Before I went to high school, life was pretty easy. School was a breeze. Playing sports seemed natural. Art projects were part of who I was. When I hit high school, I crawled out of my happy little cocoon and realized that while I wasn’t bad at any of those things, I was really nothing special. Not the low self-esteem crawl in a closet and die feeling, but I no longer felt good at anything.
I met Michael. Cute? Sure. Charming? No doubt. But, he was a juggler, too. I thought, how cool is that? I dumped my practicality compass and headed toward the unknown.
That week, I scrounged up 3 tennis balls and tried to teach myself to juggle. There was no YouTube or internet to guide me (no laughing young ones). I hadn’t seen a lot of juggling before to mentally comprehend the task before me. But, I was determined to impress Michael. 5 minutes a day for 30 days I threw those balls in the air then picked them up off the ground. I chased them under chairs and brushed off the dust balls that they collected on their journey. Even with little early success, I kept trying.
By about day 15, I could manage 4 throws and catches. It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s when I felt it. It was a transformative feeling of knowing that I was going to be able to juggle. My body and my mind finally started singing in the same key and while not yet a masterpiece, it felt like a song. My heart raced and, as hokey as it sounds, real joy ran through me. That addictive feeling pushed me through the next 15 days until I had the courage to show Michael. While not overly impressed with my new juggling skills, he stuck with me anyway.
It’s that feeling that I see in the eyes of people I teach to juggle. It is a universal look I see in everyone that gets to throwing that 4th throw for the first time. It doesn’t matter if they are 10 or 60 years old, it’s all the same. I’ll never grow tired of seeing that look or reliving that feeling.
Not everyone can juggle. Most people, erroneously, don’t think they can. It isn’t like running a 5K for the first time. Maybe you can run all the way, but you can run. And it’s not like writing a book. It may not be any good, but at least you can write something. You can’t juggle until you can. There is both mental and physical energy to expend in trying to get there. There is pride and self-doubt, a sink full of dishes and Survivor standing in your way. So when you do finally learn how to juggle, when you finally get that feeling, you are suddenly in a different place.
I listened to an interview with blogger and founder of Squidoo, Seth Godin. He asked the question, does what you do matter? I sure as hell hope so. I hope it matters to the people we have made smile and laugh during our 20 years of performing. But, I mostly hope it matters to the people I have taught and will teach to juggle. I said in another post that once I learned to juggle, everything else seemed possible. I wonder who else felt that, too.
If you want to learn to juggle (and why wouldn’t you), now that we are in the 21st century, there are lots of resources online. I would start with www.juggle.org . If you are near Newark, Delaware, I am teaching several classes this spring and would love to teach you, too. You can check out the details on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jugglinghoffmans/events
If you know how to juggle, I would love to hear your “learn to juggle” experience.