I locked eyes with the sour cream. Slowly, I dipped my spoon into the container, scooped out a big glop of cream and bringing it up to eye level. My roommate, lurking in the background with something between a grimace and a smile, giggled nervously.
I sighed and dumped the sour cream on my shoulder.
The left one first. And then the right, my face the picture of misery as the cool cream hit red, cracked skin.
But this is not a story, ladies and gentlemen, of strange home remedies for sunburn. This is a story of taking chances, of deciding you want to do something and then just doing it, and realizing that the consequences — whatever they may be — are ultimately worth it.
Even if they involve standing around the apartment for two or three hours with your entire torso covered in sour cream. And yes, even if they involve the worst tank top tan I’ve had in my life.Let’s take a step back.
On Saturday morning, I dragged myself out of bed around 8am in order to throw on a tank top, shorts, and hitch a ride to the Malibu Pier. My roommate teaches a pretty intense yoga class there each week, and trust me when I say the location is spectacular: green hills rising on one side, an unbroken view of the Pacific Ocean on the other.
I wouldn’t call myself a yoga fanatic, admittedly, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better place to sweat blood and tears for sixty straight minutes.
Let’s be honest here. I wouldn’t call myself much of a yoga anything. Not for any lack of interest in the practice, but for a realization I’m not always happy to admit: I’m not good at it.
I’m still in the instructive stages, clearly, where every new pose feels like a mix of flexibility and lunacy. The latter I’m doing fine with, but not so much the former. My balance, not to put too fine a tip on it, is comparable to a state of perpetual drunkenness, which has proved on more than one occasion to be both absolutely hilarious and really difficult to work with.
Given this, and given that I’d gone out on that Friday night, the absolute last thing I wanted to do was to race over to Malibu and try and stand on my head.
But I went. Why?
The Art of Taking Chances
Because I’m not good at it. And because I vividly remember deciding, maybe a month back, that I wanted to change that. I wanted to improve my yoga skills, in a sense, but also to improve my sense of my physical self — my flexibility, my strength, and my overall ability to control my bodyweight.
I also wanted to do a head stand.
More importantly, though, I wanted to take chances. I wanted to risk not being good at something, and I wanted to actively put myself in situations where I had no choice but to grow.
For a week, there, I was all fire and zeal. I had a plan. I would do yoga every week, I would up my flexibility considerably, and by the time I left Los Angeles I’d be the best damn yogi this city has ever seen.
That last point? Probably not happening. But even the first two seemed shaky when I woke up that Saturday morning with my head swimming and the clock on my phone screaming that it was far too early for the weekend.
There was a voice, too, that came loud and clear through the haze: this will be hard. You’re not good at yoga, honestly, and wouldn’t it just be easier — simpler — to go back to sleep?
But I got up. Aside from the tank top tan, I think that was the best decision I could have made.
The Disconnect Between Thinking and Doing
We’re all familiar with it.
You see it in the ‘blogosphere’ as well as anywhere else: thousands upon thousands of guides to doing things better, differently, smarter, and undeniable passion on the part of both the writer and reader to do just that. We want to change. We’re swimming in inspiration, people, and it is oh-so easy to stay firmly in the shallow end of that pool.
But here’s the thing: you have to do.
You have to venture into the deep end and take chances, people, if you want that inspiration — as well-meaning as it may be — to have any effect. You have to say “I want to be a yoga master” and then actually do that, no matter the work involved or whatever consequences they might bring.
There’s a period after that initial spark where reality kicks in. The sheen of that new idea seems to fade a bit, and all of that passionate enthusiasm takes a backseat to an uncomfortable realization: you need action, too.
You need to do.
That fact hit me hard between the eyes when I woke up that Saturday morning. I’d rolled over, fumbled about for my phone, and was moments away from shutting off my alarm when it clicked: you can’t get better at yoga if you don’t actually try.
And so I got out of bed. I decided, then, that I wanted to take a chance with myself. I knew the class would be difficult, and I knew I might fall flat on my face (again), but I decided that was okay.
At least I was trying, right?
Lessons Learned From a Truly Embarrassing Tan
I left the pier that day with the beginnings of a terrible tank top tan, the realization that I’d be smearing sour cream on my shoulders for the next few days, and something even more unexpected: a grin. I knew that something had changed in the last sixty minutes.
There was a moment, there, midway through the class, when it clicked: I’m better. I’m notably more flexible than when I started a few months back, and the different poses that used to have me flailing about seem pretty doable now by comparison. I kept my face well away from my mat even during the more difficult moments of the class, and my overall endurance is considerably enhanced since I began.
I’d call that success. I’m still pretty miserable at yoga, admittedly, but I am improving, which likely wouldn’t be the case if I’d shut my eyes and gone right back to sleep. That’s common sense, I know, but I think it’s a point worth reminding ourselves.
You have to take chances. You have to do.
It’s easy to think. It’s even easier to think, think, think and never put those thousand different ideas into action. At a certain point, though, you’ll have to decide: keep thinking and dreaming until the day you die, or get out there and take a chance on that passion.
What’s the worst that can happen if you do?
You might have to strut around that afternoon with a shirt made out of sour cream.
What’s the best that can happen?
You grow. You learn from the experience, and you become more comfortable with the idea of taking chances the opportunity arises.
Give it a shot sometime. Whatever project you’re planning, whatever goal you’re carrying — take a chance with it. Go for it and see what happens! I think you’ll be surprised at what happens when you do.
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