TBD

 

 

  • TBD

 

 

  • TBD

 

 


There you go!  I am sure I will fail at some of these resolutions.  Perhaps others will create new patterns in my life.  A few will just continue the trends that I have already started!  Overall, I am always hoping to be a healthier, more knowledgeable, broader, more creative, and more traveled person each year!  I hope that 2018 is a great year.

Image result for 2018

Leaving 2016 Behind…

 

 

Leaving 2016 Behind

H. Bradford 1/19/17

I know that January is almost over, but I was never really able to finish reflecting upon my year.  I’ve been a little busy, or mostly a little sleepy and lethargic.  Things don’t quite feel “closed out.”  I had about 50 New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 and I completed just over half.  Here are the things I completed, the things I sort of completed, and the things I failed to complete.  Really, 2016 was another great year.  I visited southern Africa and the Caribbean and my brother in Texas twice.   I graduated from CSS.  I took up some old hobbies.  I was politically active.  There is little to complain about in my personal life.  2017 will have a lot to live up to.  I don’t even think it is worthwhile to try to make 2017 as good as 2016!  There are good years and there are bad years, but I think 2016 will be remembered as one of the best.  Here are the accomplishments and failures of 2016…


    1. 125 Miles in State Parks/Trails: Completed

 

2016 was the 125 year anniversary of the State Park System so there was a challenge to complete 125 miles in the park during the year.  Park users were encouraged to log the miles they spent hiking, biking, and paddling.  I dutifully logged my miles.  I even completed it in early November, logging most of my miles on the Munger Trail in October.  I went on several autumn bike rides.  It was a great way to watch the season unfold, as it was a Friday ritual each week in October.  In the end, I completed the 125 miles, but I actually didn’t submit it to get my sticker and my face on the website.  I took a victory picture and everything.  I guess I forgot about it after the initial victory.  It was New Year’s Eve when I finally remembered, but by then, it was too late.  Oh well, it I really cared about the sticker, I would have submitted it.  The sticker actually caused some anxiety, since I feared that I would lose it.  Perhaps I can reward myself in some other way.

 


2. Visit Four New State Parks: Did Not Fully Complete

I visited three new state parks, though I suppose if I counted states outside of Minnesota or U.S. territories, I would have accomplished the goal.  However, the goal was meant to be Minnesota state parks.  As such, I did not fully meet this goal.  This year, I visited the Hill Annex Mine State Park, Banning State Park, and Scenic State Park.  Hill Annex Mine State Park was pretty cool, since my friends and I went fossil hunting there.  It is an old mine pit that has uncovered cretaceous fossils.  I found several neat fossils during our time spent fossil hunting.  After the fossil hunt, we went on a mine tour, where we learned more about the mine’s history.  Banning State Park was also quite nice, since it has lovely trails that wind along the Kettle River and sandstone cliffs.  One of the trails marks various historical markers from when the park was a sandstone quarry.  Finally, the third park, Scenic State Park, was visited only briefly.  My friends and I spent a few hours there after visiting the Hill Annex Mine park.  The park was more remote and not as well visited as the others.  Since we were exhausted from fossil hunting and the mine tour, the park was not appreciated as much as it could have been.

 

 


3. Go Snowshoeing Four Times:  Did not Fully Complete I went three times.  Fail.


4. Go cross country skiing four times: Did not fully Complete

I only went twice last winter.  Fail.

 


5. Go to Four Musical Events: Did not fully complete I don’t appreciate music enough.  The only concert that I intentionally went to was Russian Christmas, a Christmas concert by the UWS Orchestra.  I had a really fun time.  It took me back to high school band.  All of the music students looked wonderfully dorky.  It made me want to join a community band.  The other music events were Pride, which I was tabling at and a work meeting which happened to be at Little Angie’s while Hannah Rey Dunda was playing.  Yep…so, attending more musical events is something that I need to work on.


6. Read Four Russian Novels: Fail

I read zero Russian novels last year.


7. Take of violin again: Completed Technically I did do this, but I only practiced about six times, mostly in December.  But, I guess this beats the zero times that I practiced the last seven years!


