Being a Beginner

            You cannot know something you’ve never been taught.

            This may seem logical, but in practice, we often beat ourselves up about it. Being naive or uninformed as a child is normal. But for some reason, we feel we should know everything when we reach adulthood. There’s a pressure to be competent at everything we attempt.

            If someone never learned to ride a bike as a child, it would be pretty unrealistic to expect them to be able to as an adult. And yet, that is how many aspects of our lives are. All life skills, from the most fundamental and mundane to the most complex, have to be learned. Even prodigies require some level of teaching to become accomplished.

            So why do we so often criticize ourselves for our inexperience?

            It’s okay to give yourself a break.

            We can’t control other people’s reactions. But please, let yourself off the hook. If you struggle with a new task, skill, or job, it’s okay.

            Learning something new is a great opportunity, as long as you allow yourself to be a novice. Time will grow your skills. One day, you will be an expert if you stick with it. In the meantime, you can do the best that you are capable of doing.

            I am not the best writer, but I’m better than I was initially. And I am always learning new things. Each new idea is more developed. Every project has a bit more polish. But, when I began to write—as a tender, middle-school student—I had no idea what I was doing.

            Occasionally, I read those early works of mine to remind myself how far I’ve come. Those stories were chaotic, messy, hopeful, confused, innocent, and flat-out terrible. But, all are me. I am where I am because of where I’ve been. I don’t resent the child who dreamed she would pen a bestseller before she graduated high school and cried when people pointed out grammatical errors. She was admittedly deluding herself, but only because she was a beginner.

            I am still in the early stages of following my writing dreams, but because I have perspective, I can forgive myself for the areas where I still struggle. Being new to something means being incompetent and making mistakes. It’s from that point that we grow.

            It’s never too late to be a newcomer to something. Don’t be ashamed of being a fledgling. Everyone has to start at the beginning. So, even if your beginning is later in life than some, there’s nothing disgraceful about that. You don’t have to be perfect to do your best. You’re never too old to kick off something new.

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