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As I said a couple of days ago, I do have to get out more. Out of myself, especially, out of my head. I want, too much, to keep my progress secret, to develop In House, to fulfil that mythology of the Self-Made Man that is so central to our cult of individualism, whether rugged or otherwise. (It’s a damaging myth, especially for the males at whom it is mainly aimed.) When I was in grade 7, my grasp of physics was even less certain than it is now, but here’s the thing. I believed that if I could only get strong enough, I’d be able to grasp the seat of my desk with one hand and the side bar with the other and lift both desk and me off the ground. I really did. At some level, I think I still do. 

When I tried out for the varsity basketball team as a walk-on in my second university year, I was in tremendous physical condition: stairs, weights, long runs, line sprints. I’d had a gym mainly to myself, and my shooting and handling had taken a huge jump. I was only 5’11”, but strong and quick. However, I had never spoken to the coach, had failed to find the best games where the stars and the other wannabes were. When tryouts were on, I suddenly turned into Mr. Team, distributing the ball and not showing off until too late the individual skills I’d worked so hard to hone. In short, I made every mistake in the book, which mostly came down to this: I was trying to lift myself by my own bootstraps. I was too much on my own.

 

So tonight, the Old Dog will be doing something he is not wired to do (the New Routine). As the next step in my year-long quest for mid-life guitar glory (the New Trick), I am going to join a bunch of other beginners at the Ottawa Folklore Centre. Guitar 101. (And with all these days on the Dégas, an el cheapo instrument that my son pulled from the garbage and glued, I’d better be better than anyone else! Absurd Expectations R Us.) But here’s the real point. I’m going to try the easy way. I’m going to learn from experience. Success leaves clues and I think I’ll try to read ‘em. It’s not worth less if I get some help along the way. Try easier for a change…

 

Sheesh. You’d think a teacher and coach would know these things for himself. What I have taught, in the main, has been stuff that I do (or did) pretty well. But when I’d encourage kids to work together in mutually challenging, mutually reinforcing groups, or to find someone better than them and follow in their slipstream, I was preaching to the preacher. I still am. Still trying to shed the label I’ve worn so long, even as a team sport athlete: Does Not Play Well With Others.

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