8. Take up Ballet Again: Completed

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I started taking adult ballet lessons back in September.  This was the first time since 2011.  You can read about it here.

https://brokenwallsandnarratives.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/reflections-on-being-the-worst/


9. Study Russian: Completed Again, I technically did this, but not very much.  Again, you can read about it here: https://brokenwallsandnarratives.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/reflections-on-being-the-worst/


10. Do Yoga: Completed

I went to yoga classes twice.  Again, not a stellar performance.


11. Try Four New Hobbies:  Did not fully complete I tried three new hobbies.  One of them, I did pretty well.  The first new hobby was birding, which I think I availed myself at pretty well for my first year trying it.  I recorded 132 species of birds last year.  This is a hobby that I will continue.  You can read about it here: https://brokenwallsandnarratives.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/a-year-of-birding/


The other hobby that I tried was collecting sea glass.  This was a lazier hobby, if anything can be lazier than watching birds.  I collected some glass found along Lake Superior overall several visits.  I imagined doing some kind of craft or making jewelry, but I lost interest in it by the end of summer.


Finally, I started doing crossword puzzles, which is a way to pass time while on a plane or in the last fifteen minutes of my shift at work.  It challenges my brain and offers a mild sense of accomplishment.


12. Go on a Cruise: Completed

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You can read about it here:

https://brokenwallsandnarratives.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/commie-on-a-cruise/


13. Go to Africa: Completed dscf3643 You can read about it here: https://brokenwallsandnarratives.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/an-overview-of-overland-travel/


14. Plan a Trip to Central Asia:  Completed

The travel continues.  This summer I will be traveling to the “stan” countries for another overland trip.


15. Do the Entire Munger Trail:  Fail I have done this before in chunks.  A few summers ago, I did a grueling bike ride between Mooselake and Hinkley and back.  It sucked.  Maybe it is okay to fail at this goal.


16. Go to Four Cultural Events:  Did not Fully Complete

I went to two cultural events.  The first was Anton Trier’s talk at the Duluth Public Library and the second was Juneteenth in Superior.


17. Attend 40 Political Events: Completed patr I blew this goal out of the water, as I attended around 75 political events! You can read about this goal here: https://brokenwallsandnarratives.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/making-socialist-resolutions-an-activists-new-year/


18. Graduate from CSS:

I also blew this out of the water.  I earned my Masters in Teaching and when I added all of the points possible in my classes versus the points that I obtained, I earned 99.33% of the points possible.  So, yes, I lost a few points in a few classes, but I felt pretty proud.  Also, I feel a little sad to be out of school.  I feel that my brain is stagnating.  You can read about it here:

https://brokenwallsandnarratives.wordpress.com/2016/05/21/school-is-out-forever/


19. Watch Twelve Documentaries: Completed I mostly watched a few Netflix series, including Wildest Africa, Wildest Indochina, a few episodes of Cosmos, a documentary about Ireland, and a documentary about Cats.


20. Watch Twelve Classic Movies or Read Twelve Classic Books: Fail

I watched three classic movies.  These included Dracula, the Lady Vanishes, and Out of Africa.  I try to limit my TV time and watch less than four hours of tv or movies a month.  So, unfortunately I don’t get many documentaries or classic movies in during a year.


21. Run 10 Miles: Fail I think that the most that I ran was 6.


22. Identify 10 Butterflies, 10 Ferns, 10 New Wild Flowers, and 10 Trees: Did not Fully Complete

I taught myself to identify 10 new trees and 10 new butterflies, but failed to teach myself to identify any new ferns and only identified five new wild flowers.


23. Try Four New Fruits or Veggies:  Did not fully complete I tried napales, ground cherry, and gem squash.  To be honest, it is a little hard to find a fruit or vegetable that I have not tried yet!


24. Eat at Four New Restaurants: Completed

This may seem like an easy task, but I am a creature of habit.  I often go where the food is familiar as it is easier.  This year, I went to 7W Tap House.  I liked the vegetarian selections, but found the food overly greasy.  I also went to Toasty’s, which is pretty good as I like grilled cheese sandwiches, but also a bit too greasy.  I went to Valentino’s, which I remember being good.  I also went to Azteca twice.  I tried out Bridgeman’s in Duluth, which actually has really good wild rice burgers.  Finally, I did trivia at the Breeze Inn on Halloween and enjoyed the food there.  I did eat at new places when I traveled, but this goal was meant to challenge me to try new local restaurants.


