What Color is Your Belt?

Karate gee with a white belt and various stripes

His currect karate gee and belt.
Notice how dirty it is.
BR needs a new yellow belt for multiple reaons.

Is there anything better than achieving a goal?

 

You can look back on the frustrations, times when you felt like quitting, and the moments you wondered if it was all worth it. They all melt away.

Instead, you revel in accomplishment. You can feel proud, appreciate your stick to itness, and you know that the next goal can happen too.

 

The greatest thing you get when you achieve a goal is confidence. I know I can, I know I can.

 

Tomorrow BR will be testing for his yellow belt. I’ve mentioned before how he felt when he got a stripe (http://larrydbernstein.com/earning-your-stripes/). This is bigger. A NEW BELT!

I am excited. I’ve been calling BR every morning while on my way to work to remind him to practice. I’ve watched and instructed based on what Sensei says during practices. BR is primed!

 

A friend of mine said, “Wait till he goes for that green belt or higher. He’ll feel like he can protect himself.”

 

My friend, while a great guy, has it all wrong. Karate and the new belt are not about enabling BR to go all Bruce Lee on the next person who dares mess with him.

 

Sure, it would be nice if he could be the family protector should danger arise. However, that’s not what I care about.

 

I do care that a kid who has o.t. issues is feeling more in control of his body.

 

I do care that a kid who has ADHD is finding a way to focus and discipline himself.

 

I do care that a kid who has anxiety is able to feel a sense of accomplishment.

 

It’s been a year and a half since BR began his twice weekly karate sessions. There have been times where he has practiced little, and I questioned what he got out of it. There have been days where I have stressed about getting him there and back. There have been sessions where BR appeared nonchalant, disinterested, and unable.

 

I suppose that is why many kids are able to earn a yellow belt much quicker.

 

So what. The great length of time that has passed does not make this potential accomplishment any less special.

 

Tomorrow afternoon I will be in the audience silently praying and offering instructions to BR as he goes through the testing for the yellow belt. Afterwards, I will hug him tightly (he may even let me do it in public) and tell him how proud of him I am – whether he is wearing yellow belt or not. He has already achieved a worthwhile goal.

Missing Youth

“We’re not gonna take it. No, we ain’t gonna take it. We’re not gonna take it anymore,” Twisted Sister.

Eurorail train schedules, Let’s Go Europe, and maps surrounded the unemployed 23 year old. He was planning out his backpacking through Europe summer. Responsibility and reality be damned. The epitome of freedom and youth.

“Larry,” my father shouted as he came into my room undetected.

I jumped, “Oh, hi dad.’

“Does the music have to be so loud?”

“Sorry.” I turned down the music.

“What is all the stuff,” he motioned at the paraphernalia that decorated my floor.

“Planning my summer trip.”

“Oh.” He shook his head, half smiled, and walked away after reminding me to keep the music lower.

I looked at the information around me, contemplated my looming weeks long trip, and considered my unemployed status. I felt guilty. Then, I got over it.

Yesterday, I was assisting a girl with her college application essay. During the tutoring session, she started talking to her mother. “Mommy,” she said “I am going create an empire.” She was certain that the business she had recently begun was bound for big things. I raised my eyebrows but said nothing. Her mother smiled a yes dear smile. The girl bubbled on so proud of her declaration that she wrote it down.

Another college recruiter visited my senior class. He talked about his school and how attending there will enable the students to achieve their academic goals. This of course will enable them to fulfill their dreams. Never mind the 70 average.

“I’m happy she is getting a chance to go away,” she explained. “But when I dropped her off, I felt a little jealous.”  So my fellow writer said at a recent writer’s group meeting. She clearly felt a little guilty. There was no need to apologize as the rest of us – parents with children in various stages – shook our heads feeling the same such feelings.

It’s not youth we want. It’s the unbound enthusiasm. It’s the certainty that everything is not only possible but a mere question of when.

I wish good things for my tutee, my students, and my co-writer’s daughter. I hope they achieve big and great things. They are in an amazing and exciting stage in their lives.

By the time you reach a certain age, there is some level of stuckness (I know it’s not a word, but it so fits). Whatever you’re level of contentment – nice family, decent job, comfortable home – choices have been made, life is being lived, and dreams come in size small.

The world is not our oyster. It’s not free for the taking. As adults, we know this. Lumps can and will be doled out. I, for one, am okay with that. I will cope and be happy for the dreams of the kids around me, hopeful about fulfilling my goals, and content with the wisdom I have gained.