Failure & Learning New Skills

“Be patient Molly. Be patient.” Says my slow pitch softball coach as I walk up to bat.

“Ha, that seems applicable to every scenario in my life.” I said. Don’t we all wish for various forms of instant gratification.

A dream job. World contribution. Recognition. Acceptance letter. Or diploma before coursework.

Some things don’t come easy. We have to wait for them. And not only that, when the opportunity comes, attack appropriately. These methods take patience and perseverance to acquire a skillset worth releasing in the world.

For the past few weeks, my batting average has been low. I had been out of the game entirely while I lived in Washington. I had lost sight of what Molly used to take pleasure in doing.

I’d get in my batter’s stance, lean back, line up my knuckles and raise the bat behind my head. When the ball lobbed my way, I’d hack it down early. The ball would lose all power and dribble to someone in the infield. I’d get out even though I’d zip to first screaming, “Jesus Christ!” Like a masochistic maniac.

I had forgotten how to wait.

I was also years out of practice. It is frustrating to know that we were once a well-oiled machine, only to find the need for a tune-up.

Shame…Shame….Personal and deserved shame.

But today was different. I picked up a heavier bat. Not intentionally. I think the man who usually brought the lighter one wasn’t there. I heard the words behind me, “Be patient Molly,” and accepted my fate with the closest bat available.

In the batter’s box not only had I suppressed my urge to swing early, the heavier bat inhibited even what I considered a “good wait time.” I made contact with the bright yellow ball in a full “POP!” A satisfying base hit behind second that landed on the lip of grass.

Not everything about performance is within our control. There’s the weather. How we feel that day. And whether or not we came equipped with the right tools. Here we find how unreasonable worrying can be and self-shaming on repeat. Not all variables will ever be entirely accounted for. And we won’t get better if we don’t listen to our coach.

I have been studying for the LSAT, or law school admissions test, a lot lately. I hate it. It’s painful, and not what I would consider “in my wheelhouse.” I’m in the early stages of learning a skillset. I carry shame with many of my wrong answers and poor test scores after substantial life accomplishments.

All the while graduation photos flood my Facebook feed and Rupp arena ceremony traffic prevents me from driving across town in a reasonable amount of time.

I cannot help but be jealous of those who found out sooner than I, what they wanted to do. This I cannot change.

But today, as I got back into the swing of an old talent mid-season, I thought: I don’t try to give myself 40 lashes for poor performance in intramural softball. If I did, I’d ruin the game for everyone. The team thrives on positive reinforcement when a teammate does well, and optimism after each embarrassing goof.

Already this season I have:

  • Tried to catch the ball with my bare hand.
  • Ducked when someone barreled the ball at me too close.
  • Shirked at a line drive near my feet.

All of these I would never do as a well-oiled 17-year-old machine. To regain my skillset, I had to remind my body how to approach these scenarios without fear.

As I scraped the dirt around second base with my cleats today, post error, I shook it off for fear of it affecting the game of the future.

We cannot change the past. We can only learn from our mistakes, be wiser next time we’re up at bat, and if we’re lucky, someone will pass us a good stick.


2 thoughts on “Failure & Learning New Skills

  1. Laura Schwartz says:

    Molly, it’s Bob and Darcy’s friend Laura…enjoying your blog and just wanted to let you know that I didn’t go to law school till I was 30. I think I enjoyed (and got more out of) it than I would have right after college…


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