Experiencing Something New

by lauren atkinson

(Cross-posted from Medium. Expect posts to be here going forward.)

I get distracted when I am working from home. My diningroom table (where I spend most times working) faces the neighboring building’s roof, with a view of the alleyway and a good portion of the neighborhood below. My mind gets stuck on memories sometimes when I look out of that window, with the breeze pouring in (even on warmer days) — The smell of sunshine beating off of rooftop tar and the occurrence of the mind to wander when it’s trigger by the scent of something familiar.

When I was 11 my father decided to re-shingle the roof. Not to hire someone, no. This would be a family project, of course. My father is the type to always opt to do things on your own, whether to make it an opportunity for the family to bond or to teach my brothers and I new skills.

Thinking back to the humidity on the roof and the smell of tar. I remember having a strange fascination with poking at the tar as it was settling and rolling shingling nails down the roof until they hit the gutter. But somewhere in the moments of childhood distraction, I’d watch my uncle and father as they went about pulling shingles then replacing them with utmost ease and prior knowledge. Like they had been doing this as a job for many years. I asked my uncle how many roofs he had “done” and his response:“You do one, you’ve done them all.”

Then I see my father later working through a complex mathematical problem like he’s done this before. This is practice. Approaching the challenge similarly as you’ve done in the past but recognizing the new context.

I’d like to approach life in that way with some things. “Done one, done them all.” Not in the sense of the mundane, routine but that all anxiety and pressure to perfect becomes lax. The confidence in knowing that whatever it is, you can accomplish it because you’ve done similar or just the same. That all experience lends itself to how you approach new challenges.

Just like the brain triggered by the sense of smell, so can new experiences be inspired by the ones you’ve had before.