The Value of Trying Without Succeeding

ice skating
“You’re a human being, not a human doing,” someone wrote to a graduate I knew. I guess my attempts, even ones that feel like failure, can have some value.

“This is the worst bad idea I’ve ever had,” I texted my parents last week. I had agreed to take my preteen brother to an ice rink to skate with some of our friends from church. Would I skate, too? Sure! No problem, right?

My first step onto the ice confirmed that this would not be as easy as I had expected. Somehow, even with only one less-than-ideal skating experience under my belt, I thought it wouldn’t be “that hard.” The 11-year-old first-time skater flying past me rationalized my assumption. “But she rollerblades,” someone explained. I, unfortunately, do not.

I began to inch my way around the rink, never letting go of the side of the wall, which wasn’t that easy to grip. I glanced at the clock. I have to do this for another hour?

Courage to try new things

Three weeks ago, when I wrote down my goals for this year, I considered setting a goal about trying new things. Since I had decided to limit my goals to a select few, I ended up never writing that one down. Yet here I was, on a sheet of ice wearing shoes with blades.

I had only skated once before, at a friend’s birthday party as a preteen. I remember having a great time and figuring out how to skate fairly well, all things considered, but I don’t remember being knocked down by another skater and, presumably, hitting my head on the ice. My friends told me about it later when it became clear I had no recollection of the event. I’d like to say my current hesitation about skating was due to that incident, but to be honest, I don’t remember enough of it to say for sure. I probably just prefer solid ground.

As I clung to the wall, my friend stopped by to offer some advice. “Just push off,” she said, demonstrating pushing off with one foot and gliding with the other. Not happening, I thought as I gripped the wall a little tighter.

Soon I realized with relief that one of my skates was painfully too tight, so I had an excuse to step off the ice and adjust it. Sitting on that cold bench, I read my mom’s reply to my text. New experiences are good, she teasingly reminded me. “I don’t think clinging to the side counts as experience,” I texted back with a grin, then returned to my slow trek around the ice.

A younger boy yelled for everyone to watch as he demonstrated skating in a really tight circle. Impressive. Then the 11-year-old rollerblader-turned-ice-skater whizzed by me, tapping me on the shoulder. “Tag, no tag-backs!” she shouted, grinning as she skated away. I kept inching along the wall.

I commented to my friend about how well she and her younger siblings skate. “We go every year,” she said, as if an annual trip to the rink was all it took. “But you’re doing really good to be learning at your age.”

Thanks.

Sometimes trying is enough

I came to a stretch of the wall where it was actually a half-wall, creating an easier handrail. I “skated” back and forth, trying to push off and shift my weight from one foot to the other, as I had been instructed. “Are you still ‘it’?” the 11-year-old tagger asked, whizzing by me. I suggested she tag someone else.

An hour after I first stepped onto the ice, I finally completed my lap around the rink. I hadn’t fallen once, but my arms were sore from clinging to the wall. My brother told me later that he fell three times, but by the time we left, he was skating slowly and unassisted into the middle of the rink.

Trying something new doesn’t always have a point. At least not at first glance. No obvious takeaway, providential opportunity, or lifechanging lesson resulted from my afternoon at the ice rink, but sore arm muscles the next day pointed to at least some growth.

“You’re a human being, not a human doing,” someone wrote to a graduate I knew. I guess my attempts, even ones that feel like failure, can have some value. The things I do don’t have to be productive or impressive in order to be a good thing to try, and I don’t have to feel pressure to always have something to show for it.

I can probably think of worse bad ideas I’ve had than going ice skating with friends. Maybe, if they invite me next year, I’ll practice rollerblading first.

Copyright 2021 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Lauren Dunn
Lauren Dunn

Lauren Dunn is a freelance writer who has lived most of her life in Wichita, Kan., but still regularly gets lost when driving around town. She loves stories (especially the good ones), ice cream (chocolate chip cookie dough), and playing the ukulele (but only songs with the three chords she knows). You can read more of her thoughts at her blog, StoriedHope.

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