The Gift of Practice
Heard recently in the back seat of my car on a trip home from piano lessons:
7-year-old brother to his 9-year-old brother: You're so good at piano, it must be nice to have that gift.
9-year-old: It's not a gift...it's just practice.
7-year-old: Well congratulations on having the gift of practice!
Keeping in mind the natural competitiveness and bickering of two brothers rather close in age, this casual conversation between my sons hit me hard and at just the right time. In my journey of raising humans I've observed both sides of this argument; kids possess natural and unique abilities, and others simply manifest themselves through the act of repetition, or simply put, practice.
What compels a human to take on the challenge of learning a completely new skill and go at it again and again and again until one day it's second nature? That is a gift in itself. It's actually a gift you give yourself in advance, which you don't know what exactly you'll cash in until you've attained some level of confidence or mastery. There's also the idea of choice on what to pursue, or your passions, which makes practice all the more meaningful (enjoying the process). Many peoples' passions have been put on the back burner and replaced with a host of unwanted and scary burdens.
Modern responsibilities like return to office and re-opening of worlds (physical, social and emotional) follow the same line of thinking. Most of us aren't losing the game; I think we're simply out of practice. It's going to take time and drudgery to re-adjust to whatever life becomes. Just like it took practice to manage life through a pandemic.
Back to the boys and context of the conversation. My younger son gave up on piano soon after that car ride. My older son advanced to learning "the pedal" that following week, after five disciplined months of plugging away and building a completely new talent. My younger son plans to tryout for our community's travel baseball league and is throwing a ball and swinging a bat every waking moment.
Me, after 18 months, I'm writing again, because it feels really HARD. I'm developing new creative projects because it's shaking up my work days. I'm doubting myself left and right because the burdens and constraints experienced over the past year linger on in my head and heart. I'm moving because, after everything, we all deserve to give ourselves the gift of practice, for the opportunity to know how it feels to grow again.
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