Last night, I tested for my Blue belt in Taekwondo. It's the sixth belt from the bottom in the hierarchy at this dojo, somewhere in the upper middle in overall rank.
For the last three of my belt tests, I've been the only person over the age of 20 testing! (Note that I am looking 40 squarely in the eyeballs.) There are a number of other adults in the program, but their testing schedules are somehow thoroughly out of sync with mine, and last night's test group was unusually small. There were only 7 of us: me, a 17 year-old girl, and five kids ranging in age from about 8 to 11. To put it mildly, I stuck out a bit.
I know the 17 year-old well. She attends many of the same classes that I do, and we happen to have the same first name, even spelled the same uncommon way. She is a phenomenal athlete, energetic, beautiful and blessed with everything but belief in her own abilities. (Oh, how I remember being 17...) She's a belt level ahead of me, but we had to do many of the same exercises during the test.
No matter how hard I try, there are some things that she can do effortlessly that will just not happen with this body of mine. She has youth and energy and non-creaky joints on her side. But the thing is, we weren't in competition. We were side by side, both doing the best we could. Do my backward rolls or front breakfalls or jump spin kicks look quite as good as hers do? No. But as long as they're the best that I can do, that doesn't matter.
I went into last night's test with some serious misgivings. In addition to my usual catalog of aches and pains, I'd tripped at a picnic the day before and gashed the area between my right thumb and index finger on the corner of a deck railing while trying to catch myself, also tweaking my 'good' knee in the process. Then, at class yesterday morning, I discovered that the bandage I had on my hand would not stay on through all the twisting hand motions that go with the territory. I went into the test last night wearing two knee braces (rather than the usual one) and with my palm wrapped in three layers of medical tape to keep the &%*$# bandage on. I texted Himself right before going in to tell him that I had no lofty goals for this particular test: I just wanted to get through it without either embarrassing or hurting myself and come out with a new belt.
As it happened, it actually went pretty well. The test was tough but fair. Could I have done better? Sure. Always. But I did a lot better than I thought I was going to do, all things considered. Especially since the instructor assigned to partner with me for the test happens to be one of the most demanding. (Can anyone say "Murphy's Law??) By the end of the test, I was exhausted, red-faced, and absolutely dripping in sweat. But also still focused and upright, and I handled everything they threw at me.
I have my new belt.
I worked hard for it.
But the best part? These tests are open to the public, and we had a decent crowd last night. In the hallway afterward, a woman came up to me and said that I'd inspired her to try taking the classes as well. That she thought it was cool to see someone her own age up in front of everyone with all those kids. That if I can do it, there's no reason why she can't. And there isn't. I hope to see her in class soon.
Right after that conversation, I walked my tired self down to the locker room, did a quick Superman-style change from taekwondo gi to business casual attire and makeup, and drove like a bat out of hell across town to take part in a school board meeting! A multi-hat evening for this Mama...