Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Twigs of Fury

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live… We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience”   - Joan Didion, The White Album
Once I start writing, I can't seem to stop. As events unfold around me, they compose themselves into narratives in my mind. I have set myself a goal of writing 30 minutes per day for two main reasons. One- it's less intimidating. I don't give up after 5 minutes of staring at a blank page because I know if there is still nothing on paper after 30 minutes, I'll call it a day. Second - it limits me from writing non-stop. I am in the midst of studying for my third (and final) step exam - an especially draining task that takes a painful effort to force myself into. Literally any distraction presents a gargantuan temptation. I also have to sleep, eat, spend time outside, run, hit something as hard as I can (I promise, it's almost always an inanimate object), do yoga, and do all of the other things I need to fit into a day to make myself feel whole.

In the immortal words of Sweet Brown "Ain't nobody got time for that".

The flaw in this strategy is that things I want to write don't occur to me only during those short 30 minutes of the day. So I find myself waiting at red lights, pausing in the grocery store or stopping midsentence to commit a piece of potential prose to memory or frantically recording strings of words before they flit away.

Stories compose themselves especially quickly when I face disappointment and life does not turn out as I wish. Perhaps it is my coping mechanism, to isolate myself from the real sensation of the loss. What could have been.

I've recently begun boxing regularly at a boxing and MMA gym near where I live. Fighting has been a hobby of mine since the very first time I gloved up, first year of medical school immediately after a grueling anatomy lab session. I stank of formaldehyde and sweat and had absolutely no technical skill in the sport whatsoever. What I had was fairly good endurance from years of distance running and an unbelievably patient and enthusiastic coach in my friend, Matt Gorris. He walked me through stance, protecting myself, keeping my hands up, throwing punches and elbows, putting power behind my kicks and knees. We worked hard for over an hour. By the time I was done I was no longer stressed. I went home to study, but the repetitive blows had made my hands shake so badly I couldn't hold a pen. My knuckles were bloody and I was exhausted and starving. I knew I was hooked.

We worked out at the local YMCA together regularly. Matt, a talented Muay Thai instructor, had technical knowledge that I lacked and had appropriate pads and gear for training me. It is an amazing feeling throwing a solid punch for the first time – when you figure out that the power comes from the hips, the core, the shoulder and the legs all at once… I learned that I was stronger than I realized, that despite my diminutive stature, I could (pardon the cliché) pack a punch.

Other people in our rag tag band of workout buddies began to notice my increase in strength and began to refer to me and my skinny, visually unintimidating arms as “the twigs of fury”. (There was a group of 5-6 of us who would regularly gather to hit pads, work the bags and improve form. We wanted to form an official club as part of our med school with the name the BAMF club. Matt insisted this stood for boxing and muay thai fighting, but given the more common colloquialism associated with BAMF, we never made it very far into the approval process.)

As my newfound coach and members of our group transitioned into their next year of medical school, intensifying class work and beginning preparations for their first step exam forced our workout sessions to become few and far between. I lamented the loss of an outlet, craved the challenge of fighting. No other workouts exhausted me in quite the same way.

Coincidentally, my first medical school friend, Jeremy, had recently started training at a Jiu-Jitsu gym nearby. The gym was partnered and shared facilities with an MMA gym known as Bad Dog MMA. For a reasonably low fee, they offered classes known as MMA conditioning – hour-long workouts offered daily at the intensity of conditioning for pro fighters. In fact, several of the pros who fought for the gym also trained at these classes.

The idea of training at the same pace as professional fighters was daunting. It took Jeremy well over a month to convince me to attend a class. Even after the convincing was over, still scared, I roped two other friends to coming along with me – I didn’t want to be the sole newbie.

The class was exhausting. It consisted of many different stations, each of which was performed for a 3 minute round after running and jump roping for several minutes as a warm-up. There was weights, plyometric drills, shadow-boxing, heavy bags, ropes, mitts and so many other variations to the workout that it is hard to recall now. It was also impossible to get bored. I returned for a second class… and a third.

Bad Dog MMA at the time had only around fifteen regular attenders to the class, three of which were fighting at the professional level. Rather than falling into separate castes based on our skill level, everyone embraced a familial atmosphere. Sarcasm ran rampant and teasing was the main form of communication – it felt like home. After two months of conditioning classes, I signed up to train in MMA as well. The community of fighters was smaller even than those in the classes and as a result I learned new technique and skill under the guidance of local professional fighters.

