What Kind of Year Has It Been
no year is an island in of itself
For the past three Decembers — 2019, 2020 and 2022 — I’ve struggled through some sort of jiu jitsu related drama, some experienced by many people, others very much not. This past year was about trying to rebuild and find my way after a broken jiu jitsu relationship, one that I wished never fell apart but did in a spectacular fashion. I still am navigating my feelings around it but have come to a certain peace about various things, and am hoping to share them here today as a way of releasing these energies as I enter into the new year.
I’ve come to believe that healing is possible for all parties involved, but that the relationship between my old training partner and friend will never be the same. I am a much more different person now—hopefully much more truthful and less confusing to understand—but I have also accepted that the ship has sailed in terms of what our relationship could have been, had we persisted into training. After looking at everything in its totality, thinking about what I could have said differently, moments which I could have been more honest, and had better timing, I take full responsibility for how I behaved, while trying to find some compassion and empathy for how I was treated, and how I treated myself.
One of my training partners and I were talking about our own prior schools and it seems that everyone who has come to our current academy has some sort of bad experience to share. It makes me feel a little better that I’m not alone in these experiences of choosing to walk away, but these conversations do remind me of my own unpleasant experiences.
Most of all, I’ve had to blindly stumble about in the deep conflict about my time spent at my former school. This new one I am likely committed to for life, but then again, I had thought the same about the first TWO schools, too. The truth is that I did have a lot of great memories, and those memories have to live, whether or not I want to, aside the more unpleasant ones. Times in which I should have said NO interspersed with times in which I was glad that I did say YES; things I did which were not in my nature and then things which were too much so. I learned that in the end, fighting over which feeling should dominate did no justice to my experience. I have to acknowledge everything for me to honor how it shapes me today.
Still, there are some days that I ask myself—what if? Could I have done anything differently to not have my departure from the school be so abrupt and uncomfortable? Was another conversation worth it? Maybe I should have set better boundaries up front about my emotional involvement at the school. Maybe I should have lied and said that the primary reason for me to quit was because I found a school closer to me in DC. I think of these things every single time I realize that one of my new training partners become like a friend to me. When I interact with the owners of the school and the stances I take on certain topics, lest they think lesser of me. I think to myself if I’m going to ruin another relationship. I try to remind myself that hopefully I’m a different—and perhaps better—person.
There are a lot of mementos and pictures that I have either discarded or stored away in an attempt to bury my past experiences at the old school. On one hand, I am petty because I think to myself how it’s fortunate that I didn’t have to get my purple belt from someone that I disliked (never mind that I dislike the person who gave me my blue belt). On the other hand, I recognize how I hold onto these mementos — a platypus plushie and a painting of it — because I’m holding onto a hope that someday there will be a degree of reconciliation. But I know, again, that some choices and paths, you can’t take back, and they’re out of your control. The only solace we can have from these moments is to learn from them and hope that the next time a similar situation presents itself, we will have a better answer to it.
Throughout this past year I’ve swung anywhere from anger to annoyance to apathy, and no doubt that my former training partner has felt similarly. It’s ironic that we are disconnected from each other yet my intuition tells me that we are going, or have gone, through similar things. I guess that’s the way with humans sometimes, especially when it comes to two people trying to figure out what the heck happened and simultaneously trying to let it go. It’s in this shedding of the past that I’ve discovered the discipline that is required to leave someone alone, to let them live their own life, instead of selfishly engaging in thoughts and actions that would be purely for self-protection from bad thoughts.
For a while now, this has dominated my thoughts. People I’ve talked to have offered their own advice, but so far the best one I’ve heard is that I should keep working on feeling as neutral as I can about the experience, appreciate the good times, and try to eventually feel happy for the success of the people and the school. I’m grateful for that guidance and I don’t purport to be there, but at least I am getting a second chance to grow.
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
- John Donne