I very rarely do things I’m not good at, which sounds extremely conceited, but is more of a self-preservation, self-esteem-related thing. I like going to pub quiz because I grew up in a family where Trivial Pursuit was a (near-)blood sport and joining Reach for the Top in the first weeks of grade 9 was a given. I started running as an adult, eventually, because it was something I was good at in my youth. I have not set up a personal organization business because I keep my paperwork in stacks rather than files and rarely bother to fold laundry.
Of course, there is an exception to every rule, and in my attempts to branch out and challenge myself, I am taking an archery class. Well, I missed the first two weeks of Level 2 owing to vacation-related reasons, but ventured back last night. I’m starting (finally) to improve, which is a relief. I am not a natural. I also had never fired any kind of arrow aside from suction cup ones from a balsa wood set, probably bought at Woolworth’s in Pembroke in the 1970s.
And target sports are not my forte. I was by far the worst at target shooting on the day a group of us went to a firing range as part of a ByTownian retirement party. (Except for trap shooting, at which I excelled. Maybe I should try that again. Or play Duck Hunt.) I consider it a win if a dart hits the board. But I found out that there’s an indoor archery range in town and thought I’d check it out. I could pretend that Game of Thrones being AWESOME was not part of the decision process, but it totally was. More importantly, though, archery is something that, like yoga or rock climbing, you need to concentrate on fully to improve in. It’s one of those shut-off-your-worries activities, even more so than running, which I think everyone needs to have.
Which means, of course, that archery is very fiddly. Luckily, it’s also pretty fun right away. But in the second week of Level 1 classes, a couple of people emerged with mad skillz, consistently grouping their shots, usually on the target, whereas if I hit the cork rather than the frame of my target butt (hehehe), I was pleased. Well, pleased-ish, seeing I was often the worst in the class. (There was one woman who only showed up twice and didn’t listen to any corrections from the instructor who was worse, but she wasn’t exactly trying.) I am really, really not good at being the worst at things, especially things I like doing. So when an instructor tells someone their form is ‘almost perfect’ only three weeks in, it’s difficult for me to be all ‘Good job!’ and not ‘GRARARARARAR!!!! I can’t even nock my arrow first try sometimes!!’
Very zen of me, I know.
My last week in Level 1 was particularly fraught: my arrow rest was busted and I spent most of my energy on every shot try to keep the arrow from falling before I could shoot it. This resulted in some hilariously bad shots, most of which landed on someone else’s target. Hilarious now, but at the time, I really should have just walked out. There were plenty of bows available, but none of the right height/weight for me, so I had to continue trying to shoot with the broken one. Frustrations were high. Even higher because there was this jumpy kid in the class who kept joking about shooting people’s heads off who was driving everyone crazy(ier than usual).
Nonetheless, I had high hopes for Level 2, thinking only the truly dedicated would move on, so when Richard told me that the class was mostly little kids, I got worried again. It’s true, there are a LOT of kids in the class. One is all over the place, didn’t listen to a thing anyone said, and tried to use my bow (which is, y’know, for grown-ups, not 8-year-olds) because he thought it was his. The rest seem more interested, at least, and I think they all have to pass Level 2 before they can join the youth program on Saturdays. And even though they make a great deal more noise than a group of adults, it was still easy to (mostly) tune them out and concentrate better on my (now repaired) bow and my form.My internal monologue is more or less this:
‘Stand up straight. Arms aligned. Relax your left shoulder. Hand rests on jaw. Relax your left shoulder. Just release the string, rather than actively letting go. RELAX YOUR LEFT SHOULDER. Right, go. Oof. That didn’t go well.’
The end bit changed over the course of last night, at least. But two out of three arrows being kinda near each other isn’t exactly a ‘grouping’, especially if the third is high and right. Or on someone else’s target (that only happened the once, at least).
I’m not quite at a stage where I’m going to aim (har) for awesomeness in archery, but despite my lack of talent, I’m going to stick with it. It is starting to become the kind of mental break I need and, if I can continue to relax, I will (probably/hopefully) continue to improve. Then perhaps I can win the heart of one of the Starks.