/rəˈzilyəns/ | noun
The power or ability to return to original form, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
Ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
Boxing did not come naturally to me. The sport, built on a foundation of technique and mental toughness, happens to also be comprised of intimidation, fear-mongering, primal rage, and arrogant posturing. I suspect my slow advancement was because fighting was never my jam. Having experienced a fair share of aggression in my youth, there were events that left a lasting impression. Things that shaped me, even if I didn’t want them to.
Hard knocks that were disheartening, damaging, and scarring.
The latter is why I grew into a person who kept the peace, regardless of the price and no matter the cost. I bowed out of discussions if they got too heated and jumped out of unstable situations as if I were a frog dropped into a pot of boiling water. It’s no surprise I grapple with the dichotomies and blatant contradictions enmeshed in the boxing world. There are too many unspoken rules, pride-related codes, and awkward guidelines to sift through. Look at someone sideways by accident and wind up in a world of pain. Trust the wrong person and watch your integrity sail out the window.
Poor choices result in paying through the nose. They leave you battered. Punch-drunk.
Interestingly enough, the frustration I’ve encountered since taking up boxing rivals some of the most pressing trials in my personal life. Situations where I stalled in terms of growth or advancement. It’s hard to hit the next level when you’re busy juggling a shitstorm of needless drama. Mental and emotional hurdles are part of any endeavour.
Because inside each one of us is a wounded child who wants to get back at those who, at one point, have hurt them.
This interplay is obvious in team sports. The line of demarcation is clear: “We,” as a tribe, must annihilate “them.” But the border becomes blurred in solo undertakings. What do I have to envisage to stay motivated? What sort of monsters need to exist for me to override my instincts and inflict harm on someone I have no vendetta against?
It’s possible for something to be deeply personal even if what we experience through it has nothing to do with us at all. It took me more than a year to figure that out. Seventeen months had to pass until I understood why I held back when punching my trainer. I embraced force in sparring only this August. And let’s not even get into accepting the reality of taking hits.
The sadomasochistic hell I inhabited was entirely self-created.
I sometimes wonder if this is the norm when it comes to athletics. Maybe everyone winds up riding the, seemingly, infinite loop of being knocked down (in figurative and literal terms) and getting up to take another beating? Does everyone, regardless of skill, have to walk through fire before making making considerable progress? I can hazard a guess but I doubt I’ll ever have concrete answers to these types of questions.
All I know is every time I try to take distance from boxing it hounds me like a jilted lover. Awake or asleep, I am taunted by a faceless being with movement so polished and slippery my punches sail recklessly through the air. I run out of breath. The bell never rings. My legs give out.
I spend rounds chasing a ghost across the canvas.
Maybe pursuing apparitions is part of what my journey is about since, let’s get real, I’m never going to win a pair of Golden Gloves or throw hands at the Olympics. Those ships have long since sailed if they ever docked, to begin with. I accept my limitations and know I only have so much time for competing interests and aspirations. In that respect, there is no open window to climb through and commit to boxing at a higher level. But it isn’t too late to take things seriously enough and treat what I am doing like an after school special.
I can swallow the bitter with the sour, and salt with the sweet. For now, I’m able to lace up my gloves, put my headgear on, and try to nail you straight down the pipe. I’m able to put certain phantoms to rest by stepping outside my comfort zone and into the ring. It’s how I leave behind pieces of the person I once was.
And morph into the person I am meant to be.
External circumstances notwithstanding, I have the power to choose and each outcome, good or bad, is mine to carry. Some will take me far from where I started and others may nail me to someone else’s cross, but every last one will teach me about surrender, tolerance, and growth.
And how there is always room for expansion.
Resilience. I’ve fancied the word for ages, maybe because I know my home is situated somewhere along its margins. For a long time, however, I reserved it for the everyday heroes living on the razor’s edge of society in places like Honduras, Afghanistan, and Haiti, Detroit, Syria, Oakland, and Congo. People who survive on less than $2.50 a day or “get by” in a war zone. Resiliency is for forgotten towns, post-apocalyptic cities, and individuals who can’t catch a break even if they wanted to.
What I got wrong was not casting a wider net and reclaiming the word sooner. Everyone has the capacity for resilience because it resides in our cores. The sole thing that separates “us” from “them,” and “you” from “me,” is how willing you are to sit with the discomfort that plagues you and mine through flesh and bone to see how deep the reserves go.
There’s a lot to be gained by wading into the abyss. I’ve amassed a large amount of poise in such a short time frame that it is frightening. Think of the possibilities. Imagine what happens when you figure out you are, in fact, more powerful than imagined. Knowing how to yield in a way that leads to progress, and not destruction, is priceless.
I’ve learned how to cleave with grace but remain shatterproof.
And for that I give boxing all the credit.