Thursday, March 13, 2008

How Good Was Your First Time?

Maven Lacey KayeThey say what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I say, what doesn't kill us is usually pretty darn funny after you give it enough time.

Where are the good ol' days? I don't think they exist, at least, not as something you can ever go back and define for an entire populace. What makes things interesting are the challenges in life, and those are, in my opinion, the ties that bind -- more than sex (I mean male or female, perv), more than age, more than race or even common background. If you went away to college and you remember it fondly, think back. What made those good ol' days good? (And if they weren't fond, why is that? See my final take-away question.)

One of my clearest I-am-soon-to-be-an-independent-adult milestone memories came the first time I had to register for classes as a freshmen. Alone. As in, not with mommy and daddy at Preview. For some reason, the university didn't send out a bulletin on how to do this. I remember wondering where my tip sheet was (back before I knew the word tip sheet), floundering around trying to navigate the phonebook-sized list of courses myself, and finally, after much hemming and hawing and way, way later than even the "I am a master procrastinator" label allows, giving in and asking my roommate what the holy heck she was doing.

No, we're still not to the actual milestone yet; this was the journey. This was the challenge that later became funny. Mostly just to me, judging by your non-laughing reaction. But that's pretty much my whole point...

The milestone came when I was standing in an enormous wrap-around line waiting to do late registration. I decided to strike up a conversation with the person standing in front of me. I don't have a clue whether this person was male or female. I certainly can't remember what he or she looked like. I just remember that this person, too, was horribly confused as to what was going on, and we were basically three clueless freshmen standing in a line that did, eventually, wind around to getting us registered for classes. Even...the right classes.

Good times.

My aha moment was when I realized I had to reach out and depend on other people if I was going to get past the sheltered timidity of adolescence. I'm thinking about this now because of Maven Darcy and Maven Carrie's fabulous news this week. (If you haven't read it yet, check out the posts below!) Both Mavens have taken a big step up the Live Your Dream ladder & with that added height comes added responsibility. (Not pushing each other off would be a good start.) See, I can no longer advise them as the wise older friend. Not that I can't advise them (as if lack of experience has ever shut me up), but they will have struggles that are best bonded over with people who are in a similar situation. Think about the term "freshman class." It pretty much means "a group of people entering something at the same time who will be newbies together and will one day, after the chaff has been shaken out, be the experts and mentors to a new group of newbies."

Ok, maybe that's not verbatim Webster, but it's close enough.

Anyway, I'm not just thinking about the Mavens and MaveFaves in this. With all this space, why spend it all pondering other people's existence? (And to be sure, we have a really great mix of levels here and we can certainly find someone who's BTDT with nothing more intimidating than a blog post.) Mostly, I've been thinking about me.


At work, I am the newbie in my area. It's a big area, and I tend to forget there are other newbies just like me because they sit so far away. (Internet what?) But last week, at a happy hour (where else?), one of them came up and very discreetly inquired after my well-being. It turns out, she's facing the same challenges I am, and after I confirmed this, she let slip that the other guy is, too. In the time it takes to lift the weight of new responsibility off your shoulders, two people I've almost never talked to in my life suddenly became incredibly meaningful. And suddenly the situation that was causing me so much grief was a hilarious recounting of a "You'll never guess what happened..."

Not too many beers later, I was back to remembering why I took this job in the first place. Just like freshman year. Or if you have children, just like bringing that first baby home from the hospital. Walking out to your car, wondering why on Earth they let you leave with that child, and after suffering a few weeks in silence, realizing your mother/sister/woman who lives 2 houses down you've never spoken to actually has some pretty good advice to share.

What did any of us know about writing before we started this journey? How many of you jumped right into the journey, saying, "I'll figure it out as I go; I have enough experience with starting new things that I know eventually, the answers will come through the connections I make and the research I learn I need to know and the questions I discover I need to ask"?

