I gave up being a fighter for tennis balls and piano keys.
I’d always wanted to be a ballerina, but my dad thought it’d be good for me to take up martial arts with my brothers.
I fought well and kicked butt in class. My form was good and I excelled at wood breaking. And then I quit. Just like that. Before ever reaching my black belt.
But as the years pressed forward, I wondered just how much of the fighter in me had really, altogether, quit. Looking back, I realize that through moving, my brother’s continued state of brain damage and disability, my parents divorcing, my bouts with Rheumatic Fever, depression, and anxiety and, most recently, getting sick—I was only just finding and feeling my way through the battles, rather than fighting through them.
I wasn’t putting my hands up, defending my face, and attacking back.
The other day, I had a free pass to a kickboxing class with my friend. Excited, I put on my gloves and jogged in place, waiting for the trainer to yell out our first drill. I got lost, but I was keeping up…and it took me a while to catch the hang of it all. Jab, Jab, Cross. Jab, Cross, Jab.
Again. And again. And Again. Don’t stop. Keep going. Attack. Attack. Attack. Attack.
I checked the clock—we were only fifteen minutes into the class. WHAT? I was already tired, out of breath, and out of fight. How could I keep going?
I thought about life. And how tired I am of fighting with my irrational fear of dying. Tired of fighting with my body weight, up and down, up and down. Tired of fighting with my body, and my health, and my dreams, and my purpose, and missing home, and worrying about family.
I thought about those that I know are fighting, too. Fighting Dementia. And Cerebral Palsy. And Epilepsy. And Self-Hatred. And Mental Illnesses. And Debt. And Abuse.
I thought about my heavy arm and how hard it was to lift the thing and swing accross, hitting the bag and how it’s just like life and how we feel strengthless, and yet are still throwing punches. Still breathing. Still pumping air through the lungs. Still standing.
I thought, “This is how you fight through life. You leave the tears behind and you push ’til you sweat. Push ’til you bleed. Push ’til there’s nothing left. And then you push again.” What came next was a roar and a straight kick to the bag. Energy unleashed, suddenly, the punches came rolling. I’ll take those drills and eat them for breakfast if it means stayin’ alive in the game, stayin’ alive in my fight.
So to the one with the babe in your hand, ready to give up on on the day. And to the one with the blade in your hand, ready to give up on life. Put those gloves on. Lift those heavy, burning, weighing arms. Swing ’em. Jab, Jab, Cross. Jab, Cross, Jab. Again. And again. And Again. Don’t stop. Keep going. Attack. Attack. Attack. Attack.
There is a fighter within you, one that ain’t ready to give up or quit. And I’m burning with you. Fighting with you. Pressing in with you. Zoning in and punching that hundred pound bag.
The fight ain’t over and we’re not going home today. One punch after another. That’s all you need to stay in the game.