I Didn’t Cry

A run down of my second MMA class via Facebook status updates:

mma fb posts

mma army crawl fb post mma didn't cryThe key is-I didn’t cry. I wanted to, but I stopped myself. This actually came in handy the other night when I started my first Computer Science class. Not sure what it is about me and trying all the things that intimidate me and make me want to cry, but I seem to be on a kick of doing ALL THE HARD THINGS.

 

That Time I Decided to Get a Computer Science Degree

So, apparently my list of Things I’ve Always Wanted To Do just expanded to get a degree in Computer Science. I know, I know. You’re all wondering ‘what the fuck?’ Don’t get too insulting, now. It’s not really that far off base. It doesn’t seem as likely as maybe a degree in writing, but I have that. The only way I can manage to explain everyone’s complete and utter shock is that sometimes I keep my most intimidating dreams to myself–hidden far away, so deep that I can barely find them. That’s what happened with this interest in computers and that’s what happened with boxing. That, coupled with the idea that I was too old to go back to school or too bad at math, led me to be too afraid to try it. Well, yesterday that changed.

But to backtrack, I’ve had quite a bit of experience over the years with software in corporate environments and I’m always the one who can learn how to use the programs instantly and train other people on them. Sometimes I’ve managed issues within the programs and sometimes I’m just good at improving business processes related to databases. It wasn’t something I thought I would like-or be good at-and it wasn’t something my idealistic self thought I would want to stay involved in. But the constant mental challenge kept me busy–it kept my depression and anxiety at bay sometimes. It gave me complex problems to solve and the confidence to manage my own personal problems. I have very little evidence to prove this, but I think it’s making me healthier.

Shocked or not, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I run a blog. I’m also obsessed with technology and the Internet–not just the social media side of things either. I want to know how things work–all of the things. I’ve found myself having conversations with tech savvy friends and being so mesmerized by all the things I didn’t know, but when it occurred to me that I should get to know more about it I dismissed it as something I couldn’t do. The concept of possibly starting a new degree all over was sure as hell not a high priority and the idea of learning to program was definitely scary. Could I do it? Was I smart enough?

I had my doubts.

I’ve met a lot of people who are self-taught in the tech world and most of them are men. I finally admitted to myself that I’m also self-taught and have quite a bit more technical knowledge than I give myself credit for. I proved it in some of my jobs. Hell, I even have more knowledge than some of the men I know who do this for a living. (Not all of them, of course, but why deny that I am good at what I do?)

I’ve been debating since last summer what to do with my life and it’s been an ever-changing journey. I don’t have it all figured out, but I do have some experience with what I like. I also have the luxury of having some time and space to explore my options. Yesterday I just thought “Why not? I could do it.” And after struggling with it at great depths and bothering my friends with my doubt, I decided to do it. If I can’t figure something out, there’s always the tutoring department.

But what if I CAN figure it out? I was in the college Honors program. I’m definitely smarter than I give myself credit for.

What if it comes naturally to me? I already do some of this as a hobby and for work. Why not actually be formally taught?

What if I enjoy it? I have enough experience to know that I probably will enjoy it quite a bit.

Why would I want to live my whole life without knowing what it feels like to try something challenging? I wouldn’t. I don’t.

limitsA few months ago I dated a guy who had previously wanted to be a Computer Science major. How cool, I thought. My second thought was a bit more disturbing and it’s one I had to challenge to be able to show up to class: That’s something boys do. 

When I showed up to class, my worst fear came true. I was the only girl in the class. It really did bother me and it intimidated me. We’ve been taught that boys are better at math and science than girls, while it’s categorically untrue. This lack of any women in the room really played with my doubt that I would be good enough to be in this program. I started thinking maybe they were all better at computers than I was or maybe they knew more than me.

And I was wrong.

The professor asked us who had ever put together a website. I raised my hand. Two other guys did as well. The majority of the class hadn’t. Not only had I put together a website, I manage three and I have managed them at work, too. The professor let us know that it’s okay if we were just starting out because that’s what the class was for.