25. Write an article of Socialist Action: Fail Sorry party!


26. Do a travel series for Socialist Action locally: Fail

I thought it would be fun to do a travel series of educational presentations about places I’ve been like North Korea or Chernobyl, but I didn’t end up doing this.


27. Read 20 Books: Completed

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I had a low reading goal and ended up reading 24 books. You can read about it here: https://brokenwallsandnarratives.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/a-year-of-books/


28. Begin my Life Birding List: Completed

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29. Go to the Dentist: Completed I had been avoiding this for a few years.  Well, no excuses as I have dental insurance now.  I ended up going three times.  Twice for cleanings and once for a filling.


30. Hit a Traveler’s ½ Century: Completed

A traveler’s century means traveling to 100 countries.  This year, I hit 50, hence the ½ century mark.  I believe I am at 55 countries at the moment, depending upon what counts as a “country.”


31. Go to the Planetarium Four times: Completed I went to UMD’s planetarium four times, where I learned about the moons of the solar system, voyager I and II, and the June night sky.


32. See the Northern Lights: Fail

Although I monitored the KP index and went out on several nights with high solar activity, I did not see the northern lights.


33. See a Meteor Shower: Fail Although I attempted to watch the night sky during a few meteor showers over the year, the conditions were too cloudy or simply did not yield enough meteors to feel worthwhile.


34. Take an Art Class:  Fail


35. Volunteer Four Times: Completed

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I volunteered with NYS to make fleece blankets for youth in their programs, though I only made one blanket.  I also volunteered at the Loaves and Fishes Holiday Party for the first time.  The party is an annual event, wherein low income or homeless people in Duluth can enjoy a free holiday meal with music.  It was a really nice event.  I also volunteered to table for the Homeless Bill of Rights at Duluth All Soul’s Night, and tabled for Safe Haven at Pride and Love and Bruises.


36. Go Camping: Completed

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37. Edit Book 1:  Fail I did not do any editing of the books I have written and have not published.


38. Finish Book 5: Fail


39. Play Soccer: Completed You can read about it here: https://brokenwallsandnarratives.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/reflections-on-being-the-worst/


40. Go to Fencing Four Times: Fail

My legs and saggy butt could really use some fencing.  Alas, I didn’t even attend once!


42. Get an Archaeopteryx Tattoo: Completed dscf4255


43. Write 25 Blog Posts: Completed

I actually wrote 50 Blog posts in 2016!


44. Go to an artistic event: Completed I went to an art show at the Red Herring Lounge about Duluth Labor History.  So, as you can see, I can really grow in my appreciation of art.


45. Write a Poem: Completed

I wrote a few poems.  I can’t say I am a great poet, but hey, at least I tried!


46. Study Korean: Completed I didn’t quantify this goal.  So, let’s say I studied Korean, but not very much.


47. Collect Four Globes: Fail

I decided that collecting globes would be fun and educational.  I did not buy any antique globes, putting my collection at zero.


48. Attend Two Performing Arts Events: Completed I went to see the Nutcracker and Dracula ballets.  I also went to the Vagina Monologues, which I would also count.


49. Try Four New Activities: Completed

This differs from the goal of four new hobbies, as it is meant to be something that may or may not be repeated in the future.  My four new activities were searching for fossils, a helicopter ride, a helmet dive, and collecting sea glass.  I double counted collecting sea glass, so perhaps this is cheating.  The helicopter ride was exhilarating though slightly dizzying.  The helmet dive was uncomfortable, disorienting, and a little terrifying.  Collecting sea glass and fossils were both pretty tame activities, as one can imagine.

 


50. Attend Four New Social Events: Completed

I tried out a few new social events, such as Books and Beer, where people get together to read and drink at the Red Herring Lounge.  I don’t drink, but I like books, so, it was pretty cool.  I also attended my first “Nerd Nite.”  Socialist Action launched a new social event called Socialism and a Slice at Pizza Luce.  I also attended a meeting for the Society of Creative Anachronism, which was pretty fun, but I don’t have time to devote to it at the moment.  Other social events included trivia at Pizza Luce, comedy night, and the Russian table at Sir Ben’s.


