Wednesday, January 22, 2014

when was the last time you did something for the first time?

I used to be into New Year's resolutions and word-for-the-year reflections and such. It didn't quite happen this time when we transitioned from 2013 to 2014, for various reasons I need not delve into. But, I find that it's also perfectly fine to spend the first month really reflecting, rather than going all gung-ho on the first of the year and then losing steam by the end of January (guilty). I realize that it's important to consider schedule changes, work changes, and other expectations and make sure goals are challenging yet realistic.

Sometimes I have this silly feeling that if I put my goals out there, I set myself up for these expectations - almost with an anticipation of, "but what if I don't achieve it?" And yet, when I look back... the goals I wrote down somewhere (whether on a post-it note, a notebook, or here on the blog) and to which I set my intentions tend to be ones that I have met. Perhaps not all of them, but at least the ones that mattered and made sense at the time.
Image from here

I saw this question above - "when was the last time you did something for the first time?" on a travel brochure, and it made me stop in my tracks. I love thinking of this as a guiding question. Perhaps not just at the start of the new year, but really, throughout the year. To keep myself open to experience, challenged, motivated, and dare I say, youthful?

So, here goes.

1. Finish my dissertation this summer. Ok, so this one may not sound particularly exciting, but still - I MUST/NEED/WANT TO finish this baby this year. I've come this far. As they say - the PhD is not just/always about how smart you are. It's about persistence. Now that I feel "piled higher and deeper", I realize there is nothing further from the truth. I'm following my professor's advice: "Treat your dissertation like it's your job."

2. Take the Krav Maga Level 1 test. I've never actually said this one "out loud". When I first started taking Krav Maga, I hadn't really given much thought into going up the levels. I've never really been competitive (not that KM is competitive), and tests just...intimidate me (flashback to memories of taking a college math exam, college chemistry, the GRE, and breaking into a cold sweat.). But I heard that cliched little voice, barely a whisper, say, "what if?" And then, "why not?"

I do feel a bit behind, because I was told that on average people can take the Level 1 test after 4-6 months of training consistently and regularly. Regularity has been a barrier for me because this school is about a 40-minute drive (on a good day) for me, so I'm not always able to go on weeknights. I make up for it by getting into weekend-warrior mode and taking classes back-to-back on Sundays. But at the same time, I cut myself some slack - I'm doing the best I can under the circumstances, and I'm going at a pace I feel comfortable with. Of course, we are not forced to take the test - some people may decide to just stay at Level 1. It's all optional.

Here's a picture of the training center. I took this picture around Halloween last year. Note the sign above: "Torture Chamber" ;-)

The Level 1 test requires that you demonstrate 30-something skills and from what I've heard, it's a pretty grueling 4-hour experience. Well, to be accurate, the first 2 hours is a workshop to review, practice, and ask questions, and then the next half is the actual test. So, the last time I trained, I picked up the sheet that had the Level 1 curriculum which listed the skills that will be covered during the test. I checked every skill that I knew, and realized... I'm doing pretty ok. There are definitely skills I still need to learn and master, and I still need to practice the basic skills more, of course - confidence has always been my issue. But my instructor said that I'm getting the technique, I just need to be more aggressive. Followed up with, "you don't have to be so proper!" Ha! Thanks to my mom's manners and etiquette training :) And my thought is - "Me??? Aggressive??" But just to put this out there - their take on being aggressive has to do more with getting your energy out, not being unsafe or being violent. They're always big on safety, which is why I feel comfortable training in this school. Towards the end of one class my instructor gave me a headlock and I thought I defended myself pretty well. :)

I'm not going to lie - this experience has not been easy. It has taken me out of my comfort zone more than anything else has (including skydiving). For starters, you get into really close contact with another person and in uncomfortable positions (like mounting for a ground fighting drill) - which is a challenge for someone like me who values personal space (at least with strangers). I've gotten bruised and scraped and scratched. I've been sore for days after an intense class. But more than the physical part of it - it's the emotional aspect. At a recent weapons defense class, I found myself having to fight back tears as the simulated knife attack just made memories surface - of my cousins who died of multiple stab wounds. It was more than 20 years ago, but it still affects me to this very day. But I remind myself, this is why I made the decision to learn. This is why I show up, even when the thing I want to do so much more on a wintry Sunday morning is bury myself under the covers or have a leisurely breakfast. 

On a lighter note. I haven't heard when the Level 1 test will be this year - but last year I believe there was one in August and another in November. So, something to work towards...

3. Try stand-up paddleboarding. I have to admit, winter makes me long for the water so much more. Particularly the warm, clear, turquoise tropical waters in the Philippines... sigh.

image from Yoga Journal

This goal isn't as intense as #2 above, but I've always wanted to try it. I used to be so into watersports when I lived back home and had easy access to beaches. But, I shouldn't forget that we do have a lake here!

I also had in the deep recesses of my mind to try surfing and windsurfing, but stand-up paddleboarding just seems so... calming. And I suppose windsurfing is, too, once you're done wrestling with the sail :) But SUP needs less equipment - and although I'm sure it's one of those things that just look easy, but I figured if I learned wakeboarding I could probably learn SUP. There's even SUP yoga!

Images from Yoga Journal

So, there's my top 3. Nothing groundbreaking, but definitely something to look forward to. There's a first for everything, and everyone was a beginner at something at some point. Let's see how this year unfolds...

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