Changing Lanes

“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”

Chinese Proverb

It’s after my strength training class on Monday, the day after my climbing class, and I’ve just lost about a gallon of water. Our MA school doesn’t have air conditioning, just a bunch of big fans, and on a 95 degree day in Chicago, well, it feels like it doesn’t have much of anything.

I’m sitting in the locker room, staring at the lockers while unwrapping my hand wraps, that slow, ritualistic unwinding that gives you time to space out or ruminate. I’m ruminating.

I hurt all over. Mondays are always the toughest, likely because they’re coming just after my Sunday climbing class. And we did strength training today, meaning squats, weights, and martial arts stance drills (all of which still seem to baffle me), and then krav maga, which has more bag and mitt drills (which I bowed out of). I also managed my first jogging session last week, on Friday, which I’ll be repeating again this week. It gives me four days of hard exercise a week, which contents me – for the time being.

And I’m sitting here thinking, “Fuck, this is hard.”

My set point is “sedentary geek.” I’ll read a book a day and write you a couple academic papers a week while working on a novel and keeping track of US politics while teaching myself how to use PowerPoint, but ask me for a right front kick, left jab, right cross high, right cross low, front kick combo and I’m likely to spend most of my time during that drill trying to understand how all those things can go together and yet still find me upright at the end.

And I’m tired.

When I was a kid, I believed I was going to have a really interesting life. I believed I was destined for all sorts of adventures, that if I just sat around in my dusty little one-horse town and waited long enough, cool shit would happen to me. This is the “overlooked ordinary hero” syndrome common in just about every fantasy novel. That whole, “extraordinary events make ordinary people extraordinary” thing. So I sat around and waited.

At thirteen, I began to panic. I felt really old. A teenager all ready, and nobody had ridden up, tapped me on the head and said, “You are the One.”

It was really depressing. What was the world waiting for?

I ran out of the house three days after turning 18 in a desperate attempt to make something *interesting* happen. Instead, the person I shacked up with turned out to be a flake, and I hit rock bottom at a really young age. I realized that no, despite all those mythological stories about “overnight” successes pervading the American media landscape, nothing was ever going to happen to me. I was going to work as a waitress my whole life.

Or not.

I keep trying to build up this life, this cool gift, with choices. Take the tough path. It usually hurts. And it’s always hard. I’ve been making a life out of choosing the tougher, more interesting road for several years now, and I don’t intend to cease doing it. My choices get me to interesting places.

Me. I do.

The people who help me along the way can only help me with my own choices.

So I’m staring at the lockers, my handwraps are on the floor, and I’m heading back to the showers. On Wednesday I’ll be there again, wrapping up my hands, still sore from Monday, and bowing out on the floor before kicking my own ass in that lifelong pursuit: being better. Despite or because of the fact that it’s hard, and it hurts.

I’ve decided on a place I want to be, a life I want to have, and these are the steps I need to take to get there. To be better than I was the day before.

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