Tonight I came home from martial arts class with something new: two little pieces of black electrical tape on the ends of my Orange Belt.
This may not seem like a big deal, but those two little pieces of tape actually represent 6 months of hard work, probably close to 200 hours of classes, conditioning, and practice outside of class; sore muscles and joints, raw knuckles, broken toes.
Oh, and the belt test itself, which was no picnic.
What else do they mean to me? The fact that I have stuck with this sport for a year and three months now, am at my ideal weight (which I haven't seen since grad school, before kids, when I spent my summers hiking and canoeing and spelunking) and, at 40, am in the best mental and physical shape of my life.
Not to mention the fact that I am now confident that I can disable an attacker, should I ever meet up with one. Or impress Savageman with the Grab-My-Wrist game.
I've made many incredible women friends through this experience. There is something about the relationships built there that makes them absolutely unique. We see each other at our best and our worst - at both our strongest and our most vulnerable. We have to trust each other in potentially dangerous maneuvers, and we commiserate and support each other and celebrate our successes together both in the changing room and over drinks outside of class. The women who already have their black belts are always more than happy to take the extra time to encourage and help when someone is struggling with a new skill. No one is made to feel inadequate - the message is always one of "We were all where you are once. You'll get it if you keep trying."
What a great lesson for life - not only for when you're the learner, but also for when you're the teacher.
My new Orange / Stripe belt is in my gym bag, packed and ready for two more classes tomorrow.
I test for Yellow in December.