How many of you said it just like that? :-) And if you didn't, what *did* you think you were going to do? What was your plan? Have you started it? Or are you one of those kids who's afraid to pipe up and ask how the hell you're supposed to figure out how to register for classes if nobody brings the information directly to you? And if you are one of those people, how likely are you to admit it on this blog, I wonder? And did you like striking out on your own for that first intimidating fill-in-the-blank year? But maybe you won't answer that question, either...


Erica Ridley said...

How many of you jumped right into the journey, saying, "I'll figure it out as I go; I have enough experience with starting new things that I know eventually, the answers will come through the connections I make and the research I learn I need to know and the questions I discover I need to ask"?

Er, yes. This is me. This is how I live my entire life. Sometimes it works out. This is how I changed states without employment or an apartment and applied for a job as an envelope-stuffer and ended up being hired as a webmaster, which launched me on a new career. Sometimes I miss things. This is why my dad yelled, "How could you pick up and go to Denmark of all places, and not even see the world-famous little mermaid statue on the coast???" to which I had to respond, "Uh... I didn't know it was there." (Internet what?)

"Just doing it" has served me well more often than it's bit me in the rear (although I've had some still-not-funny humdingers, to be sure.)

But yeah. Full speed ahead. We'll figure it out as we go. =)

Marnee Bailey said...

I'm a figure out as a go kind too. I think nothing can substitute for making mistakes and learning from them.

No fear! With every foray into the world, whether the written world or otherwise, you get information to make new progress. It's a wonderful process.

Bill Clark said...

How many of you jumped right into the journey

*Bill raises hand*

After various careers as a college professor, fund raiser, consultant, and beach bum, I decided to reinvent myself as a writer. My mantra (often-repeated) became: "I am a writer." I practiced saying it out loud. Pretty soon I convinced myself. And then, funnily enough (life is a comedy to those who think, no?), I convinced other people, and eventually graduated to being a published author.

As Mavens Lacey and Erica say, you figure it out as you go. Is there any other way? :-)

(Though I still miss being a beach bum...)

Jackie Barbosa said...

I firmly believe that everything gets better with time and practice. And given how much time and practice I've had in life, I should be pretty good by now :).

When it comes to writing, I'm not sure you CAN do anything but jump in with both feet and just do it. Now matter how much you read, until you actually write, you'll never really get better at it.

Vicki said...

I jump right in. In everything. It seems that any job I've ever had there really wasn't much "training" anyway. So, I figure it out, take notes, ask questions if I need to, and take more notes. More often than not, once I've got it down, I'm finding ways to make it better. Otherwise I get bored.

Now writing? Oh course I jumped right in. I mean, I thought I new exactly how to write. Every one always loved my stories, and I got great grades in school with them. So, what's to do other than write.

Then I went to a TARA meeting and met Sue Kearney. Oh yeah, Sue! She said send me your chapter...don't shudder E, I sent it. She sent it back marked up and said CALL ME.

That's when I learned about Show vs Tell. Seemed I like to tell alot. :D

But really, I do think you have to jump in and then take the workshops, read the books, and listen to those who are wiser than you.

Darcy Burke said...

LOL Erica, I had a little replica of that mermaid statue. My aunt and cousins live in Denmark.

I always hate that period of coming up to speed on something, but it's inevitable that you learn by doing, IMO.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Great post, Lacey. I'm a jumper. (And now I have that song stuck in my head.) Some leaps work out great; others don't. Like Erica, I picked up and changed states without anything. Unlike Erica, my leap to FL didn't turn out as well, but my leap into CO turned out excellently, so it all balances out. I didn't look before I leapt into writing, but I like to think I'm learning a lot on my way down.

Keira Soleore said...

ME! I freely admit on this blog, as I've admited freely elswhere, that without Lacey on my case, I wouldn't have a pitch for National.

I'm not a "jump into the unknown" kind of a person. I'm more the "research situation first unto death" before venturing even a step forward.

Sometimes that means that it takes forever for me to take that first step. (See above, re: kick in the backside.)

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