Thursday, June 25, 2015

We're in black belt school

A couple of years ago, before turning 30, I wrote a blog post about what I wanted to achieve in my fourth decade of life. The list has many good things on it, and it was nice to revisit those goals while writing this post. One of the things on my list was doing a PhD, which I have started, and (haha!) I said I wanted to travel more (be careful what you wish for, eh, Birmingham?). Another of those things was making a decision about getting my black belt. I have decided. Black belt journey begins now.

After my red-belt grading, with some broken lumber
Technically, that journey began long ago at the Kinmount Martial Arts club, and then began again a year and a half ago at DeSantos Martial Arts, but as of yesterday I have a red belt. I am one year of hard work away from achieving black. This is as scary as it is exciting.

The year ahead is going to be really tough. The physical challenges will be many. I can’t even imagine being able to do 50 consecutive full-body push-ups, or 30 triceps push-ups. I think I can maybe do one full-body triceps push-up before the knees have to go down. I have a long way to go, push-up-wise. Four classes a week, conditioning and perfecting technique, will take up a lot of my non-work time, and I will be doing extra conditioning outside of these classes, as per the weekly requirements. I’m thankful that my cardio is already quite strong, but I’m still scared.

I’m scared about making the investment of time an energy that committing to this requires. I’m worried about the sacrifices I’ll have to make. I’m dreading the weekly running – I really, deeply dislike running. I’m anxious about how my time in England will impact my training, and what I’ll need to do before, during, and after going away to make sure I’m on-track with my other black-belt candidate friends. I hate the idea of getting up early – I am not a morning person, and it’s not that I’m lazy or get 10 hours of sleep a night. On the contrary, I go to bed around midnight or one a.m., and I get up around 7:30 or 8. Waking up at 5:45 for training is really awful for me, and going to bed at 10 is basically impossible. I can’t remember the last time I was asleep before 11:30. All of these things give me fear, specifically, fear of failing.

I’ve wanted to get my black belt for so many years now, that I would be devastated if I failed this close to achieving it. That should motivate me to succeed, but it wavers between urging me on and chipping away at my resolution.

Drew, with his new green belt on,
pretending that I'm really scary
I’m really excited to be on this path with some really great people. The other candidates for black belt, some of whom just got their red belts with me last night, are awesome, and I think we’ll have a lot of fun going through the worst parts of this process together. I’m also so glad that Drew got into tae kwon do with me, because it’s immeasurably helpful to have his support, practicing, and getting up early, and going for runs (Drew is a superior runner, so I don’t think he likes having me drag along behind him, but TOO BAD).

So, friends and family, this is my declaration and my apology. For the next year, when I’m not writing my dissertation, I’ll be training for my black belt. I will not be very much fun. I won’t be able to party very often. I fear I won’t be a very good friend. Weekends will be spent in the city. I hope that you’ll forgive me my absence, and that you’ll still help me when I need you. I hope that you’ll come next June, if I don’t fail along the way, to cheer loud and watch me and the other candidates achieve this great big thing. It’s been 18 years in the making for me, and I just can’t wait. I'm motivated. I'm dedicated. I'm on a quest to be my best.

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