Let’s talk about learning curves. I’ve been dancing and moving on stage in front of other humans for a long time. Like since I was seven. During high school I wasn’t getting cast in any shows, so I started ballroom dancing. At the time, I was living in Las Vegas in a rather hostile home environment, so I just spent most of my time at the studio. I would watch other people’s private lessons while I waited for group class to start. I’d be there most days of the week and eventually I almost became an instructor (that’s a long, grueling, and weird story, so we won’t go there), but ballroom taught me a lot of important things, including how to recognize where I am on a learning curve.

Ballroom Costumes
I was cleaning out my closet and found this gem from the ballroom days. Enjoy.

I bring this up because I’m currently in the middle of an awkward learning stage in pole. I just moved up a level about a month ago and everything went from, “Yes, I can do that. And that. And that. And that too!” to “Shit, this is hard. Fuck! This is hard too! Damn it, I look like an idiot. I could do this last week, what gives????” And that shift (or plummet into Sucking Yet Again) is the mark of my transition into an awkward learning stage.

I always found it funny how my ballroom instructors talked about these natural highs and lows of learning physical activity. There were pictures on handouts. The little illustration showed a series of smooth, roller coaster like hills, with the small dips being the awkward times. Let’s be real, it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like someone pushed all your skills into the fires of Mordor. There is no smooth descent into an awkward stage, no experience that things are slowly ramping up in difficulty. Things just get harder. And if you’re leveling up they’re usually getting harder very quickly.

I try to be patient with myself during stages like this. I know that within a few weeks (it’s already mostly happening) I will feel normal again and I won’t suck at everything anymore. But it’s tough. Patience is a virtue that I struggle with. I’ve taken to telling my friends that I have the patience of a goldfish. It’s true. As a physically skilled individual I have a tendency to get Pure Barre Angry at things when I can’t do them. If you’ve done Pure Barre, you know what I mean and you are probably laughing right now. It’s the sensation that you encounter when you want to perform a physically challenging task, you see other people complete that task, and you can’t do it, despite the fact that you are physically skilled. It’s a motivational anger. It can be all consuming and get a little obsessive. Pure Barre Anger and an awkward learning stage make for a really weird combination and I have to go back to a lot of restorative yoga practice in order to get through. (The restorative yoga really helps).

The point is, awkward stages are meant to happen and they’re part of learning. All things end, including feeling awkward. If you find yourself in an awkward stage my advice is to breathe through it, make a lot of funny faces at yourself in the mirror (or at your friends), and when you fail: Laugh. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? Really. And soon enough you will find yourself at the top of one of those not-so-roller-coaster-like cliffs yet again.

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