This is a mentality I starting using probably around the second semester of my sophomore year at FSU. My work load was becoming closer to what most people associate with college (taking two languages at once wasn’t helping either) and I was co-point of the swing dance club’s revived workshop: Seminole Stomp. All of that with some very turbulent personal life issues, well, I felt like Life was using me as a punching bag.
So I decided to punch back.
I saw the arena in my head. In the blue corner, Life, weighing in at insurmountable odds, hailing from the beginning of time and is often credited for being soul-crushingly difficult. In the red corner, me, still trying to figure things out, pretty beaten from the last round and look! You can see the bruises coming in nicely.
Every time I opened my books to study or to highlight sentences to quote in my next paper: that was akin to Rocky running up flights of stairs to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. Every time I was taking a test or writing a paper: that was the actual fight, with Life and me trading punches.
A bad grade was a punch in the gut; a setback was Life winning a round. A good grade or a successful dance lesson or just a good day was a victory. (At one point, when I was in danger of failing my first class ever, passing Islamic Art and Architecture was me knocking one out of the park.)
And the fights would get dirty. There were shots below the belt when the referees weren’t looking. (The referees were rarely helpful.) And I called in help more than once.
This mindset helped make my obstacles in life feel more surmountable. Beating them felt possible, when the right preparation was the right uppercut.
Admittedly, this is very aggressive mindset. But it felt good, like I was attacking the test/the paper/the problem that was making my life difficult. It helped feel like I was immediately addressing the obstacle rather than having it loom over my shoulder, like a foreboding shadow of things yet to come.
The first person I ever shared this with was my best friend, Ellie, from FSU. I was trying to give her an inspiring pep talk. I’m not entirely sure how well it went over. She kind of looked at me funny and punctuated what I was saying with lines like “Uh huh” and “Um, okay”.
Still, before I came up to New York City, I called her in a fit of “OhmygodwhatthehellamIdoingwithmylife” and she reminded me of our chat. (At least I know it made some impression.) And she reminded me of how much this mindset had helped through some of the toughest stuff I’ve dealt with in my short 22 years of life.
It’s my coping mechanism so that I can feel some control over what life throws at me. And the mental image of me in a bare-knuckle fight with an anthropomorphic representation of Life is just awesome.
This is my lemonade out of lemons.
This is my “no more excuses” stance.
These obstacles that Life is throwing at me, these are challenges that are just going to make me stronger and more adept. I’m leveling up and taking names. I’m going to get the crap beaten out of me (like Rocky at the end of his first movie) but then I come back and emerge victorious (like Rocky in his second movie).*
Everyone has their coping strategies. Mine makes me feel like an Amazon warrior. And in a concrete jungle like New York City, I feel it appropriate. Every day, I mentally apply my warpaint and go about my day. And you really haven’t experienced walking down a sidewalk if you haven’t done it like you’re on your way to battle. I am a powerful, independent woman and God help anyone who decides to mess with me.