With my obsession with MMA, I’m on quite the “challenge my limits” kick right now. It just feels like the right thing to do. It feels empowering. I may not be able to do everything, but I want to do the things I’m good at. I want to explore and live so fully that I’ve uncovered all the things that fascinate me about the world. Why stop at just being good at one thing? Why stop learning? Why do one thing and only one thing? I’ve often referred to the lead singer of Bad Religion as my model for life. He’s a college professor, rock star and author. I’m sure plenty of people said he couldn’t do all three things but I don’t think he gave a fuck. Likewise, I have no fucks to give. Writing books will always be my biggest lifelong passion, but I like this other stuff too. And who says writers can’t do other things, as well?

Quite a few famous writers did other things for work. Two of them are mentioned here:

Joseph Heller thrived in magazine advertising by day and wrote Catch-22 in the evenings, sitting at the kitchen table in his Manhattan apartment. “I spent two or three hours a night on it for eight years,” he said. “I gave up once and started watching television with my wife. Television drove me back to Catch-22.”

Wallace Stevens and T. S. Eliot were…successful at mixing poetry and business: While working as a banker, Eliot took literary meetings on his lunch breaks and wrote in the evenings; Stevens, an insurance lawyer, even scribbled scraps of verse at the office and had his secretary type them up. “I find that having a job is one of the best things in the world that could happen to me,” Stevens once said. “It introduces discipline and regularity into one’s life. I am just as free as I want to be and of course I have nothing to worry about about money.”

Proof of last night's class. Lab 1 complete!
Proof of last night’s class. Lab 1 complete!

Shit’s About to Get Real

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Yesterday I went to pick up a few things for my MMA class. After hitting the boxing bag 400 times the other night I decided I needed my own hand wraps. You know shit’s about to get real when I start buying equipment.

Make no mistake, I’m in the beginning stages of training and my ultimate goal right now is to get in shape. If I ever compete, it will be for fun and it won’t be until at least a year from now. Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing are technical combat sports and require a lot of practice. Anyone would be naive to think you could pick up any of this within a few weeks.

But all that being said, when I step into the gym, the best part is when we fight each other. I never, ever thought I would say this but I love fighting. I got hit in the face the other day and didn’t even care. I laughed it off and kept going at the guy. (Yes, the guy.) Class is really fun–even if it’s like being in the military during boot camp–and I’m so glad I found this sport.

The Day I Wanted To Fight

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A few weeks ago, I started researching female boxers. I’d been a fan of the sport since I was a kid, thanks to my dad, but I didn’t know anything about the female athletes. Were there such a thing? What were their stories? Why did they decide to fight? I had this unexplained urge to know more.

I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but I wanted to fight. It’d been a few years coming–this idea that I could get in the ring, even just for fun–but I dismissed it as instantly as it came up. I didn’t want anyone to know the real reason I wanted to be able to take someone down or the reasons I felt unsafe. Some things are better left unsaid, even for the exhibitionist writer that I am. Feeling as paranoid and anxious as I felt, I wasn’t able to talk about it. I felt like people wouldn’t take me seriously or they would dismiss it. Then there was the shame that went along with the amount of fear I felt, compounding things even further.

But beyond that, people who fight are angry, right? So what if I was angry. I’d been angry for years and accomplished a lot of badass fucking shit. I joked a lot about needing a punching bag. Fuck anyone who thought anger wasn’t the impetus for changing the world, because I’ve changed my world as a result from getting angry at the cult I was in. Even my therapist said I should get angry more often. I had a tendency to internalize my anger and wound up crying instead of speaking my mind and I was creeping back into that quickly. When people attacked me online and offline, I shrunk back into my turtle shell and hid.

And let’s not forget the fact that my depression and anxiety had gotten so bad I had isolated myself completely from friends and family. I was filled with fear when I so much as walked outside. I trusted nobody. I was paranoid. And you know the saying, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you”? It fit. There were documented situations where people were after me–and kept coming after me. Over the course of the few years I was struggling with this even more, I’d gained so much weight (more than I wanted to admit) and for a period of time I let that stop my social life entirely.

