The most obvious one would be piano. I just stopped. Probably because I felt like there was nothing more for me to learn, since I obviously wasn't going to go pro anytime soon. Ever. I was learning to play piano because it was what we did. My mother played. My older brother started taking lessons when he was about nine years old. We had a piano in our living room. We had another one in the basement. They weren't going to play themselves. Well, to be precise, the one in the basement could play itself in that it was a player piano and if you pumped the pedals with enough gusto, you sounded just like Van Cliburn. The image I had of myself playing dazzling honky tonk and jazz riffs never came to pass. I stalled out somewhere amid the Mozart sonatinas, without ever becoming the Leon Russell/Elton John/Billy Joel or Preston that I felt might dwell inside me. If I had that kind of talent, it was buried deep inside. Very, very deep.
This was kind of like my marine abilities. Perhaps growing up in Colorado I didn't see any particular need from a survival standpoint to hone my swimming skills. I stalled out at "Minnow," and never went back. I still enjoy frothing about in swimming pools, and the lessons I did retain in that one summer were not lost on me: entering the water in as many silly and ridiculous ways as possible. Mister Man rides a bike. Mister Man trips over a curb. Mister Man leans against a wall that suddenly isn't there. Falling into the water was the main thing. Once I got there, I found that I could hold my breath and eventually push myself through whatever depths I found myself to the surface, and then make some amateur attempts at a crawl or paddle that would get me to the edge of the pool. Where I would then crawl out and toss myself in once again. Mister Man skills aside, I wasn't cleared to move on to Tuna, Halibut or Stingray. I would never get a Shark badge to sew onto my trunks, nor would I ever look back with much regret on any of those accomplishments, though both of my brothers found more success in this area.
I've just never been good at taking lessons. Lessons require practice, and I don't have the temperament. I would much rather have someone show me once and then I go off and figure it out on my own. This was nearly a deal-breaker for my wife and I, when she became somewhat insistent that I learn how to dance. Not just the floppy, loose-limbed gyrations that I had been passing off for so many years at parties and bars. She was asking me to learn steps. Just like learning the backstroke or scales, this seemed an unnecessary use of my time and energy. Wasn't my enthusiastic pantomime imitations of those movements sufficient?
As it turns out, they weren't. Not if I was going to dance with a partner anywhere near me. Not if I wanted to make it appear as though I had a partner instead of a bemused spectator. For a series of very difficult and uncomfortable minutes, I put myself in her hands, in hopes that I would no longer be stepping on her toes. I would love to tell you that I discovered that I relaxed and found that the joy I took from dancing with my wife made it all worthwhile. I still take a great deal of joy from each turn I take on the dance floor with my lovely and patient wife, but I can't say that she has taught me more than those very basic steps. Mister Man on the dance floor.
Someday I'll learn my lesson.