Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summer hike

We went "letterboxing" yesterday.

Only trouble is, although we found the location we were looking for- a very clever spot, in a hollow underneath the end of a fallen log- whatever was supposed to be there for us to find wasn't there. Disappointing. It was our first attempt, and now, we're not so excited about trekking off into the wild unknown to look for a hidden... nothing.

Still love the hiking part, though.

Saw this guy move, or I never would have seen him at all.

And then this guy... hard to figure out how to describe him, standing there watching over the forest.

Letting go

Stress is a bitch.

Life is full of stress.

Stuff going on in my life right now that's hard to reconcile. Things I need that I don't have, things I want that I can't have, and things I don't want that I have no way to avoid.

I feel like a shark, that if I stop swimming, I'll die.

:::conjuring up my best Michael-Phelpsian image of myself:::

The question is, how much of this is self-imposed, or self-inflicted?

It's not that I'm making up things to be stressed about. No need for that.
And it isn't that I'm stressing about things that don't matter.

But sometimes, I think there is a strong tendency- for myself, and for others- to hang onto things long past when they should be let go.

And that "letting go" process doesn't always work very efficiently.

For one thing, you've only "let go" of something when you actually do the letting go part.

If you dwell on it, stress about, or otherwise continue to let it have an effect on your life, you didn't let go.
Repeated statements of "I'm done with this," notwithstanding.

When you're over something, it's GONE.

And yet... how often does that really happen?

Sometimes it does.
For example, you meet many, many people in your life, some of whom you connect with in some way. School friends, work friends, acquaintances, really.
Leave your job?
Most people say they will "keep in touch."
Most people don't.

But for most of them, most of the time, they really do move on.
You can tell because of the large numbers of people whom you used to know, that now, you can't even recall their names. You don't think about them. You barely even remember them.

THAT is "letting go."

Contrast that with the nagging things that bother you day in and day out. The heartbreaks. The annoyances. The frustrations.

If there is ANY emotion still attached, you didn't let go.

Maybe that's the key.

Emotion is the glue that keeps you connected to things.

So if you could just not feel anything...

you'd have a serious case of clinical depression.

Not the best solution.

I don't think there is a best solution- hence the millions of therapists out there, trying to help people find ANY solution, let alone the best one.


There are a number of things in my life that I need to let go of. Emotional baggage that drags on me day after day after day. Just when I think I've finally "gotten past it" I realize that thinking about whether I have or not kind of proves that I haven't, really. Not yet.

Oddly, it isn't the "big" things that hang on the hardest.
It's the little ones.

I've often thought my mind was a sieve- maybe the holes are so large they can't filter out the little things?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ego and honor

A wise man once said:
Ego says "Whatever I do is right."
Honor says "Whatever is right, I will do."

Been thinking about honor lately, especially after watching The Kite Runner.
I highly recommend it.

I am frustrated with people who proclaim things as truth, who do not have enough experience or knowledge to be able to legitimately make such claims. Who go only by their own limited viewpoint, refusing to do any research or to evaluate any other information besides that which they have already decided to believe.

Who basically make shit up, and then preach it as gospel.

Truth requires the ability to see OUTSIDE your limited view, to enlarge that view, to take in all available information.

How can you have honor if you make no effort to discern what is right, what is true, but, instead, do whatever you want, whatever is easier or more convenient, and then make up some justification for it?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blood lines

While I'm thinking about school experiences... I have a story to tell. Partly because I know you're reading this, Allen.

I took biology in 10th grade. Liked it, really, although I'm pretty sure the teacher didn't know that. I wasn't, exactly, the best student she had ever had. Didn't always pay attention in class. Had what I'm sure now was a really, really annoying habit of writing song lyrics in the margins of the tests while I was waiting for the rest of the class to finish the exam. I got decent grades in the class- I always got good grades, school wasn't difficult for me- but I was, by then, disenchanted with the whole school experience, and, quite frankly, bored. I didn't cause trouble, but I'm sure I was one of the forgettable students, who didn't "work up to potential."

