It was a bright, peaceful Sunday morning. I was off to a writing workshop. Not a lecture, where you can hide in the back-row, or a class where you can avoid eye-contact by copying down every point the presenter is making… but a workshop where you write and share.
A rush of anxiety and nerves made it hard to get out of the car, so I fooled about with my phone, doing that thing where we check for messages and emails we know we don’t have. Arriving in an unfamiliar place and walking in to greet strangers has always been a challenge for me. Even as a seasoned adult, this burn of worry has never quite left me.
This workshop had two other participants. I knew that coming in, which was what made me so nervous. I have great difficulty sharing my work at the best of times. The idea of sharing raw, unedited, awkwardly splayed words with complete strangers was appalling.
Despite my nerves and misgivings, I forced my anxious introverted ass out of the car. I walked up the stairs. I sat. I wrote. I shared.
It was challenging, but it was exactly what I needed. Our worlds remain small unless we stretch them. Stretching takes effort. It causes a pull and a twinge and an ache.
I am an “all in” sort of person. I am not the person who does something half-ass or gives up midway. Whether it’s a project, a diet, a relationship, a job or a lifestyle choice, I hurl myself in, lean way out into the uncomfortable and lock on like a limpet.
This workshop was no exception. From the moment I selected it, I was determined to wring everything I could out of it. It was an investment of time and money… my time and money, both of which are extremely limited at the moment. Why wouldn’t I give it my all?
The workshop came with homework before the event. I did the homework to the letter, giving it my all, even though the homework wasn’t all that useful or comfortable.
The purpose of any learning experience is to add to ourselves, to change and absorb and shift and challenge and bend. We can’t go into something with our arms folded going, nup. Done that before. Don’t like that. Not in the mood.
If we do that we walk out of the experience the same person who walked in. All the fresh shiny new slides off our “nup” and plops onto the floor at our heels.
I trusted the facilitator and I submitted to the process. Not everything felt comfortable or right and, I can tell you now, nothing I produced felt particularly inspired or quality.
For me, it’s not about what comes out of the facilitator’s mouth or off their slides. It’s about what it strokes and sparks and inspires in me. Learning is not their material or their words, but how that wiggles and tickles and settles into me. You can’t absorb new by sitting passively in place, hoping it soaks in. Learning is an active process. Sometimes we agree. Sometimes we disagree. Sometimes it feels comfortable, or confirms something we already know. Sometimes it scrapes and catches and flops about awkwardly, requiring a bit of digesting to process it. It’s ALL useful.
I am glad I heaved my shy, sooky ass out of the car that long, lazy Sunday. I am glad I pushed myself outside my comfort zone and came to that space physically and emotionally ready to submit, lean in, absorb and change.
How fertile is your mind and attitude when it comes to learning?
Do you lean in, or does the shiny and new slide off your ‘nup’?
First published on my website 27 May 2021