Twelve. I was twelve years old. Short, skinny, pale, with disheveled hair that I refused to tie in a ponytail. The steps leading to our front door was flanked by what looked like wide railings made of stone. Each railing was wide and had a hollow space in the middle where there was room for soil and plants. Sadly, while there was soil, there wasn’t any plant. I think my parents were too busy to care about putting actual plants there. And I’m glad there weren’t any. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be typing this down… I was standing at the top of that railing, looking down at it, my feet encased in black and purple rollerblades. (Oh, how I love you, 90s!) With knees bent, I propelled myself to go forward and before I knew it, I was going down, down, down. The heat of summer, hot and sticky, clung to my skin and beat down on my back but I didn’t care. I felt like I was flying. The possibility of tumbling down and hurting myself was a blur in my mind. When I reached near the end of the railing, I stopped myself just in time. The time I took as I skated down the railing was no more than five seconds but the rush I got was great, nonetheless. So I took my skinny ass up the steps and stood on top of the railing again. Looking back, it was actually short of a miracle that I didn’t hurt myself, save for a couple of cuts and scratches.
Eighteen. I was eighteen. Still short, still skinny, still pale, and still refused to wear my hair in a ponytail. Not if it was absolutely necessary. I don’t know what possessed me to even think of joining the tae kwon do team. Oh, wait. I do. I thought it was a club, which means anyone can join. I figured it was a good way to get some exercise and, more importantly, get some of my frustrations out of my system. At eighteen, you find the oddest ways to deal with your angst and issues. (Wait until you get older and deal with paying both bills AND taxes. Haha.) It was a win-win situation. Except. EXCEPT the coach was scary and expected A LOT from his would-be students. He didn’t want just anyone in his team. We had to prove ourselves that we were cut out for this. We started with maybe 35-40 hopefuls and as the weeks progressed, as the trainings grew more grueling each time, the numbers dropped. The people in trainings thinned. I was terrified but I can’t back out now. Pride alone made me stubbornly grin and bear everything. When the day came for the coach to tell us who made it, I remember my heart sinking. There was a huge chance I didn’t make the cut. Other students were better than me. They had experience in forms and foundation, in sparring and fighting. I consoled myself by thinking it doesn’t matter. At least the training was fun. Grueling and bruising and exhausting but fun. I made more friends. And discipline was instilled in me, not to mention a sense of accomplishment. I didn’t buckle and bail like I initially wanted to. I went through with it and that was not what I would usually do. When the going gets tough, I just bail. Why bother with something I know I would fail at? But this was different and it felt good. I tried and took the risk of failing. Funny enough, I passed the training. There was around 20 – 25 of us by that time.
Looking back now, it seems like the older I got, the more scared I became. I stubbornly cling to what’s comfortable for me. I don’t turn inward when trying to make decisions. I more often than not think, “What would others say if I do this?” The younger version of myself had more grit and courage. There was enough recklessness in me back then that made me try and do things I normally wouldn’t do. What changed all of this? Sometimes, when I really think about it, I miss that part of me.