I was still fairly new to the sport when I first experienced fight night. Several of my newfound friends were competing in a local exhibition. I was encouraged not only to come and support my “brothers” but also to sit at the table reserved for Bad Dog. Of course I went.

I had watched some MMA on TV as my interest in the sport grew and had not missed a Pacquiao fight since developing an obsession with him. Watching the sport live is an entirely different animal. The blood is real and very visible. Our table was near enough that I could appreciate the strength of a blow’s impact via sound alone. While I find it fascinating given the strength, prowess, and athleticism involved, on some level it still feels a little barbaric, sitting in a room full of people cheering each time a person is hit so hard they cannot stand.

This sensation was enhanced by my newfound camaraderie with the fighters. One of them, an 18 year old having his first public amateur fight that night had me white-knuckled for the duration of his bout. Previously unmoved by most sports competitions that I was not personally involved in, I suddenly understood the passion of fans who want so desperately for their team to win. I felt a sense of belonging. I was one of them.

He did marvelously and ultimately won his fight in a very clear decision. I relaxed slightly, and continued to watch the other fights.

Several bouts later, as a fighter tapped out, the announcer declared the winner via “trying to choke”. I was extremely confused. You could get a win by trying to choke? Why would anyone not try to choke then? I posed these misguided questions to Jeremy, who sat next to me. His laughter indicated that although in my head I had become part of this world, outside of my head I clearly had a lot to learn. What had actually happened is that the fighter won via triangle choke – a brutal and very effective choke in which the executor traps his opponent’s head and arm between his two legs, bends one at the knee, forming a triangle shape in which the head is trapped. He can then very easily and very powerfully clamp down on his opponents throat until the opponent taps or passes out.

A good ground game is crucial to an MMA fighter. Many fights are won and lost grappling via complicated holds and chokes. As exciting as knockouts are, they occur rarely. Ronda Rousey, arguably the best female UFC fighter, has won almost all of her fights via arm bars. 

Seeing the gap in my defenses, I began attending Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes at Bad Dog. I could not find the same inspiration from BJJ that I got from upright fighting. The learning curve is steep and it was frustrating when, after learning only one choke, attending an open mat session and realizing when your entire repertoire of skills consists of one trusty move, you become pretty easy to defend against. I lost repeatedly.

Also, being small and female, I had a limited number of opponents available to me. While training to punch, it was unimportant to find someone of comparable size. In BJJ however, an challenger with even 30 pounds on me made it difficult to perform the technical moves I was learning.

Being female shouldn’t be a problem but the vast majority of the BJJ crowd was male. I didn’t know them as well as the MMA guys I had been working with. There is a certain level of trust involved in wrapping your legs around someone and grappling. Maybe it shouldn’t have made me uncomfortable, maybe there is an inherent code of conduct among members where athleticism and bettering each other take precedent over all else... Regardless, it did.

At the time I was just over 100 lbs and any weight-matched male partners were likely to be young teenagers anyways. So my training partner ended up being the one other regularly present female in the group who was a friend from medical school. She had maybe thirty pounds on me but was at least not a teenage male.

The type of person who makes it as far as medical school – through the science-heavy undergraduate curriculum, scientific research, volunteering, MCAT exams, interviews, applications and essays – a competitive personality is heavily selected for. Those attending medical school are used to being the best of the best, because that is the only way to get where they are going.

I was hugely relieved to find that this thinking did not prevail at Toledo. While a few outliers were grossly competitive and cutthroat, the general attitude of the class was co-operative. We shared notes and study guides, pneumonics and advice.

Although it hadn’t been made obvious to me at that point, my friend fell into the more traditional pattern. Highly competitive without much thought to the outside appearance, she worked hard to get what she wanted. This isn’t a fault - it has served her and many like her very well. However, it was contrary to my approach and an unideal quality in a training partner for a beginner.

She was one of the first friends I invited to the gym – part of my insulation against being the sole newbie at a conditioning class. My mentality was that we were there together first. Us against the world. For awhile it worked.

In our BJJ training, when we would learn a new choke, I would purposely allow her to achieve it. As I said previously, it is not hard to defend against a particular move when you know exactly what move is coming. The point of learning these chokes, in my opinion, was to learn them, practice them and develop the muscle memory so that when presented the opportunity to use it in a fight it has already become second nature.

She took the approach that no one should ever get the best of her. Even in training, when I was the aggressor, practicing a newfound skill, she would defend against it relentlessly, running out the clock before I had enacted it at all. Admittedly, this is a fantastic quality in a fighter. A warrior spirit which can never be beaten. I bet if Jack Bauer were training in BJJ, he would have exactly the same philosophy.

