This week I’m in Winter Park, Colorado for a well-earned of week of skiing. I learned to ski just a few years ago, as an adult, at an age when you’re not “supposed” to learn to do crazy things like fling yourself down a mountainside on a couple of skinny little boards. Learning to ski was scary but exhilarating.
When I was in music school, I had a violinist friend who had five daughters, all of whom became professional string players. She said something to me once that I have never forgotten: “Always play with people who are better than you.” Of course, this would challenge me to become good enough to play with them at the same time that I learned from them.
The same was true when I learned to ski. I had to ski with people who were better than me – EVERYONE was better than me. I relied on their experience. I followed their paths down hills that were unfamiliar to me. I trusted them when they told me I could do a slope that was steeper than I had done before. I listened to their suggestions and asked questions: Is my form correct? What could I do better? With each run, I gained skill and confidence. I felt really good when one day a friend said to me “You’re a strong skier.”
Today was my first ski day of the season, and none of my friends were available to ski with me. I had to go by myself. And suddenly, I was scared again. Even though I can now ski blue-black hills (the second-steepest ones) today I felt jittery on the green slopes (the easiest ones). What happened?
I realized that whenever I skied with my friends, I was skiing on borrowed courage.
Borrowed courage is incredibly helpful in the learning process – you learn from and measure yourself against people who are more knowledgeable and experienced than you. But then, one day, you reach a point when you have to rely on your own courage. And you find, as I did today, that your courage needs to grow. You have to forge ahead on your own and learn to trust yourself.
This can be scary. The voice in your head says “What the H-E-double toothpicks do you think you’re doing?! You’re going to mess up!” But you do it anyway, because just getting over the fear is exhilarating. And then seeing just how far you can go with your own courage and ideas becomes an exciting adventure.
It’s a new year. How do you want to take your quilting to the next level? Do you want to learn to do your own free-motion quilting? Learn to design your own quilts? Get better at using color? Take a class that is a challenge for you, find a mentor, join a guild (if you’re not already a member). Borrow someone else’s courage and grow toward them. And then find your own courage and keep growing.
At the same time, lend someone your courage. Reach out to a new member of your guild. Start a quilting project at a school. Teach a granddaughter or grandson or a neighbor to sew.
The old adage about money says “Never a borrower or a lender be.” But that’s not true for courage. When we borrow and lend each other’s courage we all grow in the process.
I wish you a courageous new year!