Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Try, Try Again

“Why do you keep trying things you know you don’t like?” It’s a pretty good question, really. I was asked this question when I was attempting to convince a student to try public speaking again, again, for probably the fifteenth time. I was asking her to ask her peers to do something that she herself spent at least twenty hours a week doing, but she insisted that she hated public speaking. I illustrated my point with the anecdote that even though you refuse to eat spinach when you’re five, you try it again when you’re older and it’s really not so bad, it’s good for you, you might even like it. I apparently had used different examples each time we had this futile conversation – why do you keep trying things you know you don’t like?

Because when I was little the only thing I ever ate at restaurants was chicken fingers, ever. When my parents dragged me to a Mexican restaurant against my will, my mother, in that motherly way that moms get their kids to do things, told me to close my glaring eyes and open my pouting mouth. She told me that if I didn’t like what I tasted, I didn’t have to eat anything. Against all my stubborn will, I did like the creamy, flavorful, cheesy thing she fed me. When she told me it was refried beans, I decided I could try other things too.

But why as an adult, without anyone forcing or coercing you to, would you try spinach, slimy and black-green, again? Why would you go back to Paris even though you thought it was dirty and overrated the first time? Why would you will yourself to like sushi, despite all the times you concluded that it was chewy and unimpressive? Why? Mostly because you know it’s good for you.

Because if you can just overcome this, perhaps you will be stronger or wiser. Because not only can you say you did it, you can describe the experience of it. Because it opens the door to spanakopita, the best people watching in the world, and yet another dining choice to add to the list. The experience outweighs the sliminess, the praise, the texture – the fear, the preconceptions, the newness.

Without trying again, and again, and again, you may never learn to enjoy the subtle greenness of things, to love a place for all its beauty, to appreciate something for what it is. I’ve always said I would want to be the kind of person who would try anything once, but I’m not that kind of person. No, the truth is I am the kind of person who tries something until I get it.

And then, suddenly, you may find that you love it . . . but, if not, you can at least recognize its worth.