I wanted a friend to learn the ropes with and I quickly grew disgusted with this approach. My limited opportunity to practice and narrow choice of partners led to frustration and ultimately cessation of my BJJ career.

Shortly thereafter, personal conflicts among other members of the gym became public and the whole environment became a toxic place. I lamented the loss of the family atmosphere and friends that I had made and went back to training on my own with friends holding pads whenever they were available.

Bestie and I in our YMCA training days.  Toledo, Ohio
This served me well up to the end of medical school. Through third and fourth year, I was never in one place long enough to warrant joining a gym.

Intern year started and I redefined for myself what ‘busy’ truly meant. It looked as though my gloves would be relegated to the dusty crawlspace in my house. Set aside to be reclaimed, maybe someday. I continued to exercise on the rare occasion that I had enough time and energy at the end of the day – and frantically more often as Army Physical Fitness Tests loomed near on the horizon.

I began to notice that something was wrong around the time of my first NICU block. For a few weeks, I compensated with running nearly every day, but this left me no time to eat before bed and it drained my limited physical reserves rather quickly. I began to lose interest in food and would consume only a fraction of my needed intake.

Were it not for the amazing residents I work with, I am certain things would have hit a critical mass much earlier on. As it was, shit hit the proverbial fan during my first clinic block. It is no secret that clinic is my least favorite of all the rotations we have to do during intern year. Add to this that I was very depressed and doing my first clinic block late in the year, (when you are already expected to understand the basic diagnoses and functioning of the clinic… even if you have worked there) and essentially you have the perfect recipe for a poor experience.

Long story short, I fell off the bandwagon. I lost interest in largely everything I once enjoyed. I would come home at the end of the day around 5 PM and immediately cry myself to sleep. I had trouble faking it at work – once people started to ask me if I was okay, I was no longer able to pretend I was.

This led to a much-needed hiatus from residency. I was given time to think and refocus.

It had been ages since I’d had the luxury of time.

It was an overwhelming void. What was I going to do with myself?

When this question was posed to me by a friend, I blurted out "Join an MMA gym" without having previously decided to do so. I surprised myself and decided now that it had been said, I had to put my money where my mouth was.

Entering new and ambiguous situations has always induced anxiety for me. Ironic, given that I enjoy traveling where I know no one and nothing… Regardless, this made finding a new place to practice MMA a rather intimidating task. After a few weeks of online searching, I found Champion Boxing and Fitness. It was conveniently located and had a few good testimonials. That was enough to make me think I had found “it”.

One day, after summoning my courage, and making plans in the area, I went to the gym. I arrived and forced myself to walk in and inquire about joining before my courage left me.

The owner of the gym happened to be manning the front desk. He was amiable and pleasant. We took a walking tour of the gym, he outlined membership and what was included. Fitness classes and unfettered gym access for a monthly fee. For slightly more each month, I could train with “boxing team” which included pad work, sparring, conditioning. “What do you want to get out of it?”

That was a question I really hadn’t asked myself previously. “To get better.” I answered before thinking.

“Yeah, the classes are great for getting in shape. Women especially like boxing because it just tightens everything up.” He responded, misconstruing my answer. “The boxing team more works technical skill- the art of fighting... and they do a lot of conditioning – each workout starts with a long run together. Pretty team oriented, very intense. They focus more on teaching you how to box. I think you will really like the classes.”

“Actually I would like to learn more of the art of fighting.” He looked a little surprised by my response. But recovered quickly and began walking me through the options of renting gloves and buying wraps.

“Oh, I already have my own wraps and gloves.”

“Boxing or fitness gloves?”

“I have both boxing gloves and fingerless MMA gloves.”

Clearly he wasn’t anticipating that I would already own my own gear. In his defense, I had shown up at the gym after meeting up with friends, so I had makeup and glasses on and no bag with me. I suppose it could have looked like I had wandered into the gym by accident, mistaking it for the nail salon next door.

A large African-American male sitting behind the desk, previously engrossed in wrapping his hands for a workout suddenly looked up and assessed me. “Oh yeah, she’s a fighter” He said.

His appraisal of me helped me feel legitimate. As if previously, I too had been considering the possibility that I had wound up there by mistake. 

We finalized the deal, paid necessary fees and I left with a schedule in hand.