For what it's worth, she was one of those teachers who seemed tired of the job, who was what I felt was unnecessarily strict in class with rules for the sake of showing who was boss, who didn't seem to like the students, and I didn't understand why she was even there. Until one day when I had to stay after school, and, in that environment, with just a few students, rather than an entire room, her love for the subject came through, and I had a completely different opinion of her from that point on. Too bad that happened in May, rather than in September.


One of the things we had to do in that class was blood typing.
Someone had the brilliant idea to do something that would never, ever, happen in a public school now.

We were expected to type our own blood. Lancets were handed out, and glass slides, and such, and we were told to get a blood sample.

No way.
NOT happening.
There was no way in hell that I was going to STAB MYSELF to get a blood sample for a freakin' biology class.
I was of the firm belief that my blood belonged inside my body, thank you very much.

While most of the boys in the class were jabbing themselves repeatedly and making little blood fountains come out of their fingers, I steadfastly refused.

After a brief period of... difficulty... the student teacher in the class volunteered to let me type his blood instead, provided that I get the right answer.

Fast forward a few years.
Okay, quite a few years.

I have told this story more than once over the years, to a variety of different audiences.

One day, during a break in one of the fencing classes I taught, the subject came up about my knowing many of the teachers in the school district because not only had I grown up here, but my mother worked in the schools for many years. One of the students in the class, a man who had fenced off and on for several years, and whose children also took classes, mentioned that he had been a student teacher at the high school years ago.

Oh? I hadn't known that. What subject?

Wait for it.


And yeah. No kidding. He was that very same student teacher who had offered his blood to me.
Small world.

Very small.

For what it's worth, the high school no longer has students do this exercise, and it stopped not because of the HIV scare. I heard that they stopped when there was a controversy when a student typed his blood and came up with a blood type that was not possible for a child of his parents...

Fast forward a couple of years again, to a few weeks ago, when I was in the lab class where we were taught to start IVs.

We were told that we could practice on each other. The one condition was that in order to practice on someone, I had to allow someone to practice on me.

No refusal this time.
At all.
We had a great time.

It wasn't ever about the blood, or about the needle. It was about being told I HAD to do something with my body that no one had the right to tell me I had to do.

And Allen? I owe you one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lasting impressions

When I was six years old, I lived in Tifton, Georgia, in a house with a driveway lined with hibiscus. There are pictures- slides, really- of me on a warm sunny day, standing in that driveway, dressed in a little blue and white sailor suit, holding a book bag, all ready for my first day of school.

I remember that day.
Part of it, anyway.

I had looked forward to going to school for a long time. I had been in a nursery school before then, at Mrs. Seller's place, since I was three years old. My mother didn't live with us, so I had to have somewhere to be during the day. The past year, I had been the oldest kid there, and although being the most experienced certainly had its advantages, I was more than ready to trade that in and go to a "real" school.

We had bought my school supplies, according to a list we were given. Things I did not ordinarily have at home, since we were of modest means. They included a brand new box of crayola crayons. All of my very own. Sixty-four colors. With the sharpener in the box.

To make a long story short, I found out at the end of that first day that I would not be allowed to take my crayons home with me. They had to stay in my desk.

I was devastated.

And I don't remember every using them in school, all year.
I don't remember any other specifics about first grade, either.

When I was seven, we moved to upstate New York. In April, leaving warm spring weather to come to the cold, wet and gray. I first saw snow a few days after we arrived. It was during recess at school, and I was excited to be going outside, after having seen the flakes out the window of the classroom.

This new school was very different from what I was used to. A big old stone building, and very strict teachers, none of whom seemed to be able to understand much of what I said. Whenever the teacher left the room, the students would all misbehave and even cheat- something I had never seen before.

What I didn't know, that no one bothered to tell me, was that there was a rule in this school that children who talked in the halls had to leave their coat on the back of their chair for a week. So on about my third day there, in my excitement, I said something in the hallway about the snow.

