Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting Better

woman golfer

Every once in a while I examine my goals. Long term, short term, and in between. It’s not a scheduled thing, and the urge is usually sparked by a change of some kind – in circumstances, expectations, or the transition between seasons.

Last spring I took a day to play around with what I’d like to accomplish in the next year or so. I looked at my writing goals, my yearly goals of learning something new and trying to challenge my comfort zone, and then checked in on what I’d already been working toward. It’s not about being rigid and planning everything down to the minute, but about maintaining awareness about where my life is going and whether that’s where I want it to go.

One of the things on the list was to improve my golf game.

Which is kind of funny, because I’m pretty ambivalent about golf in general. So many people are passionate about it. They want to play every day. They love it when they play well and hate/love it when they play badly. Yet I still struggle with the notion of spending five hours whacking a ball into a four-and-a-half inch hole waaaay the heck over there.

Golf is like life, K tells me. He’s played since he was fourteen, and gets out to the course two or three times a week in decent weather. Yes, he intones, a round of the gentlemen’s game is a metaphor for life.

No, it’s not, I respond. Golf is a walk in the park. Or, rather, a forced march over very well-groomed and water-wasting turf while missiles travel around you at concussion-inducing speeds.

Exactly, he says.

Okay, it’s fun if I’m playing well. Unfortunately, I only took up the game three years ago, so that doesn’t happen very often. My scores are better than most at this stage, I’m told, but K is the one doing the telling, and he’s vested in keeping me on the course. We do have fun together out there, though, and that’s important.

Ergo, one of my goals was to get better at golf so I’d have more fun. I thought perhaps an afternoon at the range each week, and playing a couple times a week might do it. I’ve had lessons. When I manage to pull off what I’m supposed to do, things progress nicely. All I needed was practice.

Well, I only played once a week over the summer, with very little range work in between. So I was as surprised as anyone when I scored 43 on nine holes, including two birdies.

Tweet #1. Tweet #2.

There. I’ve arrived. I’m officially a Good Golfer. Let me tell you, K had some high expectations the next time we hit the links.

I knew better. Crazy good performance is usually followed by not-so-good – if not crazy bad – whenever one is trying to improve a skill. It’s not a reaction so much as probability. Getting better at anything comes with time and practice. There is no arrival point, only a gradual increase in ability.

And the reason I knew better is because I’ve never “arrived” as a writer, either. Oh, I’m published, and I’ll be published some more, but to sit back and think that means I’m some kind of expert is fraught with danger. The more I write the better I get, but I’m not done learning and never will be. Never.

That thought makes me oddly happy. Hopeful and looking forward to what comes next.

But what’s with this sudden desire to to haul my clubs over to the closest municipal driving range?

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