Paging Dr. Fire Esquire III
a lesson and journey in stepping back
My e-scooter’s moniker is Dr. Fire Esquire the Third — the “third” coming from the fact that it is the third form of transportation that I employ in the city (after the metro and biking), and “Dr. Fire Esquire” from funny name that I encountered while watching a video game Let’s Play episode.
Our relationship started in January 2022, which coincided with my start at a new jiu jitsu gym. After realizing that the metro was not a sustainable option since it required a ton of walking and transfers (which I messed up not once, but twice), I decided to become an e-scooter owner. Soon, I was zipping to jiu jitsu class in 1/3rd of the time, and I started to go to more and more classes during the week since getting there was so easy.
As a result, for the greater part of this year, I’ve been training pretty consistently, and I was awarded my purple belt in July for my efforts. Yet now without the goal of a new rank to motivate me, I found it a little harder to train because I had to be in the search of a new goal. In fact, getting my purple belt generated a little bit of a mini-identity crisis in me. It suddenly became a little harder to feel excited for class, and on top of that, I was feeling burned out as well.
That’s when Error Code 42 entered the chat.
In at least the past two months, maybe more, Dr. Fire Esquire III (or, as I also affectionately call it, “Scoots McKenzie”) has also not been feeling 100%. After one too many sports mode uphill trips, a bloodied morning commute crash, and snapping at potholes, it contracted the infamous Error Code 42, in which it would scream its own rendition of a “e-scooter SOS,” groan as if it was dying, and turn into a barely-sentient slug. Every time Scoots would scream, I would punch the side of the battery pack in an attempt to have it regain connection (much to the bewilderment of tourists), only to be disappointed when it started to scream again.
Around this time, I was also feeling the pressures of what happens when jiu jitsu starts taking over your life, and you can’t really reasonably afford it to be that way. Since I was coming home so late in the evenings, I found myself with little time to study for the PMP exam that I was supposedly preparing for. I was behind on the readings and feeling the ironic effects of the lack of planning for a certification that was all about planning. In the evenings without jiu jitsu, I was simply too tired to study.
At first I didn’t want to admit it, but Scoots’s physical breakdown prevented me from getting a mental one. The week in which it died completely was also the first week in a long time that I had tried a new training schedule, one that was considerably lighter than the earlier routine. It was an unusual move not just for me, but for others as well. (The first night that I left “early,” the coach asked me if I was injured.)
I hate taking breaks or reducing my jiu jitsu training schedule, even if those breaks are healthy and necessary for the greater good. Every time I deviate from what I think my body can maximally handle in a week in terms of training, I feel guilty. Fortunately, I had no other practical options, so I was forced to stay away from the gym.
In the meantime, with the decision made to void Dr. Fire Esquire III’s warranty, my husband stripped off the external battery, consulted the articles that I had culled from hours of Reddit research, and started the arduous process of reviving Scoots.
After a trip to an electrical engineer’s office at work and sending several messages telling me to try to think about something else, my husband re-attached Scoots McKenzie’s second heart back in place, this time with a connector that actually did its job.
The next day, I rode my scooter back to jiu jitsu for the first time with nary a peep.
When things go according to plan and work correctly, life is pretty easy. I had a good thing going with Scoots and jiu jitsu. Everything was set in place and I knew what to expect. I could feel good about going to a lot of training, and I could feel happy knowing that I was progressing in jiu jitsu.
But that’s only part of the story.
In truth, while some parts of my life were chugging along smoothly, I felt that I, too, had contracted my own version of Error Code 42, with a lack of connection to things that were starting to feel a lot more important than jiu jitsu.
I know that having my scooter be “broken” will never count as true adversity and is actually pretty much a privileged-person complaint, but at the same time, it forced me to change priorities and invest what was important in the long run. I was reminded of how much I had missed out because I was at the gym all the time. Not only was I able to get much more studying done, I helped with chores a lot more, thanks in part to the exam prep audio lessons. I got to see my husband more. He told me how happy he was to have me around. I collected enough swift violets in Breath of the Wild to upgrade my gear. I de-cluttered and re-arranged my desk, tidied up the confusing bundle of socks in my closet, and decorated my agenda planner.
Most of all, I realized that the time away from jiu jitsu, even the few hours gained from not commuting and then attending class, afforded me a fresher, better perspective in life that I had experienced in the past few months. There was so much “doing” and not much “being” when I was rushing to classes. I wasn’t really present in what I was learning, because I knew that I had more hours in the week to absorb the same information. I even procrastinated on taking class notes, even though I had extolled the benefits of it.
As I was zipping back with Dr. Fire Esquire III one evening, I was struck by how much calmer and happier I felt. In enjoying life outside of jiu jitsu and re-connecting with myself as a person outside of the sport, I was able to remind myself of all of the other ways that life was interesting and worthwhile. I realized that jiu jitsu was simply one of the planets in orbit in my solar system, and that I was at the center of my own system, as opposed to being a small moon constantly pulled in by a stronger gravitational field.
I have thought of all of the major regrets that I had in jiu jitsu in the past two years, and almost all of them have involved times when I chose to do more jiu jitsu than I could practically handle. In particular, last year, my husband and I took a trip to Maryland and stumbled upon a fast-flowing stream that had large rocks that you could lay on. As I was enjoying the sounds of water, I received a text message from a training partner saying that they were planning on going to Vegas to compete at Jiu Jitsu Con/Masters Worlds. I was immediately taken out of the serene environment I was in and put into that same, nervous feeling of “I don’t want to do it but I probably should” world. I was thinking about jiu jitsu when in fact I could have been not thinking at all, and I hated it.
Breaks in jiu jitsu are necessary for me. I have spent a lot of years fighting against this truth but it turns out that to maintain the same level of enthusiasm and dedication, it actually means doing the opposite of what others might expect. I think it takes a lot of courage to step away from a sport that so many people are passionate about and admit to yourself that what you need is a change of pace — to exit sports mode, stop running over potholes, and take your time in getting from place to place. Every time I step away from jiu jitsu to take care of something else, a good number of demons whisper nasty thoughts in my ear, telling me that I am falling behind, or that I’m just making excuses, or that I’m not dedicated enough, or that my mortal enemies will be training harder than me.
But if I’ve learned anything in my time in saving Dr. Fire Esquire III, it’s that the best course of solution is to connect, meaningfully, to what matters, so that the journey ahead can be smooth and steady.
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