I was forced to go outside with no coat on- the first time I had ever been in freezing temperatures in my life. And then, to go home without my coat, as well, and I had no other coat to wear.

This memory is one of only two that I have of school that year. (The other has to do with valentine's day, and I probably don't need to describe that one; it's very common.)

These two incidents are minor in the grand scheme of things, for sure. Crayons and a bit of cold are not worth worrying about. Certainly not worth the feelings I had at the time they happened, when looked at from the perspective of an adult.

My point is that when they happened, I was NOT an adult. I was a young, naive child.

It is the intensity of an event that carves out the deepest memories.
What qualifies as "intense" varies based on many different things. Age, experience, apprehension level, personality, and context, among others.

I try to remember every time I meet a new group of students that what is routine for me, is brand spanking new for them, that they walk in not knowing what to expect. And whether they are eight, or eighteen, or any other age, I want them to leave my class having learned something, not having had such a negative experience that they will never be able to forget it- or remember much else.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The second test

Some weeks after that first "test," I stumbled through my second. Almost literally.

It was a simple thing, really.

We do some exercises in class in a line. Then we do some with partners, in two lines, facing each other.

I know this.
I had done this, many times, as a student.

But this one day, in the middle of class, he asked me to have the class form ranks for the partner exercises, and for the life of me, I could not remember what to SAY to get them to do that.

"Okay, now you guys over here, come over this way and then you guys go over there and then turn around, no, not all of you, just this group, and spread out and..." was not going to cut it.

Funny how you can hear commands given over and over, and know how to respond to them appropriately, but not really be conscious of what they ARE before they happen.

Saw this same thing happen to someone on the show "The Academy," the reality show that is about training to be a deputy sheriff. Some poor woman, having been in training for weeks, was told to give the commands for something, and she blanked.

She got yelled at, embarrassed, and harassed, to the point of tears, all in that stupid, pseudo "military" hogwash of proving who is in charge, and that all the new people are lower than low, as if that's going to improve either morale or performance.

I didn't.

He just stepped in, took the reins, and the class went on. It is possible- even probable- that he and I are the only ones who knew I messed up.

We had a little talk after class.
I started paying more attention to the transitions, both verbal and non-verbal, in the class.

Since then, I have had the pleasure of having a couple of assistants have the same difficulty, and guiding them through it.

The trouble with expanding your comfort zone is that inevitably, something will come along that is way outside the new lines.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The few, the humble

There are a variety of different kinds of people who become EMS providers.

During my EMT-B class, and now my EMT-I class, other training classes I've taken, the calls I've been on and the various ride-alongs I've done, I've met many of the local EMS providers.

Most of them, I have a lot of respect for. Almost all of them, really.

Each person deals with the stress in his or her own way. Far be it from me to declare which ways are appropriate and which are not. As long as the quality of patient care is high, I'm not going to argue.

Some are "trauma junkies," who really prefer the "big" calls, and get easily frustrated with some of the medical calls, and especially some of the times when there isn't really much to do for the patient other than get them to the hospital to "be checked out."

I haven't been doing this long enough for that to frustrate me.
I haven't dealt with call after call from people who really should be seeing their own doctor, but who either don't have the money or don't have the transportation to do that on their own.
I haven't seen enough drug seeking behavior to ever assume that that's what is going on.
I haven't had to get out of bed in the middle of the night in a snow storm enough times to be tired of it yet.

And I haven't seen enough of the really difficult stuff to need to have the same macabre sense of humor that some of these folks seem to have.

As a rule, the EMTs and paramedics in this county are a dedicated bunch of people, some of whom have been doing this for 20-something years. All of whom put themselves out there to help other people, whether paid or volunteer. I have to respect that.

I have found, though, that there are some of the local providers who really love what they do, above and beyond the average. Who have a calling to do this. Folks who are really good with people, who stay calm and in control during a stressful situation, and who communicate genuine caring to every patient, regardless of what the problem is. Who don't seem to get frustrated, whatever the calls they get that day.

