Getting a taste of "my own medicine"
January has been the month of new experiences and as I've been pushed out of my comfort zone, I've been reminded of a few important lessons
Happy new year, readers!
So far, January has been the month of ✨ self-organized adult summer camp ✨
After a few months of freeform adult gap yearing, I decided it was time for a month with some structure. Every morning, I go to drawing class at the Art Students League from 8:45am-12:30pm. I eat my snack during break time and I try my best to make sure I’m on time each morning despite the fact that class never really starts until 9am at the earliest.
After art class, I come home and usually eat a quick lunch of dinner leftovers. (This has been a huge plus in terms of saving time – no more cooked from scratch lunches. Because of art class, I’ve been forced to have discipline with meal prep and I actually make double the portion at dinner so that there are ready-to-go leftovers for the next day.)
In the afternoons, I try to take a few hours away from my computer to hang out in the city, catch up with friends, and invest time into new hobbies/activities. I have purposefully been letting my computer chores/life admin pile up for the evenings after dinner so that I make the most of the daytime in the city. On Tuesday afternoons, I go to yoga and on Thursdays, I go to Barry’s Bootcamp. I’m considering adding Wednesday ice skating into the mix to round out the adult summer camp schedule.
Being a beginner once again has given me a lot of perspective. Some days I get out of drawing class and all I want to do for a few hours is sit and watch tv because my brain feels so full. On other days, I get out of class and feel like I really stuck the landing on my drawings and I’m ready to go tackle another challenge. I’ve learned to roll with the punches and balance doing new things with easier, familiar activities as well.
All of my different activities have led to different lessons re-learned, and I will caveat that some of them are pretty obvious…but they still felt unfamiliar because it’s been so long since I’ve started fresh in a new domain.
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From my drawing class:
Don’t compare yourself to others. We all draw the same live model but from our respective vantage points. Looking at everyone else’s drawings to compare isn’t productive because we all have our own unique perspectives – literally. Objectively. This means that I have to trust myself and my instincts and solely that.
Speak up and ask questions. I had no idea how things worked the first week in class and I mostly just looked around at what everyone else was doing in order to blend in. This week, some new students joined the class and they asked many of the questions that I’ve been wondering all along. They were met with so much friendliness and help in answering their questions! I should have just asked.
Step back and look at the big picture. Sometimes I get hung up on getting the arm or the calf or just the hand of my drawing perfect and then run out of time on that pose without finishing the rest of the figure. Sometimes I perfect that one body part and then realize the proportions of the whole body were off. I often have to remind myself to stop getting hung up on the details before I have the overall scaffolding done.
From my unbook club:
[This is a new project I’m starting up this month with a few friends in town. We’re going to meet once a month to discuss various pre-determined topics – just like a book club would but without the required reading.]
Don’t be afraid of setting ground rules. I’ve been told I’m too draconian before (not in those exact words, but you get the idea) so I’ve become wary when it comes to putting structure and ground rules in place. However, in the case of my unbook club, I decided to lay some specific rules in place when I invited my friends to join: Regular attendance is strongly encouraged and there are monthly rotations of who “hosts” each discussion. In addition, there’s a monthly coffee chat “requirement,” where each person gets paired up with someone else randomly. The reason behind the rules was that in order to build an effective bond as a group, we need to all invest time and energy into getting to know each other. I made a tradeoff to be specific and demanding because I wanted to deliver a meaningful experience, and I’m hopeful that this pays off.
From ice skating:
Anticipate others’ moves. (Generally be situationally aware.) Like…head on a swivel style. You never know when a beginner skater is going to tumble near you or when a speedy skater is going to whiz past. Check your blindspot before switching courses, etc.
Set yourself up for success with the right gear/equipment. I’ve figured out which skates I like and which places rent those. I know which jacket keeps me warm without overheating and I have a specific pair of gloves I like to wear when skating. Take the time to figure out what works and then stick with it.
Pick the right time and right place. Some of the rinks are overrun with tourists. I’ve tried out a few at different times of day to figure out which ones are emptiest when. I prefer an emptier rink that’s been freshly Zamboni’ed and usually that’s where I skate the most happily.
Selling my storybook:
Have a good story for why you did something. People not only appreciate but love hearing about the why behind projects. This is often what gets them bought in and excited or – at the very least – curious.
Be ready for rejection but don’t let that stop you. I realized that I’ve been reluctant to reach out to store owners about my storybook because of the fear that my book isn’t professional enough or that they won’t be interested. But…I also realized I need to heed the following:
Don’t be afraid to ask. I shared my book with a dozen stores on Monday and haven’t heard back from any yet. I also walked into the gift shop at MoMA and left them my info. It didn’t cost me anything to ask…and maybe if I take my shot enough times, something will stick.
Joining a nonprofit radio station:
[I just started volunteering for my friend’s nonprofit radio station!]
Look for places where there’s a gap in abilities/interest and make myself valuable. I’ve learned a lot about the station over the past few years and noticed a gap in their team’s skillset and interests. I raised my hand and offered to work on marketing for them, and I was met with a lot of excitement as there wasn’t anyone to fill that need.
Take the time to understand the DNA of an organization or a team early on. I’m still figuring this one out by taking the time to get to know everyone, understand what they do, their approaches/style, and how I can be most helpful to them. This way I can figure out how to approach my responsibilities in a way that meshes well with the team and avoids stepping on anyone’s toes.
As I’ve embarked on a more structured month of my adult gap year, I’ve dipped my toes into new hobbies and activities. By being a beginner once again, I’m learning and re-learning lots of valuable lessons that can be applied in many domains in life, whether personal or professional.