Life is not easy and what you see on Facebook is not reality. We live in a virtual world where we escape into a computer game or on social media or by watching a movie, but when its finished - when you lay down to sleep - you’re on your own with your thoughts. This is the real world this is the world we live in; virtual reality is just that: virtual but not the real thing.
When I was younger I looked for a mentor - someone who could teach me everything, someone I could emulate to fix my flaws by almost becoming them. Each mentor I found seemed like the real deal at first but the more I got to know them and the more I studied them the more I came to realise - they were as flawed as I was. They had their own baggage - they just knew how to hide it a little better than me. My quest continued and I found many teachers and many people who influenced the man I have become. Some of them were chance meetings or something said only once that resonated with me on some level. Some were negative in the extreme and lead me to vow never to be like them or treat people the way they did.
I have had a very full life and great opportunities to meet many people from many cultures. My time in Cuba, and with my Cuban students when they stayed in Ireland with me, showed me that all that truly mattered was that they had enough to eat and somewhere to sleep and to be surrounded by people they cared about. They needed nothing more. They had the simplicity of a child: live each day to its fullest; yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come so today is all we have - was the way they lived their lives.
Mentors I had in my youth are now broken by what they hide, because it comes out in other ways, overeating or drinking or with a sense of rage that they can’t control. So, what do you do? Go on a course, read a book, get counselling? What’s the answer? The answer is whatever works for you. I’m not selling anything. My drug of choice has always been Martial arts. As a young man, I swapped out the emotional pain for physical pain. I overworked my body until it numbed my emotional pain. And it worked - for many years it dulled my senses and made me a better martial artist. But, like any drug, the dose needs to be increased the more you take it. What once killed the pain, after a time didn’t. So, I got a new drug of choice: work. My drugs were what kept me going, they gave me a sense of purpose, they helped others. I helped many gain their black belt. I built a large organisation, truly not on my own - with great support from those around me - but again it was a drug.
So, what can you learn from this? That we all have our demons, that we all do our best and that we all have our drug of choice. What’s yours and how is it affecting your life? Be very careful that it is not taking you further and further away from who you are. Mine have given me a lot, but in truth they have also taken their toll. I’m at a point where I see what I once just couldn’t. I see that what is important is family and friends; that even if I do work I need to also take time for myself. Just as I worked hard to get a black belt, I must work hard to find balance in my life. That’s what it’s all about finding the balance in your life. What works for me may not work for you. Mentors are great but they are also flawed. Learn what you can from them, but stay true to who you are.
Life is a journey and no one gets out alive. Enjoy the days you have, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you mess up.
Martial artist, teacher