Those are the ones I want to be like.

I'm working on it.

I'm about at the point of realizing just how much I don't know and/or can't do. How much I need to remember, and how much I need to practice.
Frustrating, in its way, but a lot better than assuming I know everything.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Begin the Beguine

The fall semester starts soon- students will be moving into their dorms this coming weekend.
This means my teaching schedule will be much busier in a couple of weeks.

This time of year, I'm always reminded of when I first started teaching.

Shortly after I expressed an interest in learning to teach, I was invited by the master to be his assistant in the university PE classes he taught.

When I started, pretty much all I did was lead the warmup. That, and watch him like a hawk.
At the time, I was not yet familiar with all his teaching techniques and stories.

Now, I know his, and have a few of my own.

I used to make lists. Lists of stories. Lists of what was covered in each class. Lists of things I wanted to remember about each topic. Lists of equipment needed for each particular class.

There is a rhythm to how he teaches.
Each class, and each lesson, has a rhythm, a flow.
Each series of classes has a plan.
There is an order underneath it all, a predictable, reliable order.
Almost a ritual, even.

It calms the mind, and focuses everyone on what we're doing. It creates a separation between the rest of the world- "before" and "after"- and "now."

From a student's perspective, everything starts with the warmup.

What I needed to learn is that it starts BEFORE the warmup.

My job, as the assistant, was to be ready for the class before I even got there, so that from the moment I walked into the room, the class would begin. Before I did or said anything- at least anything anyone would consider to BE "anything."

It took me a while to figure this out. Not a long while, but a few classes.

This was because from my perspective, still being a student myself, the class began when the MASTER arrived.

I had to learn to separate myself from the other students. To be an instructor. To command (not demand) respect.

At first, I didn't recognize the need to do this because I arrived with the master, not before him, so it was his presence that the students responded to. We would arrive together, he would greet the class, they would all focus on him, and then he would ask me to begin the warmup.

This routine was repeated in every class, whether it was the college class, or the youth class, or one of our other classes.

At some point- and I don't recall when it was- I was given my first "test."

It was the morning of one of the college classes.
I arrived early, as always, and waited for the master to arrive, so we could walk in together and begin the class.
Only he didn't.
When it was the time he usually arrived, he wasn't there.
It got later.
Closer to the time for the class to start.

Fortunately for me, I hate being late.

So I went into the class alone.
The students, already having been trained, by repetition, in how to begin the class, simply did what they always did. They waited in the usual place, gave the usual greeting, and, when he was still not there at the time the class started, did the warmup I led, no questions asked.

So far, so good.
But what if he doesn't show up at all???

While leading the warmup, I made a plan.
A simple plan, no doubt.
But a plan.
I knew what the class needed to work on that day. Had it on one of my lists, I'm sure.
So if he didn't arrive, I would simply go on with the class after the warmup, as if we planned it that way.
Even though we didn't.

HE did.

This was a test, I learned later, to see what I would do. To see if I would take the initiative. To see if I would simply sit and wait for him to get there, not starting the class, wasting everyone's time.

He arrived, precisely timed, as I ended the warmup. Walked in, took off his shades, and continued the class as if he had been there all along.

I passed this first test.

Not so much, the second one.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

How do you KNOW?

That cricket rescue reminded me of something I want to write about.

My sister is contemplating a career change. Being a very thoughtful, methodical, careful type of person, she has done a significant amount of research into this. She does many things well, even brilliantly, but making quick decisions is not on that list.

She chose a school she wanted to attend, and began the application process. It's a small school, run by two people, one of whom she spoke with, and of whom she formed a positive impression. She was quite excited about the possibility of attending this school and progressing towards her career change goal.

As it happened, she was not accepted to the school. This is a fascinating story in and of itself, that I might write about at another time.