51. Run a 5K: Completed

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I actually ran two!  I ran the Pride 5k and the Spooktacular 5K in Superior.

 

Reflections on Being the Worst

Reflections on Being the Worst:

by H. Bradford

I had a fair number of New Year’s Resolutions.  Several of them involved taking up some old, neglected hobbies.  A few of them involved trying new hobbies.  Many of my old hobbies went to the wayside while I was in graduate school in Mankato and at St. Scholastica.   While I enjoy these hobbies, I am actually pretty terrible at them.  Thus, I have had to cope with being the worst.  Being the worst is a pretty demoralizing experience.  I suppose this is why most people avoid things they are bad at.  This is the story of me being terrible at several hobbies this year.


Soccer:

I grew up in a small town, so I didn’t play soccer until I was 15.  After my parents divorced, I moved to a larger school.  This offered me many opportunities to try out new activities that were unavailable at my rural school.  One of these activities was soccer.  I am not sure why I wanted to play soccer, but I remember joining the team for the two week tryout period in early August.  It was an extremely hot summer that year, so I vividly remember our long practices in 100 degree heat.  Despite the heat, I felt pretty cool.  My mother bought me new cleats and pads.  We were low income, so this meant a lot to me.  I tried really hard and actually made the varsity soccer team.  I think the two coaches probably felt sorry for me or something.  Surely it was a mistake, since whatever hope they placed in me was quickly dashed during my first few games.  After that, I was an all star bench warmer.


As an adult, I learned that Duluth has a recreational soccer league.  Thus, I started playing soccer again in 2009.  I played for about two fall seasons.  At that time, there were six women’s recreational teams.  I was pretty mediocre, but there were many people of varying athletic abilities, so I didn’t feel embarrassed.  I found the experience to be empowering, since it was an example of women of various ages, shapes, and sizes working together and supporting one another.  Rather than feel insecure about my body, playing soccer made me feel strong, fast, or athletic (despite the evidence to the contrary from my actual playing ability).  I think I felt this way since playing involved pushing my body to work harder than normal.  I stopped playing due to time constraints and did not resume the league until this fall.


When I rejoined the league this fall, some things had changed.  Firstly, there were only two teams.  This meant that we played the same team each week.  Secondly, the players were a lot better and a lot less mixed in ability.  The other team seemed to be pretty competitive, which made me feel less like the game was about having fun and supporting each other.  In the context of the rest of the players, I was pretty awful.  I felt embarrassed.  Players complained how out of shape they were.  After all, they hadn’t done any running since their last marathon (a few months ago)!  I also felt an enormous amount of pressure.  I felt that if I was terrible, it let them down.  This caused me some anxiety.  I am not sure if it was even fun.  After each game, I did feel somewhat accomplished.  I felt accomplished because I played the whole game (which is a lot of running…we did not have enough players for subs).  I felt accomplished because I overcame my fear of failure.  I felt accomplished because I only made a few mistakes.   My teammates never made me feel bad or that I had failed them.  They gave me helpful tips and praised me when I hustled or got the ball away from someone.  I felt proud to wear cleats and a uniform, so…I felt accomplished for trying to be an athlete.  I guess this was enough to get me through the season.  I plan on signing up again next fall.

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(Playing soccer with some friends…not sure why Adam is grabbing Carl’s leg and a dog at the same time…)

Ballet:

I started taking adult ballet lessons when I was in my early 20s.  Like soccer, I regretted that because I grew up in a small town, I didn’t have access to a variety of dance classes.  I took tap dance classes in elementary school and was terrible.  But, I decided in my early 20s that I had always wanted to try ballet.  So, I took a class with some older teens.  It was embarrassing, but I liked it well enough.  I did this for a while, but later joined an adult ballet class when I found a studio that offered them.  The adult ballet classes that I tried were always pretty simple.  We spent most of the time learning basics, focusing on conditioning, and doing barre work.  There was no expectation that anyone would be that great at the classes, since we were all adults doing ballet for fitness and fun.  I liked these classes since they helped with my posture (I have a crooked spine) and they made me feel graceful.  I stopped taking adult ballet classes in about 2011 when I moved to Mankato for graduate school.


