And the light gets brighter and bigger

I had what I would consider an adventure Thursday night.  One of my fellow YTTers (yoga teacher trainees) messaged me and asked if I could cover her 6PM Pre-Teen Yoga class.  Well, if you don’t know me, then you do not know precisely how far out of my comfort zone this request fell. I was never a kid who liked babysitting or who liked playing with younger kids. I babysat exactly 3 times that I can remember, and it was always for my cousins who really didn’t need a sitter anyway.  I had dolls, and I loved playing with them – dressing them up and taking them on marvelous adventurous through mazes (aka our front yard).  But I never loved real babies.  Even now, I can appreciate some of their cuteness from a distance, but I have no desire to get up close and personal unless I think it will offend someone if I don’t.

BUT I figured that maybe, just maybe, I could handle pre-teens. I kind of remember being in 5th and 6th grade.  I remember having a monstrous crush on Corey Schatz.  I remember our teacher handing out Woofies. I remember playing Boys Chase Girls at recess.  I remember smack-talking my mom and having her chase me around the outside of the house a few times.  I outlasted her, but when I finally came back inside, all my dolls were gone – hidden away until I behaved.  I remember how a harsh word from a teacher would devastate me and make me quiet for days.  I remember how noisy everyone was at lunch-time and how upset that would make the teachers.  Perhaps I could connect to these girls.

So, while I really wanted to say, “No, I’m super sorry, but I’m busy tonight,” instead I told my friend, “Sure.  What is your class usually like?”  Oh boy.  Her answer made me even more trepidatious than I already was!  Evidently class consists of partner work, some yoga dance, some student-led sun salutations, and all sorts of fun-ness.  Well, I’m used to teaching stressed out adults with sore backs and necks.  I wasn’t sure ANYTHING in my toolbox would translate over, but I figured, how bad can it be.

Don’t tell my boss, but I spent a few pockets of time that afternoon at work, jotting down notes for a class.  During YTT, Abby showed us some partner poses and some Thai massage moves. I figured the girls would think that was fun, so I wrote those down.  Then I tried to think of other fun postures that would challenge girls  whose bones are the consistency of rubber – wheel, bow, etc.

Armed with my list, I walked into Indigo.  I only had 4 girls show up (thank God it was an even number!!), but I knew I was in trouble when the first girl paid me for the class, and I could tell she had more sass and confidence than I EVER will.

When the clock rolled around t0 6, I corralled all the girls, and we tromped, skipped, and flipped into the center of the room, where they proceeded to tell me what to do for the next hour.  It was both horrifying and hilarious. I now have a VASTLY greater appreciation for what teachers do every day.  I was exhausted after an hour of trying to figure out how much authority I had and when I should use it.

The girls were great – they ran the gamut from super boisterous and energetic to shy and reserved (which WAS something I could actually identify with), to somewhere in the middle. One of the girls, I swear, was a 40-year-old in a 5th grader’s body.  During the Thai massage work, she was sighing as if she just got done with a 12 hour shift writing briefs for the Supreme Court justices.  It was awesome.

So, while I can’t say I really *enjoyed* the experience, I am very glad to have done it once. Each time I get out of my comfort zone and do something that I’ve never done before, I see my worldview brighten and my circle of understanding broaden.  My empathy for others’ increases, and my appreciation of the fact that we are all good at different things deepens. If everyone was like me, no one would be teaching these girls yoga, and they obviously LOVE it.  That would be very sad.

I was also pleased to observe a different attitude within myself.  For years, when I have not done something well, I typically felt as if it was because I had no aptitude for it and no chance of getting better.  I don’t know if it’s yoga or 4 years of reading about happiness research, but this time was different.  Afterwards I reflected on my experience and saw mistakes I had made and things I could do better, but it was with an understanding that this was my first time dealing with kids since I WAS a kid.  It was a learning experience – one I could use to improve my skills for next time.  I was so happy with myself for not seeing myself as a failure at this task.  I think I’m growing. Or something.

All that being said, I don’t know if I WOULD volunteer to teach that class again. I pretty much used up all my material on Thursday.  But if I got coerced into doing it for some reason, I’m confident that I would do a better job.

This whole experience just solidified my belief that I need to start trying more things out of my comfort zone.  Another one of my fellow YTTers gave me that advice over the weekend when we were discussing finding our purpose/passion.  It’s sage advice, and even if I try something new and fail miserably, now I am confident that I will learn A LOT from the experience.  I will get a more clear view of humanity and how things work and a better appreciation of the shades of gray that fuzz the rigid definitions of Right and Wrong and Good and Bad.

What challenges have you faced that helped you realize what you are capable of? What “failures” have taught you valuable lessons?

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