“. . . I knew I needed to do something completely different, something I had no idea I wanted to do—no, something I actually didn’t want to do. I needed to get off track, to completely challenge every assumption I’d ever made about who I was and what I wanted. I had to do something that would quite possibly make me miserable. It could end up being a terrible mistake.”
Shark Girl read these words today in “Regrets of an Accomplished Child” by Pamela Paul in the “Education Life” section of the New York Times.
I could have written them myself two years ago. This is how I felt when I started learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In my very first post, I describe a middle-aged longing for something different. The blog was a way to force myself to stay in something that could have made me miserable. And, of course, if I broke an arm or lost a tooth, BJJ would have been a terrible mistake. But something drove me to get out of my comfort zone, challenged me to see myself in a different light—not the tiny woman who grew up getting good grades and going to college, finding a job, paying the mortgage and playing by the rules for women in our society. I wanted to see something underneath this outer shell, something mysterious and unexpected.
|This chick can omaplata your ass off!|
In her article, Ms. Paul warns against the dangers of “checking off boxes” in our lives: homework done–check; college–check; job–check; marriage–check. Box-checking keeps us focused on completion, not excellence. It is the antithesis of learning and stretching. Box-checking leads to safe choices and failure avoidance. But the very possibility of failure is what can bring the best out of us and give us a chance to excel.
For me, Jiu Jitsu was breaking out of the box. I had no expectations of even liking it, never mind being good at it. It scared me to even go to class. I had to psych myself for a half hour to get out the door.
I could write a cheesy litany of things jiu jitsu has taught me. Indeed I started one and then stopped when I realized how much cheese was dripping off of it. (You’re welcome for my editorial restraint.) Probably the most important thing I have learned is what it is like to “play,” that art lost when we enter middle school and become self-conscious and start to notice that the world has its own ideas for us, and no you can’t be an altar girl.
I could have played it safe; I could have taken a Zumba class (or maybe Boot Camp, if I wanted to be a little edgy). I would have stayed fit and even enjoyed it. And I wouldn’t have learned anything.