When I was 5 the hardest thing I had ever done was convince myself to walk through the backyard at night to open the shed in the dark.
When I was 17 the hardest thing I had ever done was talk my way out of getting arrested for putting a couch on the roof of the lunch shelter at the high school and throwing water balloons across the courtyard.
When I was 20 the hardest thing I had ever done was not fail Japanese.
Then I joined Teach For America and moved to Philadelphia.
In institute I woke up at 5am, took a hot crowded bus for 20 minutes into NE Philly, and stayed there teaching and doing professional development until I returned back to the anxiety ridden dorms where I was overwhelmed with work and usually didn’t get to bed until 2am (that’s about 3 hours of sleep daily for those who struggle with math like me… I used a calculator).
Then I began working at my Middle School. Things have been hectic, disorganized, and exhausting. After only two days I began feeling the wear and tear on my body. My feet ached, my voice was almost gone, I couldn’t think about less than 5 things at any one time. No doubt, everyone assured me, this experience teaching would be the hardest thing I would ever do in my life. And I wholeheartedly believed it… until I went to the gym today.
Now I used to be in shape. In high school I played soccer year round and swam. I remember feeling like I could run forever if I wanted to. Then, in the summer before college, I had knee surgery. For the first half of my freshman year I couldn’t exercise besides physical therapy (which sucks). My physical condition, coupled with the transition meant that my first collegiate year had developed me into a considerably more…. full-bodied young man (the freshman 15 would have been a dream).
Now I’ve gotten somewhat back in shape since that point in my life almost 4 years ago, but I still know that I have a ways to go before I can really consider myself healthy. So, thinking that some cardio would help me decompress and sort my thoughts – after the violent realization that I, all of a sudden, am shouldered with responsibility that a 17 year old trouble maker with a backpack full of water grenades couldn’t even begin to fathom – I decided to go to the gym. And it just so happens, that as I walked into the gym, there was a spinning class beginning.
Perfect! I though. I’ll just hop on a bike a get my heart rate up! Now I don’t know how many of you have ever tried a spinning class, but this was my first time. I didn’t know how the resistance knob worked, I didn’t know what the different positions were, I didn’t have a water bottle or a towel, all I had was some energy and a “can do!” spirit.
3 minutes later I was demoralized. I don’t know how long that class was supposed to go… maybe 50 minutes? An hour and a half? But I knew I wasn’t gonna make it because the instructor, a tall, short haired, immaculately physiqued man with less cloth on his body than the majority of women I see on California Beaches kept looking at me as he barked his semi-encouraging, semi-commanding instructions at the room of lean, spandex-wearing, young and middle aged women… and me.
I lasted 2 songs. And the only reason I lasted that long was because the second song was Enrique Iglesias’s “I Like It.”
As I walked down the long row of barely sweating women (I had ingeniously strategically positioned myself on the side furthest from the door) leaving a trail of sweat and shattered ego behind me I began to think of how unreasonably difficult that experience was. Why would I think it was a good idea to throw myself into a situation where I was responsible for pushing myself as hard and far as I could go using methods I had never learned or even really thought about.
6 minutes is all I lasted. But in those 6 minutes I learned something valuable. Seeing life as a binary structure of successes and failures is stupid. There is no such thing as failure. Only experiments and practice. I tried to ride a stationary bike for however long I was supposed to. It was an experiment. I learned that I can last about 4 minutes (plus or minus Enrique Iglesias) When I go back next time that experiment will turn into practice, and I will try to last for 15 minutes, 5 songs (long enough for Taio Cruz “Dynamite” to hopefully come on). You see I didn’t fail today in the cycling room – I discovered my threshold for spinning. In life things will be hard, somethings you just wont be able to feel comfortable doing right away. The important part is to have the attitude that that’s ok. You have to perceive things in a positive light. And always remember-