As a child, I was not persistent. Not in the ways that mattered, anyway. I was probably tireless when it came to demanding more bedtime stories/snacks/attention, but when it came to hobbies or pursuits, my tenacity wavered quickly.
I was briefly in the Girls’ Brigade, Brownies and Girls Guides – I tired of all not long after being bought the unfirms (sorry, mum and dad). I pitched such a fit at my first swimming lesson I didn’t make it to the second. I decided I hated the rat-at-at of tap shoes so much that I cried until I was allowed to sit at the side and never returned (oh, how I later regretted that).
I gave up on maths, sciences, languages and playing the guitar. I slouched at the edges of the PE field, better to get in trouble for not trying than for people to laugh at my hand-eye coordination.
At the time, I could’ve given you a handful of reasons justifying each of these decisions, all with some small amount of merit, but the truth was that I recognised that I wasn’t very good at being a Girl Guide or a tap dancer or a hockey player and instead of being inspired to improve, I decided to give up. ‘To concentrate on developing the things I was/might be good at’, I’d justify. Really, I was running away from failure.
I didn’t want people to see me struggle. I thought that if you weren’t good at something right away, there was no pleasure in it. Silly kid. Except, it took me a long time to grow out of it. So silly 20-something who wanted to give up on writing because she realised she wasn’t all that. Silly demoralised graduate who looked at all of the better writers out there and thought it’d be better to give up that really get started.
Luckily for me, lots of wise people patiently explained that persistence and perseverance is actually the name of the game – of nearly every game. There are few true geniuses in the world and plenty of other successful people who get good because they work at it. They try hard, they allow themselves to fail in public and they aren’t ashamed of sharing the process.
Now, those are the kind of people I most want to be like. Rather than wish for the ability to be instantly amazing, I hope for the kind of tenacity that will allow me to stamp down on fears of failure and embarrassment and just keep on going.