I was struggling to come up with something to write today, as I just didn’t have anything particularly inspirational to post. Instead of coming up with something original, I decided to pick out one on my unpublished posts from the “draft” folder. I started this untitled piece in April, 2019:
Uphill battles are by their nature difficult. It feels like the odds are stacked against you, like people are intentionally putting up roadblocks for no good reason. They are frustrating, and more times than not, you wonder why you put the effort into what feels like a losing battle. It’s a great question: why put yourself through all that if there’s no hope in success?
Because beating the odds makes winning that much sweeter.
I am eighteen days out from my brown belt test. To say I’m freaking out would be the understatement of the year. Right now, I’m convinced I’ll fail. I don’t see how I’ll possibly succeed in this goal. I don’t see how postponing it until August will help. I can have another three months to train and I still won’t feel ready.
I feel lost, unprepared, and like everything is stacked against me. I feel like this brown belt test isn’t meant for the likes of me: a middle-aged woman who’s in better shape than she used to be, but nowhere near top form. A middle-aged woman with damaged lungs, a damaged right arm, and a busy life outside the dojo.
Brown belt tests are supposed to be hard. I know this. I accept this. That’s part of why I want it so desperately. I’ve done a lot of hard things in my life, but none as physically challenging as this. I feel like everything is riding on my passing this test. If I don’t pass, I fear I won’t be able to show my face in the dojo ever again. This has happened. People have failed, and they never came back to class.
Will I be one of those people?
I’ve got a lot of drive, and a lot of determination. I’ve also got a huge fear of failure, and a whopping self-confidence issue. I’m desperately terrified that I can’t do this. And I want to succeed so very, very badly.
This is where I am at the moment, the not-so-pretty side of having goals and reaching for dreams. The tantalizing space where quitting seems the logical choice and you wonder why you’re trudging up this hill.
It is so fascinating to read this, ten months later. Since I’ve written this, not only did I successfully test for my Brown Belt, I tested again in December. For my First Degree Brown Belt test, I was concerned by how not nervous I was.
Failure is scary, and when something matters a lot to us, the fear of failure can stop us from ever starting. Sometimes, it feels easier and safer to never begin rather than risk finding out you stink at something you love.
If I’ve learned anything in 2019, it’s that we often don’t give ourselves enough credit for our abilities. We get so caught up in how much work is left to do that we don’t see all that we’ve already done. I’ve learned that as scared as we might be, we’ve got to do it anyway. I have this sticky note on my bulletin board over my desk:
I put it up there a year ago, not in relation to belt promotions but my lifelong dream of working with words. It’s taken me almost all of 2019 to come to believe in myself enough to think that maybe—just maybe—I can be successful at this thing that means so very much to me.
It’s good advice, whether we’re a non-sporty middle-aged woman struggling for our brown belt or a college graduate chasing down our dreams. The really important things can be the most scary, and they end up meaning the most when we succeed. And yes, I use “when” intentionally. Because we always succeed when we chase our dreams. Sometimes we have to redefine what “success” means, but every time we get out there and go after those special goals—those secret goals we’re afraid of telling anyone in case they laugh—we are learning and growing as a person.
We are showing ourselves that we are stronger and braver and more capable than we gave ourselves credit for, and even if it didn’t turn out exactly as we’d hoped, we did more than a lot of other people. We fucking tried. We gave it our all, our best. So many people never even start, never let themselves believe they can even think about making their dreams come true. But we went for it, and that’s something to be proud of.
Look at us go. Fuck yeah, we’re awesome.
So, may our 2020 be the year that our dreams come true. May success abound, and may we be ever stronger and fearless of the awesomeness of our dreams.