As I entered my final year at the Retreat Center, I thought back to the beginning. Being in a bad place forced me to soul search and I realized martial arts was the only fulfilling part of my life. I loved training and I taught at YMAA Andover, Chinese School Andover on Sundays, the Chinese After-School Program 3 times a week, and private lessons. It made sense to be drawn to the 5 Year Full-Time Program at the YMAA Retreat Center. Was I crazy? How was I going to afford the tuition? Would I thrive in the environment?
I turned to reading self-help books and blogs. Some content is hokey, but I believe in the common theme: the Law of Attraction. Once I realized what I wanted, I started planning. I told my closest friends and even if they were skeptical, they supported me anyway. I tapped into a network and resources that I never knew existed. I remember announcing my plans and starting my fundraising campaign. A friend of a friend helped shoot and edit the video. I designed and sold t-shirts and held bake sales. Strangers around the world within YMAA International contacted me to show their support. I brought a lot of t-shirts to the 2013 International Camp at Portugal and finally met my fellow YMAA students in person. People gave me their time and their love.
I can’t express how grateful I am for everyone’s support. Support comes in many forms other than monetary: networks, skills, time, advice, words of encouragement, and simply listening.
Here I am, in my final year, attempting to fulfill a dream. My dream wasn’t to become an elite martial artist. It was to better understand the art and become a good and knowledgeable teacher.
We’ve had small successes and large failures. There have been frustrations, inefficiencies, conflicts, overloaded schedules, injuries, unreachable goals, etc… both on a personal and community level. I never expected it would be a smooth ride, but I didn’t expect the challenges to come in many of these forms.
A word of caution to anyone pursuing their dreams:
Don’t place your self-worth on the success or failure of your journey. Don’t place your self-worth on the opinion of one person, unless that person is you.
I’ve considered quitting. I wouldn’t be defined by it and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. There are many possible paths to take and maybe there are much better options for me.
I’m not operating at full capacity but I’m still trying. I may not see it now, but maybe there are small seeds that will blossom in the future.
It doesn’t matter if people give up on you as long as you don’t give up on yourself. In the end, you’re all that matters.