I'm bringing it up now because it is an excellent example of how you can do tons of research, look at all sorts of information, consider things very carefully, and when it comes down to making a decision about what to do, end up being stymied by differences with one person.

If you plan to dedicate your life and your time to studying with someone, how do you KNOW when you've found the right person? How do you evaluate whether you can learn from someone? Even beyond whatever knowledge or skills they have, how do you know when their way of being, of knowing, of teaching, of learning, when their spirit, their soul, is compatible with yours?

When I chose (was chosen?) to study the sword, I based much of that decision on my impression, my perceptions of the fencing master I would be studying with, and what I thought of his ability to teach me what I wanted to know.

The thing is, at the beginning, I didn't know enough about either the sword, or about him, to be able to MAKE a rational decision. So when I first started, I was taking a lot on faith, and, quite frankly, hoping I had made a good choice, and that things would work between us in the intensity of the master/apprentice relationship.

When I first started, I was not alone. There was another student who also expressed the desire to become a teacher. We trained and worked together for quite a while.

The two of us had very, very different experiences.
Some, because we are different people, and came to the situation with different backgrounds, different strengths and weaknesses, and different goals.

But some, because we each had very different communication styles and abilities.

It turned out that she and the master were not a good match for this sort of intensity.

And it turned out that he and I ARE a good match. We work very well together, communicate very similarly, and generally see the world in at least compatible, and usually quite similar, ways.

But how do I know this?

And how did I first come to know it?

There was a moment, a very specific situation that I remember as confirming, in a concrete way, that we were on the same track.

I mentioned it to him today. He didn't remember it- which is part of the point. It was not a big deal, not a memorable event for him. It was simply an expression of who he is. I only recall it because it was the first time I saw it.

It was in the late summer.

In front of his house there is a space he uses to give lessons. It's a rectangular spot, with gravel, large enough for fencing. It is lined by railroad ties (often used as chipmunk highways), and takes up about half of his front yard.

At one end of the space, there is a small raised bed that has been home over the years to a variety of herbs and vegetables. One year there was sweet corn. One year some castor bean plants, something I had never seen before. Very interesting looking.

This particular year, there were several pumpkin plants growing there. The vines had begin to drape down over the edge and grow out into the fencing space about a foot or so.

During my lesson, at one point, as he stepped back, he inadvertently stepped on a small pumpkin tendril.

And then he did something, totally un-selfconsciously, without thinking, as if anyone would do the same thing.

He did exactly what I would have done.

He turned around and apologized to the pumpkin plant. Took a couple of steps forward, and we continued the lesson, as if apologizing, out loud, to plants, was the most normal, natural thing to do.

That I think it IS, is how I knew I had made the right choice.

So far, I think it has worked out pretty well.

Friday, August 15, 2008

quite cricket, actually

The first time I heard it, I wasn't really paying attention.

Then I saw it, and still, didn't really recognize what I was seeing.
But the third time, one of the commentators said something, and I suddenly realized what was going on.

The "bug squad" at the Olympics.
Several times now, a woman with a large net has gone out on the beach volleyball sand court to rescue a cricket and carry it to safety.

Coming from a fencing salle where we regularly stop fencing bouts to rescue ladybugs or spiders, I think that's just fabulous!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Safety Dance

Risk a lot to save a lot.

Risk a little to save a little.
Risk nothing to save nothing.

Words to live by when fighting fire, no question.

But what about other things?

People often talk about the "risk/benefit ratio." As if we can calculate every risk and make a rational decision.

I've been thinking about risk this week, while watching the Olympics.

I love the Olympics.
Some of it, anyway.

I love the concept of people all over the world who train to become the very best at what they do, getting together with other people from all over the world, who do the same thing. Temporarily, at least, a culture of excellence, instead of the usual excuse-making. A place and time where there is not that absurd popular habit of whining and complaining.

In every Olympics I've seen, there have been those moments where an athlete has stepped up and done something unexpected, overcome adversity, and, for a brief shining moment, brought the world's attention to the power of sheer heart.

