Fast and Slow Learners

“Most tricks I can learn in an afternoon,” my hooping friend Hannah was telling me on our ride back from the hoop gathering.

“That must be nice,” I said. I was thinking that it must be true for a lot of skills that some people just catch on quickly. I’ve watched it happen in skiing, paddling, hooping and even less tangible proficiencies in a classroom setting. Who knows what accounts for it–a certain kind of body awareness or coordination or something primed in the brain? The tricks Hannah could pick up in a few hours had taken me months–or longer. I admit I felt jealous.

It also made me philosophical. In the end, who cares how long it takes to master any particular move? As long as I can be patient with myself and keep practicing, I’ll learn, too, and keep having fun. In fact, isn’t it more gratifying to succeed at something difficult through one’s own strenuous effort? I think so.

Someone at the hoop gathering had really annoyed me by pressing me about how many months I’d been hooping. I’d been hooping for, I don’t know, maybe five years. Sure, I’d ignored the hoop for months at a time, but I had been hooping for a while. He assumed I was a newbie since I didn’t know a “reverse weave” or an “isolation.” His point, I think, was that I shouldn’t feel bad since I was just learning to hoop.

He was wrong on both counts, though: I wasn’t new and I didn’t need to feel bad about not knowing particular moves. Hooping is not a race to learn tricks or a competition. Not for me, anyway. Like I advise my students, the goal is to learn in a way that’s right for each individual, at whatever pace.

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