I was not very good at sports when I was a kid. No, scratch that, I sucked at sports when I was a kid. I almost always came in dead last in everything I did. I was always the last one to be picked in games, with good reason. When I had to take the sports matriculation exam, I barely passed – and that only because of a small strength boost that came with puberty.
It was only at the age of 27 that I began to truly learn the joys of exercise. Not just as a way of losing weight, which I still need to do, but as an enjoyable, healthy activity that just makes me feel better about myself. Even better, I began to learn that I had abilities in this field that I never thought I possessed.
Why do I mention all this?
It’s simple: the youth trap. For years, I put off developing skills or learning new things because I was certain that if you don’t have them at an early age, then you’ll never have them at all. I truly believed that you’re either naturally creative or you’re not. You can either do sports as a kid or you’re doomed to be pathetically weak your whole life. Even in areas I was strong at, like intellectual activity, there were whole areas of Jewish and secular learning that I denied myself because I completely bought the idea that if you couldn’t do it when you were younger, you sure as hell can’t do it when you’re older.
Thinking back now, I’ve lost count of the times I wanted to try something new, only to kill that idea because ‘it’s too late’ and I should have started earlier. I denied myself so much pleasure and fulfillment because of a facile and stupid, if popular, belief that things happen naturally and right away, or not at all.
I think it behooves all of us to get this “you have until 18 (or whatever age) to learn what you need, after that it’s all downhill” out of our heads. Education and learning in general is a life-long journey. We all can learn and develop skills in the religious and secular areas we never would have dreamed of but years before.
Is it harder than when one was a kid? In some ways, yes, in some way, no. What’s important, though, is that schools and parents stop it with the “race against time” mindset with their children. The anxiety you create by us is often counter-productive, and will lead us to lose hope rather than try harder. It’s time you used different methods.
As for me? Well, I’m off to go do 70 push-ups (in sets) when I could barely do 10 when I was 18. Eat my dust.