Another season of Baby Steps is complete. I’ve always liked it, but I felt a little more invested this season. Ei-chan has already mastered the basics and set a goal: win the All-Japan Junior to prove to his parents that it’s plausible for him to go pro. In the process, he continues to develop his tennis strategy, with a focus on the balance between reason and instinct. Related factors, such as pressure and various emotions, have to be balanced as well. Then there’s risk and caution, offense and defense… Ei-chan is painfully conscious of each factor. Reason comes naturally to him, but he can’t always predict and reason through a problem. Then he has a choice: let the never-ending analysis hold him back, or set aside some of the reason and start taking risks.
I’m the type to get so caught up in my head, I get effectively paralyzed for five minutes just deciding whether to buy cookies or candy. In this case, I’m only risking a few dollars. For anything more important than that, I have to sit down with my journal or planner and map out the situation.
Two weeks ago, I focused on Ei-chan’s self-examination. Now, I’m emphasizing the flip side. We cautious, analytical types need to know when to be impulsive, try new things, and take risks. Sometimes, we need help with this. For example, if Nat-chan hadn’t taken some initiative, Ei-chan might never have found the “right” time to ask her out. Other times, we can break through it on our own—though, as Ei-chan found, that requires a little self-confidence.
Ei-chan takes out his notebooks a lot, but there are times when he has to make a decision in the middle of a game—or when even his reason just isn’t sufficient. This could cripple him, but he never lets it hold him back for long. His match against Nabae incorporates everything he’s learned about balancing risk, experience, reason, emotions, and instinct. I won’t spoil the match’s result, but I will say that neither party has it easy. Ei-chan needs to keep improving if he has even a chance at beating Nabae. So he tries a new serve. He plays in ways Nabae perceived as “reckless,” and then he uses his more familiar “change of pace” methods. He even experiments with mental tactics, as he has frequently this season. He tries to force himself into the zone, realizes he needs more experience first, and tries something else instead. Ei-chan has to step beyond his data, and it results in a riveting match. I look forward to seeing how it contributes to his future. (I’m assuming there will be another season, because the manga is ongoing, and I don’t want to consider the alternative.)
I’m learning not to let caution and analysis trap me. Sometimes, I need someone to push me out of tangled analysis—like when my sister forced me to pack the car like I was, well, packing the car, instead of solving some immensely important jigsaw puzzle. Other times, like when choosing a summer job, I start by prayer and analysis, take a deep breath, close my journal, and step into the unknown. This summer, I chose an unfamiliar job over a familiar retail position. It was a burger and ice cream place, with cramped quarters, a lot of people, and new things to learn (so, an anxiety risk). I wouldn’t have had the confidence to even apply only two years ago. There were too many unknown factors in this simple food service job, and I didn’t know how well I’d perform. But this year, I had a little experience, and I was tired of letting those worries hold me back. So I went for it—and it was fun.
I’m learning to take other risks. In my creative writing, I have to spend time (sometimes a lot of time) on ideas I’m not sure will pan out. I take risks when I read poetry that I just wrote to the rest of the class. Sometimes, I wish I kept it to myself, but the feedback and practice help me grow as a writer. Soon, I’ll have bigger decisions to make—jobs to apply for and graduate schools to consider. I ask advice and pray about it, but eventually, it’s like God’s saying, “I love you, girl, but you aren’t my puppet. This is your decision, and I want you to make it. I’ll be with you, and you’ll grow either way. Let’s go!” I might lose a little time, pride, or money, but in the long run, none of those matter. It’s freeing to realize that.
If I’ve been analyzing too much, I’ll eventually throw caution out the window and make an impulsive—even foolish—decision. That’s not good, either. Conversely, if I’ve actually let myself be impulsive a lot, the negative repercussions will make me feel foolish and send me back into an overly analytical state. I’d like to think that I’m learning to balance these extremes, like Ei-chan is learning.
When you think about it, Ei-chan has been taking risks since the very beginning. He’s a nerd who took up tennis for the sake of health. He could have looked really foolish at a tennis club full of serious athletes. Yet he kept moving forward, trying new things, and setting goals. And he’s not afraid to step beyond his data in the process.