Friday, June 08, 2012

The Year of Skills: Part Whichever-Part-Is-Last

October: Aikido

At the beginning of the year I made a list of the skills I might like to learn, the further out of my comfort zone, the better. (Scuba diving? Shooting a gun!??!)  One of the items I put on the list was "martial arts"--yes, that's right, the generic kind--because I've never tried anything like that before, and doesn't that seem like I'm missing out?

(Martial arts must be the one-and-only childhood activity I never tried: at various points before my parents finally gave up and just let me be a shut-in, I did T-ball, swimming, gymnastics, ballet, horseback riding, ice skating, piano lessons and drama. I excelled at nothing, dreaded them all, and--yes, I'm an ungrateful brat--quit as soon as I could.)

In any case, I happened to pass an Aikido Institute a few blocks from my apartment in mid-September, and when I looked into their schedule, by pure serendipity, I found that they were offering a $50 adults-only introductory month of twice-a-week classes. Bingo! Adults-only was ideal (I didn't want to be a Kramer) and Aikido was as good as anything else. (Who doesn't want to be Steven Seagal?)

I had a blast in my four weeks of classes, as much as that surprised me. I got the classic white uniform, much too large for me, and learned very quickly to kneel and say "ohayo gozaimasu." I even learned a few basic chops and throws, though, surprising no one, I vastly preferred to get thrown than to throw others: when you're the thrower, you have to have timing, strength, and confidence. When you're the throwee, you just have to go limp.

There are no pictures of me in my uniform. It was embarrassing.

November: Drawing

I'm not particularly good at drawing…or rather, not particularly good at drawing anything but horses. Thank you, nerdy childhood.

Speaking of my childhood--gosh, I love smooth transitions--I remember my parents taking a drawing class together where they used a book called "Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain" that claims that anyone can learn to draw. Anyone? Yes, anyone, and so I decided, in November, to put this to the test.

(My parents really enjoyed this drawing class, they say, but it didn't last long, because my dad only wanted to draw naked women.)

So for November I bought the book and started working my way through its exercises. I've only gotten halfway (one of these days I'll finish!) but I believe the book, I really do: in only a few weeks, I learned to draw a halfway-decent depiction of one of the chairs in our living room. Dream big, self.

December: Arranging music

Frankly, by this point in the year, I was exhausted. Also, work was crazy--CRAZY--and we were leaving on a nearly four-week trip in the third week of December, so I didn't have much time for anything other than working and packing. However, true to my obsessive nature, I had to pick something, and I had been wanting some new music to play on my harp for a while, so voila: arranging music.

This, too, is something I've dabbled in before, though it was as long ago as high school, when I was taking harp lessons and music theory classes, both of which were natural breeding grounds for experimenting. (As an aside, I graduated from high school ten years ago. TEN YEARS! I can't believe it.) It seems fitting to start and end the year with something I had tried before, though, as nice bookends to a satisfying and interesting year.

I still don't have a piece fully arranged for the harp, of course, and as much as I tell myself that I'll finish it someday, I probably won't. I did work on something for a while, though, starting in December, so it totally counts. For the curious, it was a transposition and adjustment of the piano + viola duet medley of "If You Could Hie To Kolob" and "Adam-ondi-Ahman" found here. If I ever finish it, it will be lovely.


So that's the Year of Skills. A little bit crazy, a little bit interesting. I'm glad I did it, no question, but for 2012 I have made no such ambitious plans; I'm a little burned on huge resolutions, to be honest. I still read The New Yorker every month, a la 2010, and I've rotated quilting and drawing into my roster of relaxation activities, and I'm confident I can scuba dive again the next time I need to, but this year I've got nothing to prove and nothing to strive for; my written resolutions at the beginning of the year were things like "blog more" and "go to the dentist."  Resolution 1? Check. Resolution 2? Time to find a dentist.