The fear that ruled my life prevented me from even imagining myself attending a boxing class, let alone actually hitting someone in a competition. There was no way I would be able to actually compete, with the way I felt, and I didn’t even think I would be brave enough to take a class.

And maybe I never will compete, but I started with a single class.  I found a local MMA/kickboxing class and signed up. It wasn’t strictly boxing like I imagined when I started dreaming this up, but MMA fighters learn and use a mixture of techniques from boxing, kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (which is a martial art and combat sport focused on grappling (a term for fighting on the ground)). The sport is far more complex than I ever thought and it promotes the idea that a smaller, weaker person can actually defend herself against a bigger, stronger assailant with the right techniques. It actually fit my needs perfectly. I wanted to be able to defend myself if anyone bigger or stronger came after me.

My instructor had the look of a UFC fighter. He had tattoos, a shaved head, and the body of someone who trains for a living. I knew his class was going to be a good fit for me. It was his class or the class on the good side of town whose website’s video showed preppy cheerleader types kickboxing so they could look good in a two-piece this summer. Fuck that. To be a fighter, I had to train with a fighter.

After my first class, I couldn’t walk for two days. My lower back had me couch-ridden so badly that I was rotating ice and heat every twenty minutes and still couldn’t walk. I didn’t feel defeated, though. The endorphin high I had from my ability to push through a single class kept me happy for a few days. When I could finally get out of bed, I stretched for twenty minute intervals and went walking just enough to loosen up my muscles.

I was determined to go back for another ass kicking.

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I’ll be posting about my training in the upcoming weeks, so check back for more updates. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter

Since posting on Facebook about my MMA classes, a lot of people have become interested in the sport and want to know if it’s something they could do. My hope is you’ll try it. It’s a lot of fun. There are a variety of martial arts classes available in almost every city. The closest you will get to what I’m currently doing is mixed martial arts (MMA), kickboxing, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu. You could also check out judo or wrestling. If you try it out, let me know by using the hashtags #GetMMAStrong and #FightYourFear.

The Beginning of an Obsession With MMA

A few weeks ago I was on a boxing kick. I’m sure many of you noticed. I’d been wanting to try out a sport I could actually enjoy doing, and one that would make me feel stronger. I found a local kickboxing class (there weren’t any women’s boxing classes in my area) that also teaches MMA. I’m new to martial arts and fighting, so I didn’t really know the difference. I knew nothing about MMA and I’d never watched a UFC fight all the way through. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, to say the least.

Because I’m going to be blogging about it a lot, I’m going to give you all the run down. We can learn together.

First, here’s a look at my gym. The cool part? There are no treadmills or douche bags. The only bags around are punching bags, which this little kid is punching the shit out of. There’s also a martial arts class going on in the back of the gym. It’s in the seedy part of town, but it gives the whole experience a bit more character if you ask me.

fighting gym

What’s our class like? We spend 90 minutes running, doing push-ups, army crawls, squats, and essentially we’re dripping with sweat about 15 minutes in. About 30 minutes into class, I feel like I just showered. In my own sweat. To say the class is hard is an understatement. I’ve been easing into it–going once a week and letting my body recover for at least two days afterward. Stretching and walking or running when you’re not in class is essential. Otherwise, you can’t walk. Literally.

This week is the first week I’m trying to go the full four days. To be able to do this, that means I run on the weekends and sometimes in the morning. I stretch a lot, I eat a lot of protein, I take hot baths in Epsom salt, and I wear compression sleeves on my legs when I go to bed.

And I’ve only just begun.

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I won’t be doing Fitspiration on this blog, nor will I turn into one of “those people”; however, when I get into something, I’m all in. I’m sharing my training here because a few months ago I didn’t think I could even start jogging because I was at my largest weight and I want to track my progress here–mental and physical. I also know I’m not the only person in the world who has gotten out of shape and is intimidated to jump back into working out. If you want more #KickAsspiration, follow my Kickboxing/MMA Training board on Pinterest.