Mary Lou Retton comes to mind.

A couple of nights ago, in one of the qualifying heats of one of the swim events, there was a young woman who mystified the commentators by swimming her heart out, even though she only needed to place to get into the next round. While they were questioning why on earth she would work so hard, instead of "saving herself" for the finals, she broke the world record.

Gotta love it.

It got me thinking.

People put a lot of thought into that risk/benefit thing. As if the optimal situation would be no risk, all benefit.

I don't think so.

I think that without risk, there is no benefit.

It's about risk. Taking chances. Giving it all you've got. Putting yourself out there.

And yeah.

Going for the Gold.

You can't win if you don't play. If you want something, you have to go get it- ain't no one going to give it to you.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"Safe" may not be the best place to live after all.

A paradox, that.

Emergency services personnel frequently tell each other to "stay safe."
And they mean it.

Perhaps because they, more than anyone, know there's no such thing.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The fluidity and comfort of answers

When I started this blog, I made a list of topics I knew I wanted to write about. On the list is "the fluidity and comfort of answers."

I have no idea what I meant by that.
Too bad, since it sounds like such a great topic.

Most people don't like questions, but they sure love answers. They spend a lot of time wanting to KNOW something, to really know it, no questions, no doubts. (Not necessarily to understand, but that's a different subject...)

When I was very young, I used to envy the Pope because, I thought, he was the one person on the planet who really, truly KNEW whether there is a God, because he had a direct line, so to speak, and could talk directly to God. Everyone else could believe, but they couldn't KNOW. (I know. Lots of people argue with this belief. I don't need to hear those arguments. I was four years old when I had this train of thought, so give it a rest, okay?)

But what if what the Pope knew was that the whole thing about his being able to talk to God was a scam?


Maybe sometimes, it's better not to know.

Like my attic.

I haven't looked in the attic since our house fire. I don't know whether the cleaning company tossed everything that was up there, or whether it's still there, and if so, what condition it is in. A whole lot of smoke went up and out through there, so probably, anything in the way was at least severely smoke damaged.

There was a lot of stuff up there. Old toys- lots of lego, for instance. A box of photographic negatives. Several storage containers of quilting fabric. The hand tooled leather covered "hope chest" that was my high school graduation present.

Nothing I couldn't live without. But some things with sentimental value.

I haven't looked because as long as I DON'T look, I don't KNOW if it has all been destroyed, so in my mind, it can all still be there, undamaged.

Kind of like Schrodinger's Attic.

I have been tempted, but so far, have not given in.

What else don't I want to know?

I don't want to know what certain people really think of me.
I don't want to know what secrets my kids keep from me.
I don't want to know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow...

One of my personal mantras has long been "people who snoop find out things they don't want to know."

Having so much that I don't want to know leaves room for the things I DO want to know.

But even those things, I understand that it might not be possible to know.

Someone asked the master recently if he ever gives a straight answer.
He didn't give her one.

It's true, he rarely does.

And yet...
often, whatever answer he gives, although it may not be possible for me to understand it at the time as a "straight answer," turns out later to have been the simplest, most straightforward, answer it was possible to give. The literal truth, but so masked by my own viewpoint that I couldn't see it.

So much of the "straight" in a "straight answer" has to do with the receiver's perspective.

Like how a line on a map showing the most direct route to somewhere does not always look straight.

I have often been amused by how obvious the answer was, later, when I could see it.

It's a lot like the FedEx logo.
Once you see the arrow between the "E" and the "x" you can never "unsee" it.

Go look.

I dare you.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

'tis a gift

Learning is an interesting thing.

Much has been written about teaching, but not nearly as much about learning.

I don't recall any time spent in any school I've ever gone to that was dedicated to teaching anyone HOW to learn.

If this culture wasn't so messed up, that might be legitimate.
Babies don't need to be taught how to learn. Learning is what they do, totally focused and un-selfconsiously.

