What a year! It’s been staggering to experience history in living color.
Learning about history in school, I was always interested in how folks lived through such huge, life changing events. Reading about such things made it seem as if it’s a small piece of a large puzzle, and it feels the same way now: we don’t know what the larger picture looks like yet.
It always amazed me how only a couple hundred years ago, the world was like an alien planet with crazy situations arising from the planet--and even crazier situations arising from everyday human bullshit.
2020 proved to be a year that brought unnerving situations from every angle. Obviously we aren’t out of the woods yet, but I feel that enough has passed to be able to look back on some of the things and really take a lot away. And being that this is history in the making, I am excited to be a part of it.
I feel that I pivoted well during the lockdown. With work and training being on hold, I felt as if I lost a part of myself. I love being a martial artist, as a student and teacher of the next generation, I express myself through these practices. With my usual gyms being shut down and everyone in quarantine, there was a big shift in my work.
I was still practicing my martial arts, but not quite at the level or intensity that I’ve come to expect. It made me feel as if I wasn't myself. But thankfully the same thoughts, feelings, and experiences that martial arts bring me, I’m able to find in camping.
With the whole world being shut down and nearly all recreational activities being shut down, returning to the great outdoors was one of the few options available. With the forced time off from work and training, I was excited to focus all of my energy on camping.
For the most part, I keep my camping adventures at -- for my standards -- a moderate intensity. The physical toll of the journey is at a moderate intensity and I don't tend to camp out for too many nights. I do this to decrease the risk of injury and time for recovery so I can jump back into my usual routine quickly.
But since I only had the outdoors to bring me the rush that I’m used to, the same rush I find in a fight or an intense workout session in the gym, I was looking forward to going out on more intense trips.
Wasting no time I took my first major trip of lockdown in late March, when I hiked Hunter Mountain in the midst of a snowstorm. Next I pushed the intensity by driving half a day up to the Adirondack mountains for a two-night trip. Not only did I summit the tallest mountain in New York, but I went on to hike up a second mountain that same day. The next destination trip was out in Maine, where my friends and I spent a week canoeing along the St. Croix river. Following that, the seasons turned again and put us in the middle of another snowy camping trip when I found myself back in the Catskills hiking more mountains near Hunter.
These trips were intense! It wasn’t the same focus, adrenaline rush, or emotional response as going into a fight, but the feelings that are brought on after conquering whatever I wanted to are what brings meaning to the experiences: the same feeling of relief that I survived another dangerous situation, the same type of self-reflection that I experience after putting myself to the test and seeing my true colors, and another chance to face reality in one of its truest forms.
Looking back on it all, I see that while I felt as if a part of myself was lost because I wasn't able to practice my martial arts, I was able to find myself again through my experiences outdoors. I was able to see how when I naturally chase my goals in any situation presented to me, I fall back to the morals and values ingrained in me throughout my experience in martial arts.
All of this left me with the confidence to know that whether the world is falling apart, or I feel like falling apart in the cage, or during a night of camping, that relying on my values will guide me in the right direction and lead me to happiness.
I'm sure my story this year isn't too different from most everyone else. While everyone has their own specific situations to deal with, the lessons and learning process is mostly the same. As we work through our problems try not to look at it as something that is going to hold you back but rather as an opportunity to find what truly matters to you. When pressure is applied it allows you to narrow your focus and strip away most outside factors and influences, it's in these moment we find ourselves.