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SurfMy friend says I look pouty, like I’ve had col­la­gen. I know she’s being kind. It really just looks like I’ve been punched in the mouth and my mar­riage needs inter­ven­tion. For the record, my mar­riage doesn’t need inter­ven­tion. I just need to learn to surf instead of face plant­ing into the sand. But dam­mit, when did learn­ing some­thing new become so hard? It‘s been 11 months now, and instead of hav­ing it nailed, I’m being nailed.

Surf­ing is the first thing I’ve tried to teach myself as an adult. In the accu­mu­lated hours I’ve spent being tumbled in the white­wash, I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that there’s a dir­ect cor­rel­a­tion between get­ting older and a dimin­ish­ing capa­city to learn. Remem­ber strug­gling to ride a bike? No. That’s because it was no thang. Remem­ber learn­ing to read? No thang. Maybe kids can absorb bet­ter because someone else is run­ning the logist­ics of their lives. Or maybe it’s because a hun­dred fail­ures haven’t caused fear to fully form just behind their eye­balls. Or maybe it’s simply because we’re designed to learn when we’re new, not when we’re 30 years used.

That real­isa­tion is a sock to the gut. I’m no longer the kid with the infin­ite hori­zon of pos­sib­il­it­ies. The kid paddled out, turned 30 in the pro­cess, real­ised the hori­zon actu­ally has an end, saw the end in the dis­tance, and felt just a little scared. Sud­denly, you real­ise you’re get­ting on. You’ve lost some things for ever. Like the abil­ity to verb­al­ise text speak — OMG ROFL — without jeop­ard­ising your next pay review. Or the per­mis­sion to fall asleep any­where, at any time, while you’re sober. Or to climb on someone’s lap and stick your fin­gers in their mouth.

If what I’m exper­i­en­cing is a quarter-life crisis — and FFS I hate that phrase — then the good news is I’m already over it. I don’t believe them when they say the best days of my life are behind me. ‘Best‘ is not a word I asso­ci­ate with more than a dec­ade of overt bul­ly­ing in the school­yard. Or 18 years of forced sobri­ety. Or the indig­nity of being groun­ded. ‘Best’ is yet to come. ‘Best’ is being able to say no when you want to. ‘Best’ is hav­ing the dis­cern­ment to pick friends who make you laugh, not make you look cool. ‘Best’ is mar­ry­ing the per­son who turns every day into a slee­p­over party. And ‘best’ is finally lik­ing the per­son in the mirror.

Still, none of this pop psy­cho­logy fixes my prob­lem of get­ting on my surf­board. You’ll have heard that rule about 10,000 hours of prac­tice right? Appar­ently, after that many hours of repeat, repeat, repeat, you‘ll mas­ter your task. I fig­ure I can spare two hours each week­end day after hanging the wash­ing and before mak­ing the din­ner. So, that’s four hours a week and — tak­ing off East­er and Christ­mas — that’s 100 hours a year. I’ll finally be get­ting up on my board in 2114.

Heather du Plessis-Allan

Heather is a Jafa who's called Wellington home for seven years and counitng. The wind still drives her crazy, but the bucket fountain still makes her smile. She's running around Oriental Bay and learning to surf Lyall Bay. Her day job is reporting for TVNZ's Seven Sharp.

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