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Learning a New Skill

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By Kristin Backert-Evans

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m sure that you heard about the dozens of videos of people learning new skills. From baking bread to juggling to playing an instrument, it seemed like everyone was putting their newfound free time to good use. But if you’re like me, you might have just skipped those videos because you felt guilty for not discovering that you’re secretly a wonderful opera singer or a master jigsaw puzzler. Like a lot of people, I didn’t want to try something new and be bad at it. I mean, there are few worse feelings in the world, right? To try so hard and put in somuch time and effort, but in the end, to just fail. 

It’s a hard mindset to break out of, as I can attest to. This past summer, I embarked upon a magical yet soul-crushing journey: learning how to crochet. My sister-in-law makes great crochet figures, and I was struck with the desire to make myself a Charmander, which is one of my favorite Pokémon. Reader, it was not pretty. Although I grasped how to make a basic stitch, I kept accidentally increasing and decreasing stitches. My pieces would start off straight and then suddenly get wider and narrower at random moments. I’d accidentally rip the yarn into thin pieces and get weird knots in my designs. My husband encouraged me to watch tutorial videos and to remind myself that I was just a beginner. I understood what he was saying — “you’ll get it eventually! You’re still new to this!” — but he was just wrong. Why wasn’t I getting it? Why couldn’t I transform the yarn into the figures in my head? Why was I so terrible?

I hated it.

And yet…I also loved it. It was so relaxing to sit there and create something — even a wonky square — out of yarn. I failed time and time again, but I went back to it. Sure, I’d take several days off because I was convinced that I was the worst crocheter of all time, but after taking time to cool down, I’d pick up my needle again to figure out what I did wrong. Sometimes I could quickly figure it out; sometimes it took a bunch of more failures for me to see what I needed to do differently. I also started looking for patterns more at my level. While I had this vision of crocheting the most adorable Charmander right out of the gate, that may have been a tad unrealistic. I decided to instead shift gears to a small ball because that requires many basic techniques that would allow me to practice perfecting them. It was less exciting, but successfully making a ball increased my confidence and showed me that I’m not all that bad.

Sadly, I’m not a crochet master yet. Am I better than I was five months ago? Absolutely. Do some of my creations still somehow come out looking like blobs? You bet. But I’m sticking with it because it’s something that, despite all of the frustration that it causes, I really enjoy. So if you find yourself wanting to try something new but are afraid of failing, let me be the first to say that you WILL probably fail. You’ll feel angry and upset. You’ll question why you tried in the first place. But failing is a necessary part of learning, and if you stick with it and learn from those failures, you’re going to make progress. I guarantee it.

Erica MechlinskiLearning a New Skill

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