Maybe you saw my post last week on joining the color guard of an all-ages drum corps. I’m going to post each week, I think, on my (possibly brief) adventure there. I need a name for this series of posts–something to make them sound funnier and more relevant than they really are. Any thoughts?
Anyhow, last week, two things happened:
1) The drum corps changed its policy. The first week, they explained that they don’t have tryouts. This matched everything on their site about their inclusion policy–if you want to do it and work hard, they WILL find a place for you. You might not be performing the entire show, but you’ll be in there somewhere, doing something. That was the week Young Adult Daughter (aka YAD) and I confessed no color guard experience whatsoever. Last week, the second week, the color guard teachers passed out our calendar, and OH LOOK, there’s now a tryout night. Hmm. I’m sure it’s a complete coincidence that this is apparently the first year they’re actually having auditions.
2) Last week, YAD participated, and she did better than I expected. She hadn’t done the first week because she went to the meeting wearing a skirt (they didn’t tell us that meeting was actually the first night of rehearsal!), so she had sat and texted in the auditorium all night. Didn’t even watch the color guard group work on stuff. YAD has never done anything with choreography. Nothing. She’s not athletic, doesn’t work out–she has lots of great strengths, like humor and song-writing and talking, but these aren’t things that help too much in learning choreography and spinning flags. This sounds awful, I know, but I assumed she’d struggle with the choreography and, you know, make me look better! I know! I’m awful! But there was that little kernel of feeling in me. Now, neither one of us will be on Broadway anytime soon, but YAD did pretty well. We both messed up a lot, don’t get me wrong. But she definitely has a better memory for the choreography than I do. I was all, "Wait a second! Don’t leave me behind here!" I rode a pendulum between being proud of her and feeling a bit let down.
I guess it’s all about assumptions. The guard leaders perhaps assume I will be awful (since I’m a lot older than most of the members)–and I am awfully slow at learning routines. But I’m determined and enthusiastic, and I’m going to work my butt off. And I assumed YAD would do worse than me, but she didn’t. We have different levels of coordination, fitness, timing, and memory. I’m stronger in some areas, and she’s stronger in others.
In the writing world, it’s the same thing. You meet writers who are unpublished, but they might be genius poets who just haven’t found the right publisher yet. Or they might have a novel in their desk drawer that would explode everything you thought you knew about yourself. We look so much for credentials (who have you been published by) that sometimes we overlook the gifts someone has to offer. At conferences, professional writers tend to avoid the newbies like they’re contagious. But we’re all newbies in some area of our life–at least we are if we’re constantly trying new things.
So my color guard experience is reminding me to 1) be nice to newbies (I already am, but this makes me even more determined to be inclusive and welcoming), and 2) when I’m a newbie, enthusiasm and hard work will go a long way.