Started training June 16, 2010, age 42
Tested for red belt June 24, 2017, age 49
I have pictured myself at this point many times. Standing, red belt on, reading my essay. This is one of my strengths: Picturing myself succeeding. I have used this strategy my whole life, and it has helped me here since white belt. Always picturing myself at these pivotal moments, succeeding.
I was 42 years old when I began training. In 15 days I will be 49. I set a goal for myself that I would be a black belt by 50. This seemed reasonable based on watching others train and progress. The only black belt in the dojo at that time was Sensei Brian. I remember the first group of 6 black belt candidates going through their test. I recognized how challenging it was for them. It was a point that I began to seriously question whether I could do this. I wondered if this would just be too difficult for me. I really wanted to know if I could do it. So, I asked Sensei Brian, sincerely, “Do you think I can even do this?” And, if my memory serves me well, his reply was without hesitation, and he said, “Yes. You can do this”.
When Sensei Brian told me that, I chose to believe him. He knows what I need to do and he knows me. So, I chose to believe that I can do it. Sometimes all we need is to know that someone believes in us.
What has surprised me the most about this journey is what I have learned about myself. Often these learning experiences came at a rank test or leading up to a rank test. At my brown 1 test I learned that I could keep going even when my body and mind wanted to quit. At Brown 2 I learned that I need to be in the moment to survive. Leading up to red belt, I have felt that I need to expect more from myself. I can honestly say that I am always trying my best, but even with that I just sense that there is something more. I’m going to be working on that.
Learning about myself has been challenging. At times I have felt so vulnerable it was hard to continue. But, in those moments when I felt the most vulnerable and raw, those were the times I have had to be really honest with myself. I had to sit in that vulnerability, live in that, so that I could learn from it. It’s not fun and it’s not easy. At times I wasn’t sure I could continue. I felt like I was wearing all of my flaws on the outside for everyone to see and that is a very difficult place for me to be.
One thing I have learned from my time training here is to be in the moment. During training, part of “being in the moment” is understanding that the moment, whatever it is, good or bad, will pass. I have learned I quickly forget the good moments and I like to hang on to the bad moments. But, whether I am having a hard time with a new skill or just had a strong class, I cannot allow myself to live in these moments. They teach me something and I adjust. Then, on to the next moment. When I do this, mistakes don’t weigh me down and successes don’t make me lazy. Of course we have all heard and know to, “live in the moment.” Knowing it and practicing it, however, are two very different things and something I am still working on.
One of the greatest gifts of this journey has been doing it alongside my kids.
Elise, I’ve said it many times, you are the bravest and most resilient person I know. You have taught me so much about courage. Sometimes I feel like I am standing on your courageous coat-tails and what is keeping me going is that you always keep going and I am so mesmerized by your ability to do so that I’m pulled along, too. You inspire me.
Garrett, your concern for me on the mats is like a role-reversal. You are so caring and compassionate. You worry about me getting hurt. You worry about me feeling badly about how I’m doing. I would ask you to stop worrying about me, but I don’t think it would help. It’s a part of who you are just like it’s a part of who I am. You are honest, helpful, and kind. You make my heart happy.
I feel strongly that I wouldn’t know my kids as well as I do if it weren’t for training together here and being alongside them on this journey. I just can’t imagine that. I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on this.
Being on these mats brings people together. I have connected with people who probably would have never crossed my path otherwise. I have made friends with people who I now can’t imagine my life without.
I want to thank all the senseis that have shared their knowledge and encouraged me on my journey. I have learned so much from you all.
Sensei Brian, thank you for being patient with me and believing in me. I’m sure it hasn’t always been easy. I feel like teaching me has been like giving someone all the tools and then watching them use those tools to build their own road blocks, or ways to make it more difficult than it needs to be. The culture in this dojo is unique and amazing because of you. I am very grateful for who you are.
Crystal, thank you for being my training partner and friend. I enjoy class so much when you are there, too. We laugh a lot (mostly at ourselves and each other). It has been so helpful and comforting knowing that you are on this journey with me.
Cade, if it wasn’t for you I’m not sure I would be at this test today. I was happy at brown 2 and would have happily stayed there for a longer time. Your motivation to test and encouraging attitude helped me see that I could do it.
Greg, I’m sure it has not been easy living with 3 people who have gone through this process to red belt. You have been to 21 rank tests and countless classes. You have tried to work this into your schedule. You have been encouraging and willing to give up time with us so that we can pursue this amazing journey. You have been very supportive for all the sacrifices in time and resources I have put into it. Thank you so much for this.
From this point on, know that I will be picturing myself on the top of the mountain with my black belt on.
I can see it now.