Better late than on the sidelines
I learned to play tennis four years ago when I was 36. I’d wanted to play since I was a kid, but I was too scared to pick up a racquet. I was afraid I’d be bad at it. Which, duh, of course I would because I’d never done it before. But this logic did not occur to me until adulthood.
Instead I watched a lot of tennis and thought about playing, but never did. Then four years ago, I found myself in a new city with the chance to recreate my life from scratch. In my new life, I decided I played tennis.
I signed up for individual lessons because the thought of a class where there would be other people judging my terrible tennis skills was unbearable. It never occurred to me that in a beginners class there would be other...beginners. And that we would likely all be terrible together.
The tennis center paired me with a coach who mostly taught little kids. He was perfect for me because he was gentle, encouraging, and infinitely patient. He was also surprised, because as it turns out, I was a natural.
He couldn’t believe I’d never played before. We moved quickly through the basics and pretty soon I was good enough to join a team. One day as our lesson wound down he looked at me thoughtfully.
“You know,” he said. “You’re good. But if you’d started playing when you were a kid, you’d be really good.”
I think about that every time I’m scared of failing at something I’ve never tried. I try to hold my breath and go for it. Sometimes I’m terrible, but I survive. It’s better than a lifetime of wondering, and missing out on winning Wimbledon.
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