Friday, March 9, 2012

The Metaphoric Refrigerator

Well it’s been awhile since I posted here. This year has kicked off really busy. I can’t believe that it’s already Mach! But I guess the year marches on whether or not we’re ready. Pun intended! But I have a lot on my mind this morning and it all surrounds the metaphoric refrigerator.

I may ramble a bit as I am not sure exactly where to start. So, I’ll start in the middle. Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the jazz band concert for one nephew and then a musical where another nephew was performing. Really, I am always struck by how much talent kids show. They do some really cool stuff. So, why are there so many gray adults? I really don’t know.

One answer may be that the fraction of kids that do sports, and theater and music and art and etc… remains the same fraction who do these things as adults. It’s just that active people mix with the grays in adulthood.

Another answer is that we just don’t have time as adults to do all the cool stuff we do as kids. Oh sure we can take an art class, join a softball team, but in the end we still have to work and make a living. So there is just less time.

But the answer I think most fits is that we as adults don’t get the praise and support that kids get. So, it’s just less fulfilling. And maybe this is true. A scribbled drawing that a six year old is praised for is laughed at in the hands of a forty year old.

And this does bring me to the metaphoric refrigerator. Most of us had this in childhood. And it helps us build our self esteem. It prepares us to believe in ourselves for the time when we have to stand alone.

I have seen those who did not have the refrigerator as a child become obnoxious adults just trying to hear, “Wow that’s good!” But as adults we simply do not have the place to hang our drawing and have some one ohh and ahhh. And it doesn’t matter what we are doing.

So why not? Well for one thing as adults we are judged as adults in the field we are dabbling. Everyone else seems to forget that when we are beginners, we are beginners. It doesn’t matter if we are children or adults.

And the truth is beginner’s often suck. It’s true. But all skills take time to develop. But, too often we never get the time for the skill to mature. Whether the cause is opportunity, desire or reward does not matter. Adults just don’t pour themselves into things like kids do.

Some people compensate for this by convincing themselves their scribble should hang in a museum. Some … most in fact compensate by not trying at all. And both lose the joy of true discovery.

So, my theory is that for those that are seeking the “good job!” a metaphoric refrigerator will provide them the validation they need, happiness and may or may not inspire real growth. And for the others who just don’t have the courage to try, the metaphoric refrigerator may be just the crutch they need.

Now, personally I have to say that I am blessed. I have had the time to indulge in artistic pursuits, the opportunity to learn and plenty of people to ooh and ahh over my beginning attempts. And my life is richer for it.

Last month, I had my first solo gig; three sets of original music. As a beginner, I think it went well. Friends, family and even some strangers came to listen. Did I meet professional contemporary standards? Certainly not. I am unpracticed. The distractions one faces in a live performance got the best of me and I screwed up at least half the songs. But I got enough of them right that I’ve been offered the opportunity for additional gigs.

So the question is this, do I focus on the flaws decide I’m not good enough and quit? Do I ignore the errors and pretend I’m good enough because people are willing to let me sing again? Or do I knuckle down, work on the flaws and become better?

Well despite the oh so many errors in my debut, I am not discouraged; actually quite the opposite. Most people have had really nice things to say after. And that’s a huge piece.

In addition, some of my musician friends gave me good technical critiques. I know what I need to work on. I’ve even had some positive feed back on the songs themselves from professional singer/songwriters. And the combination of all the encouragement, gives me the wherewithal to push past the flaws and become better.

I put my music up on the metaphoric refrigerator and got the needed “good job!” I also got the needed support. People who can, are actually helping me get better. And I am richer for it.
So, what’s my take away. 1. Try, learn and really put yourself in what you do. 2. Be honest. Don’t set yourself or other up for failure. See flaws and strengths. But 3. Remember beginners are beginners. Allow yourself your flaws. Encourage the strengths in others. 4. Understand that as even as adults there is a difference in vocation and avocation. You don’t have to be good enough to make a living to grow, learn and enjoy.

Life can be fun, things to learn, experiences to have. But we all do better with an “attaboy!” once in awhile. So we all need to give it once in awhile. When you’re friend shows you a poem she wrote, accept it for what it is. You don’t have to lie. In fact you don’t want to say it’s great if it’s not. That’s setting some one else for failure. But don’t shut her down either. Encourage.

And remember this too takes practice. Support and giving constructive criticism are also skills that need to be developed. So why not start practicing!


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