One of my goals this year was to try ballet again.  I started in September.  The studio that I attended back in 2011 no longer offered adult classes.  They had adult/teen hybrid classes.  Oh well.  I have found that this class was different.  For one, it is pretty mortifying doing ballet with teens (there are two other adults in the class, but the rest are teens).  These teens have been doing dance for a long time, so they are not novices.  Secondly, this class is not focused on barre work and conditioning.  A very large portion of the class entails demonstrating various moves or techniques…one by one…in front of everyone!!  This is a nightmare.  Each week, I dread this part of the class.  Each session, I am last in line.  I watch carefully.  I practice while in line.  I can envision the mechanics of the move.  Then…it is my turn and…I inevitably fail miserably.  When the moment comes, I find that my body moves like a bag of sand.  The sand bag is the weight of my embarrassment.


I am going to stay positive.  For one, this class actually will perform in the spring.  In my prior classes, there was never an option for performance.  This would be a unique milestone in my life.  Secondly, because I make a fool of myself each week…I am less concerned about dancing in front of others.  For instance, at a staff x-mas party, we all did a funny dance to show off our individual Christmas sweaters.  Each of the staff were absolutely mortified to dance in front of others (even in the context of a silly contest).  I danced in front of them with zeal.  I even did my silly, clumsy ballet moves.   I just didn’t care.  The same was true when I visited Africa this summer.  We had two opportunities to participate in traditional dances.  In one episode, I was the only person to volunteered to dance.  In the other, I was one of just a handful.  Again, I didn’t feel all that foolish.  People generally fear dancing in front of other people.  So, while I fear dancing in front of others in my class, I find that I am less reserved in other contexts because I have at least some dancing experience.  The truth is, I like dancing.  I might be bad at it, but it can be fun.  Finally, because the class is harder…it will raise the “barre” on my ballet skills.

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(This is me before I left for ballet class.  I am 100% sure that I am the best revolutionary socialist ballerina in my class.)

Violin:

You might notice a trend here.  Once again, in my early 20s I took up the violin.  Once again, this is a hobby I took up because I had always wanted to play.  But, because I grew up in a small town, we didn’t have a symphonic band or opportunity for lessons.  Violin was hard.  I was pretty low income in my early 20s, so I struggled to afford the instrument, the lessons, and the strings I kept breaking.  The monstrous challenge of learning the violin seemed to be a metaphor for the misery of my futile aspirations.  If I had practiced and kept it up all those years, maybe I wouldn’t be half bad.  Instead, I have taken lessons sporadically, learning the violin at a snail’s pace with no real hope of ever being half-way competent at the instrument.   One of my New Year’s resolutions was to once again take up the challenge.  This resolution was forgotten for most of the year.


This month, I have actually put some effort into practicing.  It was painful, but each day, songs start to come together.  I make fewer mistakes.  I don’t have the time or money for lessons, but if I could just practice a few times a week…for even 15 minutes at a time, I think I could progress again.  I have experienced some progress already.  That feels good.  It frustrates me, since I meet so many people who have played violin for decades.  They played in school or in college.  They were first chair.  And me, I play in my own room…to myself…with little musical talent.  It is demoralizing.  I am a shadow of the person I wish I was.  But, I enjoy it.  I enjoy when I can make a sound that approximates something pleasant.  I have made progress over time.


Russian:

One of my biggest fears was going to the Russian table.  The Russian Table meets once a week at Sir Ben’s.  The group gathers to speak in Russian to one another.  Attending the Russian table was on my list of resolutions, but I was too afraid to go.  I knew that it would not go well. I knew I would look like an idiot.


For some background information, I took about two years of Russian while at CSS.  But, my last Russian class was a decade ago.  I was not a star student at Russian.  The A’s that I earned were hard won.  I have not studied Russian at all since then.  I did travel to Eastern Europe and to Ukraine and Belarus, which at least refreshed my memory to Russian (or Slavic languages in general) in recent years.  And, all those years Russian was on my mind like a lost love.  I really do like the language, culture, history, and literature.  But, the longing to learn again has not been greater than my fear of looking like a fool.


