Why You Should Be Bad at Things

Thanks to my yelp and the sound of mud sucking half of my body into the puddle, I had the attention of the rest of girls in the biker gang.  Really, all I could do was laugh after the shock of toppling over, if just to reassure the girls I hadn’t injured anything but my pride.

Still clipped into my mountain bike, I had the pleasure of trying to dig myself out of a mud puddle, which was surely half cow-paddy.  I had attempted to cross a small foot bridge many would have easily ridden over with no problem—the rest of the girls had, and they were sitting at the top of the hill ahead of me, looking down.

As I attempted to raise my front tire onto the lip of the bridge, I spooked myself and overanalyzed what I was doing, staring hard at my front tire as it made contact with the bridge—and then promptly wiggled off it.  I fell comically sideways in slow motion, landing perfectly attached to my bike, stuck left-side down in the thick mud the bridge was built for us bikers to avoid.  From chin to toes, I was covered in thick slim, like some unfinished lab experiment with my smile intact.

These things happen to me a lot.  

As a young-gun, I was the one playing soccer during recess, spending hours on the trampoline doing any number of crazy stunts, and swimming competitively.  I was pretty athletic from the start, playing, laughing, and running during all my free time.  

I kinda thought that childhood athleticism would just magically translate into my adult life.  But then it didn’t.

I realized as I started taking outdoor recreation seriously, that as children we tend to be fearless creatures.  Confident in our own shaky ability, not yet accustomed to what kind of pain can result from taking risk.  It’s not that my athleticism left me whenever I became an adult (if “adult” has even happened yet, jury is still out).  But rather the pain I’ve experienced, physically and emotionally, has stacked up and made me rigid.

I’ve lost trust in my body.  The same body that took me to the top of the tallest light pole in our park as a kid, my bare feet sticking to the metal.  The same body that did innumerable front flips and back flips on the trampoline in my best friends yard.

This fear makes me calculate and question my movements, so instead of doing things fluidly, I have become inflexible, which doesn’t play well in outdoor sports.  From mountain biking, to snowboarding, your success depends on your bodies’ ability to quickly react to sudden impacts.  When you’re rigid with fear, you don’t react quickly, over think transitions, and end up eating shit.

I’ve always felt a certain shame for trying to do things like mountain biking or snowboarding, feeling more or less like an impostor.  I hate doing things I don’t pick up immediately.  I was so accustomed to being good at things as a kid, that now as a prideful adult, if I’m bad at something, I just don’t do it.

But that’s a really boring and shitty way to live.  I’ve got this terrible itch, an insatiable desire to experience all the exciting and breathtaking things this world has to offer.  Sitting around doing nothing makes me a crazy person (ask my husband). 

Living your life and experiencing the thrills the world has to offer is two-sided.  It teaches you to trust your body again, the same body you trusted without doubt a as a child.  

Indeed, as you get older, you figure out what not to do.  And if we don’t learn from those mistakes, we’ll surely feel the same pain again.  But letting fear dictate your life is about as productive as whallering in a mud puddle.  

Fear makes your body rigid.  It tenses your muscles in awkward ways.  It makes you stare at every rock or bridge gap in your path.   Which ultimately means you’re going to hit every.fucking.rock.  

Fear is exhausting, it sucks the wind out of you, steals your gumption and plops you down on the couch, flicking through Instagram at everyone else doing the things you wish for.  You long for that life, unaware you can have it.

We forget that those awesome outdoor athletes have also been covered in muddy-cow shit, with bloodied bodies.  

We forget they started some place.

Doing things that you’re excited about, even if you’re terrible at it at the start, forces you to be a better human.  Flip the bird to pride.

I dare you to be really terrible at something, especially if it scratches that itch for adventure.

Because being really bad at something forces you to be really good at something else: being a perfectly flawed human being. 

Which builds character.  And character is good.  So go get ‘em, cupcake, I’ll save you a spot in the mud puddle.

© Cayla Vidmar December 17, 2015