Interval training. Push ups, pull ups, burpees, jumping, mountain climbers. Exhaustion. And then plank.
I keep my back straight and forearms pressed to the concrete ground. My stomach and core tighten. I’m pain and will cave in any minute.
The trainer, An, picks one person at a time to count down from ten to one. We’re all struggling to the point where we can barely breathe, let alone shout out numbers. An directs me to count down next. Tired and dripping sweat, I start shouting:
MUOI, CHIN, EIGHT, SEVEN, SAU, NAM, BON, BA, HAI, MOT!!! Work out finally over.
I just started picking up the Vietnamese language. I thought I had one through 10 down, but in the heat of the work out I forgot 7 and 8.
Immediately after my countdown, I rested on my knees and look out towards the people enjoying the park and the array of work out machines near by. I noticed a Vietnamese woman look at me. She smiled and then giggled to herself. It was as if she was watching a child learn and do something for the first time; walking, talking, throwing a baseball, anything.
The woman’s compassionate eyes and amused smile emphasized the childlike joy of learning something new.
There is so much beauty in learning new skills and noticing yourself grown. There is beauty in seeing others learn and grow as well.
The trap with learning is that it’s hard to see the beauty at first. On the surface learning can seem ugly, a daunting and complicated experience. So ugly and so difficult that we quit.
The trick is to look deeper into the learning process. Can you find pleasure in the process while it still looks and feels ugly?
Can you look deeper inside the godawful guitar chord, the inadequate Vietnamese accent or the deficient dance step? Can you keep going? Can you see the beauty within the ugliness?
It’s there. Just like the beauty of a clumsy child taking her first step.