“It feels weird being a beginner as a 25-year-old.”
I smiled and asked, “Isn’t it great?”
This conversation took place as my wife and I tried on rock climbing shoes after becoming members at our local climbing gym. I have very minor climbing experience—the classic, “one time in college, I…”—while my wife has none. We are beginners in the fullest sense.
Being a beginner is a neutral state of being. It simply indicates two things: You haven’t done something before and you’ve decided to do it for the first time.
If those two things are present, you, my friend, are a beginner.
Being a beginner is neither good nor bad. However, our reaction to being in such a state can be. The default response to trying something new—or even thinking about trying something new—is to look for immediate points for comparison. Most of the time it all boils down to one self-defeating question, What can they do that I can’t?
Sorry, I’m not going to sugarcoat this one. Advice on getting over your anxiety about new beginnings is given ad nauseum, and it’s not worth my time or yours to spend an entire article sharing anecdotes and words of encouragement to make you feel “ok” about not starting.
This breaks from the empathetic view I normally carry, but it’s a break I must make. If I share in your misery, show you how I escaped my own, and you walk away with hopefulness for a new future, all I’ve given you is yet another point for comparison. You might associate with it more positively than most, but in a few hours, days, or weeks, you’ll see my path as unattainable and unrelated to your experience.
Guess what? You’ll be exactly right.
In every moment, you get to choose the story you tell yourself before, during, and after it’s over.
You have the ability to fully understand your truth. Nobody can understand it for you and nobody can tell you it’s wrong. Hang with me, here. I don’t want you getting caught in the trap of thinking “truth” is synonymous with “fact.”
You went to kindergarten is a fact. You being the brightest kid in your kindergarten class is a truth your mother or father subscribed to. Nobody can tell your mother she’s wrong. They could attempt to argue in defense of a different truth (i.e. their child being the brightest), but nothing could be unquestionably proven by either side. Not even those all powerful IQ test scores could win the debate.
Back to present-day you.
With each passing day, your story (what I synonymize with “truth”) grows a little bit longer, diverts a little further away from everyone else’s storyline, and at times makes you wonder “where in the world is all this going?”
Here’s the secret the world has been hiding from you: You get to choose.
You get to choose whether or not your burnt toast means you will never be a chef. You get to choose whether or not your college degree means you have to work in the same industry the rest of your life. You get to choose whether or not writing one hundred nonsensical words that you worked on for hours means you’ll never be a writer.
Remember, your truth is not an objective set of facts that cannot be altered. It is a subjective story you use to relate to the world around you and the thoughts and feelings happening within you.
Your mother or father chose to believe you were the brightest kid in kindergarten because it gave them every reason to continue raising you to the best of their ability. If they said, “this kid is dumb as hell,” you would have had a hellish childhood.
In every moment, you get to choose the story you tell yourself before, during, and after it’s over. It’s quite possibly the most significant superpower you will ever wield and you get to wield it every single day. It’s why you try, give up, and find yourself trying again ten years later.
What changed over the course of that decade? Nothing but the story you told yourself.
The more often you wield your power of choice, the less time you’ll waste thinking about doing something instead of actually doing it.
My wife was following a handletterer on Instagram who just opened her own rock climbing gym, and she thought, “I’d like to try that,” so she did. She didn’t come up with a complex story listing out all the reasons why she shouldn’t do it. Instead, she came up with a story shorter than this sentence: “I’d like to try that. The end.”
Featured Image via Unsplash