Learning to Fall
I’ve always been a fan of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but there was one hit song that just never connected to me. That was, Learning to Fly. It’s really not an optimistic song at all, pay no attention to that title, my friends.
I’m learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up
Must come down
Must? MUST? Well there goes that happy narrative and more cultural mythology than I care to document. OK, I’ll pick one. And they all lived happily ever after. We guard and protect some of these mythologies quite closely. You can grow up and be anything you want! In elementary school, I said I wanted to be an astronaut. At the time, space launches were a big deal, roll a tv set into the classroom and watch every one. That’s what I wanted!
Then I grew up to find being up top of tall buildings was enough to send my inner gyroscope off. 90 year old William Shatner got a rocket ride, I shall not.
OK maybe baseball, basketball, football? Too short, too slow, too slight. I never made class president, so President of the US seemed a little far fetched. I do think I was a class VP once, which I mostly remember because the girl who was president was at the same camp as me and ordered me to dance at a social. I was at least aware I was outranked and powerless to turn that down .
Yeah we reach and reach, but more often than not fall short to some degree. Often there were people to catch you — parents, teachers, friends. Better luck next time! Maybe next time! It just wasn’t meant to be!
There are big fails and there are little fails but always some fairly banal words of encouragement. I’m more interested in what we tell ourselves, what do we do to pick ourselves up after these things. Literally in the case of say a figure skater, falling at the Olympics! What do we see on tv? They get up, still smiling and keep going. I was always wondering, what is going through their mind to keep going and compartmentalize whatever other emotions were going on?
Really, we probably fail more often than we hit the target. Sure dream, dream big but with that you better have the skills to fall. Then what do you do, how do you handle it? Our lives should never be about participation trophies, real or implied. It is trying and then figuring out, what did I learn to do better?
I think that is the key skill we need, that honest assessment of what happened, some good, some not so good. If you don’t do that, you’re no better than the Coyote trying to catch the Roadrunner. A rock fell on me, a ran into a rock, I fell off a cliff, something blew up on me….. how do I correct this? Maybe stop ordering from Acme, I don’t know.
Basically, good enough is not good enough and if it’s personal or group goals, you have to try, assess and try again. That needs to be engrained in our lives, the idea of the ancient proverb, knocked down 7 times, get up 8. I think we are worse at this now, because we are very much in an immediate gratification culture, I want it, need it, has to happen NOW.
Not so fast. Breath in the day and give yourself the space to think and modify. When I had this thought of playing baseball and messed up, I’d go off and practice, practice, practice. And now when I write, I’ll probably proof and edit this until it matches the voice I want.
Thomas Edison was often quoted about how there were no such things as failures and I like this one in particular.