The Fear of Being a Beginner

I have joined the gym.

Not a fluffy towel, eight kinds of yoga classes, softly scented changing room gym. Mine is a neon lit, open 24-hours, dirt cheap membership gym. And there are some Very Buff People there.

They are in what my mother would call the Big Kids’ Room. It has Olympic barbells, squat racks, benches for endless pressing. The Very Buff People don’t smile, they grunt, they could throw a dump truck.

I cannot throw a dump truck. I have a hard time opening a jar of applesauce. And I am intimidated by the Very Buff People.

In the locker room, I pep talk myself: I didn’t come here to impress them! I came here to build upper body strength. I came here for me. Yeah, yeah, that’s right. BOOM!

I walk - no, no, I stride like a five-star general into the Big Kids’ Room, and am immediately terrified. I make a prompt retreat to the stretching room.

And I see with neon-lit clarity that I am scared: of not knowing what I’m doing, of looking incompetent, of being a beginner.

So, jelly bean, I tell myself, this is what learning feels like. You’re a little fish out of her water. Be sweet with yourself here; you won’t horsewhip yourself out of fear. But you might love yourself into something more courageous. Something like curiosity, earnestness, deciding that my will to get stronger matters more to me than my fear of looking stupid.

I do some ab work in the stretching room. I stand up. And before I leave, I walk through the Bid Kids’ Room, not like a five-star general, but like me. A beginner who can’t throw a dump truck. But will soon be able to open a jar of applesauce.

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