Selecting and attending my first class was equally intimidating. I wished that I had roped people into coming with me. The gym is laid out such that when you walk in, the front desk is immediately to the right. To the left is a full – size, roped in boxing ring. Directly ahead, beyond some weights and machines there are approximately 30-40 heavy bags suspended from the ceiling in regular intervals forming a regimented rectangle. This is where the bulk of the classes are taught.

I showed up 10 minutes early for my first class, laid my bag against the wall and put my gloves under a bag as I had been instructed. Then I waited.

No one else hovered by any of the bags. A man worked the speed bag to my right. Another ran on a treadmill. A pair of people were sparring in the MMA cage. I chewed my nails and looked around, waiting for instruction or some idea that I was in the right place.

“Do you need help wrapping your hands?” A man of about forty years old asked from a few bags away.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Okay, I just didn’t know if you knew how or anything.”

Annoyed by his assumption, I yanked my wraps out of the bag and began quickly wrapping my hands. I had grabbed my shorter, Everlast wraps which are unfortunately bright pink. Paired with my electric pink running shoes and the fact that I had lipstick on, I am sure this did not suggest that I belonged.

A woman in her early forties arrived and strode directly to a bag near the windows, towards the front corner of the room. Her black hair was tied into one ponytail with multiple rubber bands down its length. She looked confident. She, for one, had clearly done this before.

The only thing I dreaded worse than looking like a complete idiot was looking like a complete idiot at the very front of the classroom. Unfortunately, given the layout, the very front of the class was an unclear location. I approached this woman – who clearly knew things and asked which way the front of the class was. She indicated that it was the wall with the mirrors, but that it was hard to see from the back. I reassessed my positioning and selected a bag near this woman – I figured I could just copy her if I had no idea what was going on.

She explained that the instructor for today’s class usually had easier workouts. An hour of intense bag work, push-ups, jump-squats, burpees, and wind sprints later – dripping sweat and getting only limited oxygen to my brain, I tried to talk myself into a new hobby. Knitting sure passes time – no one feels like they’re going to die after an hour of knitting.

After catching my breath, I reminded myself for the millionth time since starting this sport – You love this.

Some weeks later, I found that Lisa (black ponytail) was right – those classes were the easy ones. They began to feel easy to me too. It was about that time that I decided to attend boxing team for the first time. They workout for two hours together and at the time I joined the gym, that would have been impossible for me. However, I had improved endurance and felt ready for the new challenge.

It was this moment – my first attendance of boxing team, that begged to be written, even as it was happening. It has taken a lot of backstory to get to this point, but here goes.

It was around 5:50PM on a Tuesday night as I walked into the gym for my first boxing team session. It was packed with children and adults alike. It seemed as though every punching bag was currently occupied while an instructor yelled out combinations from the front of the room. A dozen more people worked out independently on treadmills, lifting weights and the speed bags. Children ran screaming and laughing through the room. It was chaos.

I was directed to the boxing team coach, Mike. I had never met him previously. He sat on the edge of the ring, watching two fighters spar and occasionally shouting out guidance. He shook my hand and indicated that I should sit down.

He had grey hair with occasional dark pieces cut in a short, military-esque fashion. He had long 5 o’clock shadow on the sides of his face and his chin. His eyes were a sharp steely blue of extreme intensity. Overall, his appearance gave the impression that he should be aboard the Pequod, wearing a weathered sweater and swearing up a storm.  Wizened. Fierce. Tough.

He seemed pleasant enough though and asked me to tell him about myself.

That is quite possibly the most annoying inquiry on the face of the planet. I never really know what to say and often just report my name and something the person asking already knew about me. For instance at the start of intern year – when every new attending posed the same question. “Hi, I’m Katie. I’m a doctor. I’m from Ohio.”

Where I’m from gets thrown in there surprisingly often too – as though it will convey some innate sense of who I am. Oh, an Ohio girl. Right. So she likes the buckeyes and says pop instead of soda. She will complain about the snow, but if anyone else does – they have NO idea how bad it could be.

