“I played for five years, and I was pretty good at it. I just had to put it aside and focus on other things,” I said wistfully to my brother as I reflected on my 5-year stint of studying classical guitar.
“That often happens with people who aren’t full-time musicians,” he replied sympathetically.
My brother, who IS a full-time musician, studies instruments like…well, like its his job. From the age of six to around 32 music was a constant part of my life. As my life began to dramatically change around 2010 it was put on the back burner and eventually disappeared. I hope the same fate isn’t in store for taekwondo. There’s always been a hint of sadness in my approach to music. I would hear a piece of music, perhaps a Beatles song or a Chopin etude, and I didn’t want to just hear it again. I wanted to feel it, breathe it, embody it. I had to play it or would be haunted by unrequited love. I loved music, but it also mocked me, always dangling ahead of me just out of reach. I had just enough talent to know that I didn’t have talent. It became more frustrating than fulfilling.
After the frantic excitement wore off I feared that taekwondo was another activity I was just getting out of my system, whether it was out of boredom, loneliness, or the alpha female need for a challenge. I’ve abandoned the Bible study group I learned and laughed with for a few years. I barely remember the names of the people I met in the running club I joined six or seven years ago(3 half-marathons and I’m all but retired from running). The MBA was just a race to the finish line.
This forces me to ask a hard question–is taekwondo a true passion and priority, or is it just another time-filler? Is it something I’m clinging to on the external plane to further ignore the needs and desires of the internal plane? Will it help me along my path of peace or is it just another distraction? The cool thing about taekwondo is that I CAN feel it, breathe it, and embody it. I have a more mature approach than I did to music: I’m curious but not obsessed. I see my limitations but don’t berate myself for them. I mentally high-five myself with each accomplishment rather than thinking, “yeah, but…” I may roll my eyes and grimace at my mistakes, but I forgive myself and keep moving. It speaks to my often-denied and often-ignored need for social interaction.
This is a passion I can share with other people through taking class together and teaching. Music can be a dangerous drug for a person who wavers between solitude and loneliness. In the leadership classes I teach for my job I encourage managers to incorporate the skills I’m sharing into their “daily management practice.” I should practice what I preach in taking my yoga “off the mat” and taekwondo outside the dojang. That’s the elusive Black Belt Mindset. Going to class is easy. Living the principles is a greater challenge.
I still have my beautiful custom-built cedar guitar. My eyes still close and my breath stops as my mind drifts knowingly along when I hear a Heitor Villa-Lobos prelude. Maybe I’ll dust it off and pick it up again someday. I know, however, that it doesn’t give me the all-encompassing feeling of relaxation and joy that I feel when I step into the dojang. It doesn’t make my heart smile the way taekwondo does.