There’s an old saying, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I’ve never been a fan of a that saying. Maybe because I don’t know much about dogs. Maybe the saying is true for dogs, but I believe this doesn’t apply to humans. Humans are brilliant. We invented all types of cool things and I have seen and heard of people in their 90s graduating from high school and college. Sometimes, I wonder if our attitude about aging is what makes us think we can’t learn new things as we get older? My life experiences tell me that fear might be what holds us back more than our abilities.
I was born in Nigeria, but my family and I relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio in the summer of 1996 when I was 14 years old. It didn’t take long to learn that there were many aspects of my sister’s and my childhood that seem to be missing when compared to the children in the U.S. We didn’t know how to swim, ride a bike, skate, or ski. I chucked my lack of experience skiing to living in a country with no snow. My then 11 year old sister was determined to join her new friends, so in our garage, she taught herself how to skate and ride a bike. I didn’t have any friends, so the pressure was low for me.
As I got older and made friends, there was a skill I knew I needed so in my twenties I decided to learn the basics of swimming. It took some time, but I was able to swim underwater, but I still couldn’t float, and everyone kept saying that was the most important skill. So, I found a swim class for adults and learned how to float. I wasn’t a good swimmer but now I could do the basics and enjoy the pool with friends. Mission accomplished.
I spent several weeks in Europe to celebrate my 30th birthday and while walking the streets of The Netherlands, I was reminded of another childhood skill I never learned. It pained me that I didn’t know how to ride a bike, so I told my husband that when we got back to the U.S, I wanted to learn how to ride a bike. It wasn’t the easiest task finding swim lessons for adults but finding someone to teach an adult how to ride a bike was impossible. So, I asked my husband if he would teach me. He was naïve to say yes but I’m glad he did. When and where does a thirty something go learn to ride a bike when you have work in the mornings? To a high school parking lot in the middle of the night of course! The original plan was to go after work, but I was too embarrassed and there were too many teenagers staring at this old woman falling off her bike. It took about two weeks of practice every day, but I finally learned how to ride a bike. So, in 2020 when the world stopped and downtown Houston was the only place for us to celebrate our anniversary, my favorite trainer and I took to the streets, and I got to ride the rented bikes and rode like we were in The Netherlands.
This year I turned 41 and I am taking on another challenge but this time going for two childhood skills I never learned. I started taking swim lessons again because this time, I just don’t want to know how to float, hold my breath underwater and kick. This time, I want to learn the proper way to swim. I want to learn about the strokes, the kicks, taking breaths. Holding my breath isn’t exactly swimming although it worked for what I needed. Now, I want to be able to use swimming as a form of exercise because I enjoy the water and swimming is one of those exercises you can do at any age. The next skill I want to tackle is skating. I don’t know if there are any classes for adults, but this is something I want to learn. I might end up in an empty parking lot and I may not be the most graceful, but I will learn to skate.
As a lover of all things
summer, heat and hot, I’m not sure if the desire to learn how to ski will ever come but if it does, rest assure that I will ignore the fears and thoughts of not being able to teach a dog old trick and focus on a saying my father always told us: only a fool does not change.