Being Beyond My Element

As I tore off my February calendar this month and looked at what is coming in March (and ‘admired’ all of the meetings and appointments and trips and things I had conquered), I began thinking about just how routine my life can be: Mondays: Work, practice, grad class; Tuesdays: Work, practice, basketball game; Wednesday: Work, practice, run errands, go to the gym; Thursdays: Work, practice, teach dance; Fridays: Work, practice, basketball game. No matter what the week, there is always something going on. I am really good at creating structure and routine and rigidity in my life, because it is safe and predictable. So, looking at my March calendar, quite emptier than the last month’s, is a little daunting and uncomfortable for me.

Recently, I took up a couple of new hobbies that are far out of my element: skiing and horseback riding. And, through both of these activities, I have made some profound conclusions about life (or at least I tend to think so…).

I started riding horses again with my sister last year. Up until this point, my life was devoted to school and dance, so that never left much room for other hobbies. On our first trail ride together, I got up on the horse and we started trotting along. While I was deep in conversation with my sister, I tried turning the horse to the right and he started backing up. I started freaking out, was about ready to jump off, when my sister told me, “Britany, that is because you are making him go backwards. Loosen the reigns”. Oh yeah. Riding horses has taught me to not only take personal accountability on the horse, but also in life. The horse is trained to listen to me, so when he does something I don’t want him to do, I have to take a step back and think about what I might be doing wrong. This translates in my job as well; if multiple students don’t understand an assignment or write something incorrectly, I have to take personal accountability and think about how I gave directions or explained the assignment could have been a cause for their misunderstanding.

Skiing has taught me to that, at times, it is necessary to live your life fearlessly. As a person who has a tendency to be an over-thinker, getting on the chairlift is a really scary endeavor, because I go through in my head all the possible things that could go wrong: I could wipe out and lose my glove and suffer from hyperthermia the rest of the day; someone could come crashing into me and break my neck and I can’t work for nine months; I could pass out from dehydration on top of the mountain and go tumbling down, etc. But, I have learned that, when you are engaging in these kind of dangerous sports, you have to go fearlessly; you can’t predict all the bad things that could happen and, in fact, if you are too scared, you are probably going to get hurt. So, you have to learn to relax and put yourself out of your element.

I think it is really healthy to put ourselves outside of our elements, because it causes us to learn things about ourselves and the world. This week, my class read a short story called, “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury. I am sure you have never read the story before, but it is about a post-atomic bomb ‘smart house’ that continues it’s everyday routine despite the fact that the people are gone. It sounds an alarm, makes them breakfast, cleans up, opens the garage door, greets them for social time, reads a daily poem before bed, etc. We had a very nice discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of technology: we value technology in our society; it is “the wave of the future”, because it makes us “more progressive”. However, on the same capacity, we rely so heavily on technology that, if something happens to it, we probably could not take care of ourselves. Think about the times that your internet goes out, or you lose your cell phone, or your robo-vacuum clogs. Technology can put us in a monotonous routine, where we walk around like zombies and we don’t ever really take stock of the world, because it is already done for us. Someone else has already thought about that and how to make our lives easier.

One goal I am setting for myself is to continue putting myself out of my element. It is dangerous, yes, and very scary, but I hope very worthwhile.

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