Earning My Stripes

22 Jul

I am about to tell you something about myself that I have never told anyone. I have only recently admitted it to myself: I hate learning new things!

photo via menlo at flickr

photo via menlo at flickr

Ok, so maybe that isn’t the whole story, because I do make attempts at learning new things quite often, but the thing is, I HATE being bad at anything. I have quite high standards for myself and can lean towards perfectionism. And so sometimes, these little tendencies can keep me from even trying to do or create something new.

I have a memory of my dad teaching me to carry numbers. I was in first grade and it wasn’t something we were learning. But my dad being my dad, he was rather insistent that I learn it. I remember being so frustrated that I just wanted to cry. And honestly, I have several memories like that.

Is it too embarrassing to admit that that is exactly how I feel right now? (Oops, too late! :)) Like I am 7 and cannot get the concept of carrying those numbers (I finally did get it, btw).

I feel like that because of Adobe Illustrator. And Photoshop, I might add. I am taking a class on CS3 right now. My first degree was in graphic design, so should be easy right? Uh, no. I graduated in 2000 and I remember using Pine for email (this was when email was just coming out) and it being a big deal writing some html code that made a solid background change color. Woo-hoo! So these programs have advanced slightly since I last remember using them.

It’s the damn pen tool in Illustrator, specifically! I am doing this exercise from our textbook. It is supposed to look like this:

Here is what mine looks like, so far. And I can’t seem to get it to look anything like the above, because none of my pieces will select so that they go to the back of the other ones, like the ear, probably because I traced them wrong, because I suck at this f*ing pen tool!!! UGH. I just like my stuff to look PERFECT, you know, and this is sooo far from it (not to mention that this image is totally uninspiring, but don’t even get me started on the dumb textbook right now).

Anyway, I hope you don’t mind my little rant. I figured maybe sharing this hideous piece of work might help me just to laugh at it.

I know that I will stick with this, and one day, I will be happily drawing away in Illustrator, thinking of this very moment when I truly sucked at it.

It is humbling not being great at everything (whereever did I get the idea that I could be, or even should be?!?), but obviously a lesson I just need to learn. I was reading something on a blog the other day (I think it was an etsy success story). She said, “We all have to earn our stripes”. Such good advice! I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, as I muddle through these computer programs, as I think about how to improve my etsy store and business. I guess it makes sense that it isn’t all just easy easy peasy! Makes me feel better, just to think about that–maybe some things are supposed to be hard in the beginning!

How about you, do you have any similar experiences? If you’re feeling brave, feel free to share an image or story about one of your “failures”. That’s “failures” in quotes for a reason! You could also call them stepping stones…

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5 Responses to “Earning My Stripes”

  1. Melissa July 22, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    hi liz!
    learning new stuff is frustrating to me too. the learning curve always a hard and uncomfortable place for me to be. i just want to feel like i know what i am doing. i am learning expression web designer instead of the predessor that i know so well… frontpage. you should have seen me at my desk last week. i was ready to just stay in frontpage until the web just passed it by, but by working at it after a week i feel much better. i also realize that part of the fun of developing this new site for me is that i am learning something new… some new stripes. 🙂

  2. lizlangley July 22, 2008 at 6:16 pm #

    exactly…and it feels so good when you look back and see all that you have accomplished!

  3. dish July 22, 2008 at 11:04 pm #

    Precisely why I’ve been putting off learning Swedish! I know I should, I know it will help me acclimate into society, I know it will help relate better to others and show my personality more – not too mention making grocery shopping easier….But jeez, I just want to know it already! Going through the learning process uh, just, well…..sucks…But at the end of the day it’s the journey that makes us stronger, right? *at least that’s what they tell me* Keep up the good work….You will be thankful you did.

  4. lizlangley July 23, 2008 at 8:39 pm #

    thanks for the encouragement! good luck with your swedish. learning a language is up there on the toughness scale, but i’m sure you can do it! especially with living there and being able to practice…

  5. Moira July 24, 2008 at 2:57 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. Your rant made me laugh and want to commiserate with you on so many levels. Keep going the only thing that separates those who do from those who don’t is that they allow themselves to be bad at something.

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