Come to think of it, my kids haven't ever needed to be taught how to learn, either.
But then, they've never gone to school, either.

I did.

And although the elementary school I went to from 2nd to 6th grade was an awesome place, indeed, and I started junior high with a somewhat different mindset than average, apparently, somewhere along the way, I picked up some bad habits that I've had to struggle to overcome.

The most obvious one, the one I see all the time, is the "teach to the test" syndrome, where classes are taught only in order to enable the students to pass a test. In return, the students, more often than not, study and regurgitate only what is needed to pass the test, and remember it for about that long. For example, how much do you remember from your high school classes? If you took those final exams right now, today, would you pass them?

Didn't think so.

Since a lot of the stuff taught in those high school classes has relatively little, or sometimes no, real world importance, that's not a huge problem.

But lately, I've seen it in classes where I would hope that the students really want to understand and be able to apply the subject matter. EMT classes, for example. There seems to be about a 50/50 split, from my limited experience, of people who really want to know, and those who needed the certification for one reason or another, but were not particularly interested in the subject. They just wanted to pass.

This is a hazard with any class that has a certification exam. OFTEN, the teaching is geared to that exam. People need to pass it.

It's a scary thought.

The other school-induced learning disability I see often- and I'm not immune- is where people who normally find most subjects to require relatively little effort to "pass," don't usually expend the extra effort required to MASTER the subject. And, when they find themselves up against something that is difficult, they don't have the skills required to be able to meet the challenge. They've never had to work that hard to learn anything before.

This, among other things, is what I find enormously appealing about fencing.

When I first started fencing, I was in that category of people who had not really found anything difficult to learn before. What I didn't realize, and therefore, didn't expect, is that while I was very good at intellectual learning, I had very little practice with physical learning. And understanding how to do something, and being able to actually do it, are two very different things.

In other words, it seriously kicked my butt.

And I loved it.

It forced me to learn how to learn in ways I had never had to experience before.

For one thing, I had to learn to allow myself to have difficulty with something, without giving up. I had to appreciate learning as a process rather than as something that just "happened." Perhaps most difficult of all, I had to learn to accept guidance from someone else, rather than being able to figure it out myself.

I've seen this issue with suddenly finding something difficult manifest in two distinct ways, and I wish I had the time and energy necessary to do a serious study of this. I find it fascinating.

Category one is where I started out. At the very beginning of trying something new, I had trouble. A lot of trouble. Finding this a novel experience, and having it happen right at the start of something, I accepted it as part of this new thing- fencing- and every step I took, every bit of progress I made felt like an accomplishment, which was enormously rewarding. So I stuck with it long after I might have given up, struggled through frustration, and here I am today, still learning.

I have had several students who have also been in this category. They tend to continue for a long time- often until they move away, or for some other reason are unable to continue. Most of them do not just quit, or disappear. They keep in touch after they move away. This is so predictable that I particularly enjoy having students who have tremendous difficulty as beginners.

Category two is less common.
These are the people who DON'T find it difficult at first. Like everything else they've ever tried, it's pretty easy. It might require physical effort, a hard workout, but they pick things up quickly and easily, without the bouts of frustration that seemingly plague the category one people. They progress quickly, and greatly enjoy what they are learning. These are the people that some people might view as "naturals" or gifted in some way. Often, they ARE academically gifted, if you want to call it that.

But then...
eventually, they hit that place where it suddenly isn't easy anymore.
Because they hit it after months or even years of finding fencing easy, they don't understand what has just happened. It sucks the joy right out of them. They are, generally, unable to make the shift to appreciating the difficulty.
And they quit. Abruptly.
It's not "fun" anymore.

I have had several of these students, too.
They do not keep in touch. They disappear.

I would love to see studies done on this phenomenon. I've seen it primarily in the limited area of learning to fence. Is it consistent across other fields of study? I think it might be.

If so, then perhaps being "gifted" is not always such a gift.
Maybe it's better to have to work for things.

I sound like my mother.