Yesterday I had to have some blood drawn. OK, I had to have a lot of blood drawn for a variety of annoying tests. While I’m not a fan of needles, I am not phobic about the whole thing. I waited and was called back by an earnest young woman who indicated to me that she was a student and asked if it was okay if she drew my blood… Ugh.
I looked at her smiling, friendly face. I remembered being a student teacher. I thought about how hard it is to get practice with skills that require other humans and I agreed to let her draw my blood, against my reptilian brain’s firm belief that this was a terrible idea. She led me into a room and began to prepare the tools, hands shaking. I decided looking the other way would be the best approach. I certainly didn’t need to know her hands were shaking.
I’ve had more than a few blood draws in my life and I can’t honestly say this was the WORST one. But, honestly it wasn’t good. I came out with two bandaged arms (rather than one) and significant residual “discomfort” from a lot of hunt and peck with the needles. The whole thing took so long that an errand I had intended to run had to be put off yet again. I was annoyed, but I wasn’t angry. Really, I was okay and I knew my arms would be okay. She got the blood that was needed. Vials got labeled and dated. The job got done. The outcome, despite it’s relative discomfort, was the right one. And how could I be mad at her? She is, after all, a beginner. She is trying to master something. Every minute of that procedure felt brand new to her and to be doing that while someone who’s not thrilled to be there stares at you? Yeah, not really high on my list either.
The plight of the beginner. She won’t get better if we don’t let her practice and have bad sticks and problems with the needles and shaky hands. She won’t get better if she feels annoyance and anger coming at her in waves. She won’t get better if we simply say no and prevent the task that needs practice from being done because why do it if you can’t do it right…
All of this got me to thinking (admittedly after enough time had passed so that I could see that I was not going to have the enormous bruises that I imagined might show up) about the way I treat my own beginner needs. Do I allow myself the practice I require? Do I ask people for opportunities to allow me to get better with their help? Do I hold myself to impossible standards? Am I as forgiving with myself as beginner as I was with this aspiring phlebotomist? Not usually.
I took a moment to make a list of skills I need to practice and gave myself a little imaginary pat on the back for even thinking about it. I gently promised my beginner self that I would try to do better, that I would not hold myself to such ridiculous standards and that I would celebrate practicing at all, even when it doesn’t go the way I would like. Forgiveness for the beginner sounds pretty nice, and pretty productive. After all practice makes…. no I’m not going to say that. Let’s try a new one. Practice makes progress. Yes, I like that much better.