Well, I did it.  Last Friday I went to the Russian Table.  I had anxiety.  I had to look at some inspirational websites about overcoming fear in order to go.  But, I went.  And, it was just as bad as I imagined!  I had prepared some things to speak about, but when I brought up my first topic (New Year’s resolutions), no one showed any interest.  I was simply told that it was not a Russian tradition, and the conversation moved on.  Yep.  So I sat there.  I tried to speak.  I picked up some words and a few things here and there.  But the whole thing was a train wreck.  Or, perhaps it was more like a fast moving train that left me behind.  I was left to watch the train in the distance.  A piece of toilet paper fluttered in the wind.  It was stuck to the track by a piece of poop…so unkindly deposited by the train as it hurried away with its more capable passengers.


Okay.  The people who attended were fairly dedicated students.  One woman complained that she was rusty as she had not studied since the three hours she had devoted to her studies a few days ago.  It was like the soccer player who complained how out of shape she was (since running the marathon).  But, the people were supportive.  They offered some resources and told me to return.  They didn’t ridicule me.  They let me listen and explained some words to me.


I have to take this in baby steps.  I do not have three hours to devote to studying Russian.  I could perhaps devote 10 minutes a day or try to learn a few new words each week.  Some people fly.  Some people crawl.  I will crawl.  Perhaps it is good enough just to attend.  Maybe any attempt at all whatsoever makes me better off.  Still, it is hard being the worst.  It is hard being the stupid one.  I think just finding the courage to attend at all is the best I can do for now.

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(This is a photo from my 2006 visit to Russia.  That was the last time that I seriously studied Russian…until attending the Russian Table and trying to study again recently).

Running:

I decided that this year I would run my first 5k.  I’ve been running off and on for about two years.  I don’t run enough to become that great at it, but generally can run a few miles slowly.  I ran the Pride 5k.  I had a lot of fun.  I even wore a costume.  But, I felt sick that day (with a sore throat).  I also got lost on my way back (adding some distance).  As such, it probably comes as no surprise that I was the worst runner!  Hurray for me!


I also ran the Spooktacular 5k in Superior.  I was in the middle in this run (even though I had not run since the Pride 5k a month prior).  That felt pretty good!  Yep, and I haven’t run since.  Oops.  Well, I was too busy bicycling during the rest of the fall.


My goal for next year is to do three 5ks.  I don’t have a time goal, but I would like to beat my previous times.  I will have to get busy again (which means running indoors).  I will probably have to try to be a little more consistent about running if I want to improve.


Unlike the other things on the list, I don’t feel as bad if I can’t run well.  I feel pretty good if I can run a few miles…period.  But, I am sure it would feel better to… not be the last person next year when I run the Pride 5k.

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Conclusion:

It is hard to be terrible at something.  It is demoralizing.  It is embarrassing.  It makes me angry at myself.  I feel upset that I am not the person I wish I was.  In a perfect universe, there is a version of myself who excels at everything she tries.  She is confident and fearless.  Everything looks effortless.  But, that person is not me.  It will never be me.  The person who I am is reminded often of her failings.


I probably won’t be great at Russian, violin, running, ballet, or any number of hobbies that I try.  I can be better than I currently am.  I can learn to savor the small morsels of progress that I make.  I can enjoy these things even if I am not good at them.  In the big picture, I can say that I am more talented than most at doing things that I am bad at.   Certainly, there are things I am good at!  I do have some talents.  But, I do like the challenge of trying new things, even if I fail at them.  I can take pride in running a few miles or playing an entire soccer game.  I can feel proud of stringing some words together in Russian or playing through a song on the violin.  My worst is someone else’s best.  My worst is an accomplishment.  I should be thankful that I have the physical and mental wherewithal to even try these activities.  I am also thankful that I have enough spare time to pursue these activities, even with modest attention.  Many women my age are too busy raising kids, working multiple jobs, caring for others, etc. for hobbies.  Finally, fear limits the possibility of life.  One of my biggest fears is failure.  Hobbies are pretty low stakes.  If I fail at a hobby, my life will not be diminished in any way.  It isn’t like failing a class in school or failing to perform at a job.  Therefore, I don’t have anything to fear since the only consequence of my failure is the blow to my self esteem or the deepening realization that I will never be that fantasy version of myself.  But, I won’t be the fantasy version of myself by NOT trying either.  So, that is how I frame it and survive being the worst.

 

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