I should really come up with a more personal response to that question… Unfortunately, I think it would give the person asking far more information than they actually want to know. “Hi, I’m Katie. I say a lot of mean things but they are usually quotes from movies or TV shows that I don’t intend to be taken literally.” … “Hi I’m Katie, it’s possible that I spent over 20 minutes putting on make-up today and unlikely that I know the last time I washed my hair.” … “Hi I’m Katie, I consume more coffee than is actually advisable and this only enhances my ability to speak non-stop when I’m nervous, usually about things no one cares about and I could probably go on but you look bored and now I’m uncomfortable and feel as though I’ve alienated you even though that was the opposite of my goal here.” Or, perhaps more fitting for a boxing gym, “Hi, I’m Katie and it is one of my life goals to get in a fight. Not a scheduled match, persay – but I’m not ruling that out either. I want to be in a real fight where I’m the one clearly in the right, defending an underdog or my honor or whatever and the other person is much bigger than me but because of my skill and my will to win I still manage to floor him or at least draw some blood such that I’m clearly the crowd favorite by the end.” (Like when Mr. Miyagi shows up to defend Daniel in The Karate Kid. Clearly, he should be overmatched given that he is older than his opponent and outnumbered, but he still manages to wipe the floor with them #goals.)

At the time, I hadn’t considered all the potential answers to this question and simply responded in the typical fashion. Katie. Ohio. Want to get better at boxing. (Why on earth would I be in a boxing gym otherwise?!) Blah blah blah. 

His response was not what I anticipated, although, in retrospect it is the crucial moment in any boxing movie where the protagonist faces adversity.

He explained that this is a team approach, if I decide to do this, which I probably shouldn’t, I need to be on time. “If you want to show up, ten minutes late, not take this seriously, then I don’t care about you. You might get better, but you probably won’t. I’ve got kids in there competing in real fights. If this is just a hobby for you and you’re not going to make this the number one priority in your life, then I don’t care. I don’t need your money, I don’t need you to like me. I’m an asshole and I’m okay with that.”

Essentially, we aren’t going to pay special attention to you. “I’ve got about twenty kids – some of them can’t make a fist and some of them are pro level.” He went on to explain that at the beginning, boxing is about repetition. Training your muscles to punch properly and training your cardiovascular system to keep up with the demands of a several-round fight. It’s boring and painful and I would probably hate it. “There is a beginner boxing class starting up – start there and they will go through the basics with you and then you can come to my team after you’ve learned all that.”

I didn’t respond immediately. His rant had persisted for several minutes and was a lot to digest. I had wanted this since day one of joining this gym. Boxing team had been my goal and I worked hard to get “good enough” to be here. Embarrassed by my own apparently overly generous assessment of myself and my skills, I sat in silence, wanting nothing more than to slink away.

I’ve never had a good poker face when I’m upset or hungry and at this particular moment, I was both. Mike must have seen this and softened I guess. He told me to sign up for beginner’s boxing, that it would help me and then I could come back and try again with him. I shrugged it off as best I could and thanked him for his time. (Nothing like thanking someone after they’ve spent 10 minutes telling you “You’re not good enough”).

Having suffered enough to get this far, I went to the front desk and inquired about beginner’s boxing. I waited for awhile behind a middle aged man who had an inordinate number of unnecessary questions about the fitness classes offered. (Did I mention that I was hangry by this point?)

As I was waiting, the boxing team gathered and went outside for a talk from coach Mike followed by a run.

Finally, I had the attention of the person at the front desk. She explained to me all that I needed to learn in order to be good at boxing. I cut her off because I was not interested in the syllabus at this point but simply wanted to know days and times.

“Oh, it’s just starting up. We haven’t actually scheduled it for any days or times yet.” … Awesome. She acquired a piece of paper, wrote on the top ‘Beginner’s boxing class’ and underlined it. She asked for name phone, phone number and email. I provided them as requested and left. By now the boxing team was no longer encircling the front door and I wanted to be long gone by the time they returned.

As I sat in my car, processing (and figuring out the closest place to pick up food), the boxing team ran by in several clusters. The guys in the front of the pack were clearly strong runners and keeping a quick pace. The stragglers were dragging and I had no doubt that I would not be bringing up the rear. Jealous that they were “good enough” and I was not, I went home and poured myself some wine.

When I returned to the gym the next day for my regularly scheduled classes with an instructor I knew well, Coach Mike happened to be there as well. Of course. I had not laid eyes on him prior to my embarrassing meeting the night before, but now I was going to see him everywhere. Statistically- unlikely; anecdotally- that’s how my life goes.

I was late and had only managed to wrap one hand during the drive. (A practice that always gets entertaining reactions from other drivers). Coach Mike was working with a fighter whose name I don’t know right near my usual bag. After an awkward unintentional eye contact, I smiled tersely and set about wrapping the other hand. Mike came up and asked if I was able to sign up for that class. I guess this was as close as I could expect to encouragement? “It hasn’t been scheduled yet” I informed him. He replied “oh, this week or next for sure” and refocused on the important task at hand.

