As a kid I often dreamed about becoming a world-renowned baker. Even at a young age I knew that an apron was very flattering with my girlish curves. Unfortunately, every single Easy Bake Oven creation I attempted turned into soup; brownie soup, cookie soup, cupcake soup, and many more. Discouraged by the failures of cooking with a lightbulb, I gave up on my Betty Crocker dreams.
Fast forward to the present and I am cooking grilled cheese with a toaster and a microwave. My Easy Bake oven was donated to Good-Will and I have upgraded to box mixes. Much to my dismay, ditching the lightbulb has not improved my baking. I still end up with soups and many other inedible delicacies. A few weeks ago I learned the difference between 4 cups of flour and 1/4 cup of flour…that was a painful lesson.
I bite back embarrassed tears every time another creation implodes or destroys another pan. The critic in my head says that as a twenty-five year old I should be able to flip a pancake. I silently berate myself for being so far behind where I should be. At my age I could have had twenty years of practice under my belt. Now it is too late. After all, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Right?
The notion that we outgrow the opportunity to try new things seems to plague many of us. We look back on our past and sigh in disappointment. We should have never quit dancing, or learned to skateboard, or bought those flaming batons. Now we are too old to pursue such trivial dreams and the days we could pull off a leotard have come and gone.
Why do we let go of these desires rather than pursuing them? Sadly, we value our “grown-up” status to a point of destruction. Stuck with the skills we were smart enough to develop , we avoid allowing ourselves to be a novice or beginner. Avoiding new things helps us to not be seen making mistakes or looking foolish. Heaven forbid we scrape a knee in a new pair of roller blades.
Last week, a very important woman in my life, challenged the idea that adults are too old for new things. I walked into her piano recital and was instantly deafened by the raucous clamoring of children. They tumbled and wrestled and giggled loudly. My step-mom nervously gripped her music, clearly feeling out-of-place.
As the recital commenced, children pounded the keys to familiar tunes. After an hour of choppy child-like renditions of the classics it was time for my step-mom to take the stage. It was clear she was nervous and uncomfortable but courageously she walked forward, with a smile on her face.
And she played.
We often think of heroes as those who are “super” or extraordinary. Heroes usually do things better than the general population and have more skill or talent than us. As I watched my step-mom play and allow herself to try something new, I learned a new definition of a hero. A hero is not afraid to fail. A hero is not afraid to make mistakes. A hero is not afraid to challenge themselves. A hero is not afraid to be vulnerable in front of others or look foolish. Not only was she brave enough to learn something that put her out of her comfort zone as an adult, she also shared that new skill with a large group of strangers. We all have the potential to be our own kind of hero.
It is not too late for me to be the baker that I have always wanted. Will I sometimes look foolish? Yes…oh for sure, yes. Because of the lesson my step-mom taught me, I know that I would rather look foolish and be progressing than look “grown-up” and stay stagnant. I would love to challenge each of us to try the Zumba class we have been too chicken to try, or to buy that Rosetta Stone and learn a language. Whatever it is that we are too old to do, I challenge us to give it a try.
I think that George Elliot said it best – It is never too late to be what you might have been.