Anger and embarrassment does for my fighting the same thing that coffee does for my thinking. It speeds it up, gives it clarity and accuracy. An edge.

Mike was around the gym for the duration of the class. I let it all out on the bag, his words from the previous night still stinging in my ears.

The fighter he had been working with – easily 6’5” and over 200 lbs (with super intimidating dreadlocks to boot) came over to work the speed bag that happens to be right by my spot. At this point, I was engrossed in my workout and working hard to breath. I didn’t pay him much attention. After letting a particular combination fly, I heard him exclaim, rather loudly, “OWW. Dang.”

I looked at him and was surprised to find that he was watching me. His exclamation had not been a personal expression of injury but instead a commentary on my combination. I nodded at him and went back to work.

Joppy, the instructor, came over with the punching mitts and worked some combinations with me. While hitting the bag is rewarding and exhausting, it does not compare to the sensation of hitting the mitts. Responding to the calls in real time, ducking as needed, maneuvering around to follow the coach and maintain distance while protecting yourself from real blows… it’s a whole new level.

When the bell finally chimed signaling the end of the round, I was sucking in air like I had just sprinted up a mountain. “High knees, go.” Joppy commanded and we all obeyed, panting and bouncing as though our lives depended on it. “Hmmrhginf hdn hd” He said something else, but much softer, clearly directed at me and not the class at large. At that point, listening, thinking and bouncing were not three things that I had the capacity to do at once. I stopped so I could breath and hear him clearly, “What?”

“Have you considered one on one training?” He asked me. The nearby fighter commented something along the lines of “She’s legit” or “she’s got stuff”. Honestly I could barely hear him, but from the expression on his face and the way Joppy nodded assent I knew it was intended as a compliment.

“Honestly, I really want to start and I’ve tried, but…” I trailed off, certain he didn’t need to know the full story.

“After class, we’ll talk. I would train you really cheap.” Brief pause as I stared at him, a little dumbfounded. “High knees.” He reminded me and I got to it.

Twenty minutes later, after completing our abdominal workouts and finishing stretching, I unwrapped my bleeding knuckles as I approached him. He walked me through what training would entail, the importance of endurance, and asked what I wanted to get out of it. Flashing back to all of the times I had been asked this previously and misunderstood, I tried to answer with more words. I explained that I wanted to be a good fighter, to be able to handle myself in the ring, to learn how to slip punches and work combinations without thinking about them. He nodded.

“None of that will come without sparring. None of it is real until you are taking blows as well as throwing them. That’s really when it all comes together. You would wear pads and stuff, but we need to get you in the ring. I think you have potential and I would just train you like an amateur fighter and we would go from there. See where it goes.”

He went over the cost of a personal training session and gave me his card. I heard none of it. My mind was already envisioning myself in the ring (and, as after every workout, imagining what I would eat next). Joppy and the fighter near me (whose name I still don’t know, but if he features in another story ever, I’m just going to refer to him as ‘dreadlock’ because this is getting rather cumbersome) reaffirmed my faith in myself. I wasn’t wrong and I do have what it takes.

This is a super long story with a rather clear moral. No one else determines your skill, your value and your worth. Mike took one look at me and decided I was not right for his class. I wouldn’t be able to cut it. Honestly, he may have been right. But the real failure was when I agreed with him both internally and externally. When I didn’t stand up for myself and say you may be right, I may be in over my head, but I’m still jumping in. When I left the gym without giving that first session a try, simply because I was told to.

Maybe everyone else has already learned this and didn’t need to relive my humiliation to affirm it. I’ve dealt with the same general theme in other aspects of my life – relationships, jobs, etcetera. It is something that Disney seems to engrain into us as children – you can be whoever/whatever you want to be… Just be true to you! In fact, I think we comprehend it more clearly as children; once we are adults burdened with pride and social graces and some sense of our limitations that we are so willing to settle for the box that someone else has set us in.

So, I’m going to train with Joppy. He believed in me. I’m going to go back to boxing team too. I’m even going to go to beginner’s boxing – it can only make me better, right? My arms may only be twigs… but what doesn’t meet the eye is that they are twigs of fury. Look out world, because someday when there is a bully picking on an underdog or a guy making sexist remarks or forcing a girl in a bar to put up with his drunken stupidity… #bucketlist, I’m probably gonna ask him nicely to stop. When he sizes me up and sees that I’m a small, insubstantial girl with no way of enforcing my request and ignores me… Well, then that will certainly be a story I will write about.

Champion Boxing & Fitness, Rockville, MD
-Empty on rare occasion

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