I feel like I’ve been in more fights than most. Physical fights, I mean. The type that remind you of what blood in your mouth tastes like, and get you a weeks worth of stares as people wonder how you got that black eye. Granted, many of these fights happened when I was in elementary and middle school, but I have also found my way in a few situations where I’m running home to avoid some sort of arrest charge.
Despite what it might seem like, I’ve never been particularly proud of my fights. They’ve all been a result of stubbornness. I don’t back down from challenges, and I don’t say something without following through. Sometimes my anger gets the best of me, and I end up asking someone if they’d like to step outside. Lots of people have been there. Lots have also backed out, or apologized when it seemed like there was a fight on the way. Not me.
Since the day that I cashed my first paycheck, I’ve struggled to balance my personal and “business” life. I’m afraid to ever get to that point of challenging someone else, even in the smallest sense, because I worry about it being taken to a point that I can’t come back from. I back down from challenges with the idea of protecting myself and my situation. At least, I used to. I lived the “adult” part of my life afraid of conflict, because I knew that there was a point in it that I simply could not control.
Something changed inside of me about a week ago. I don’t know what exactly caused it, but I remember the feeling of rushing euphoria once I realized that it had changed. I was hiking around in the middle of a forest with my friend. It could not have been warmer than 40 degrees outside, weather that I don’t exactly own proper clothes for, and it was raining. My skate shoes were sinking into mud pits and sliding off of wet rocks. I went through long periods of time where I stared only at the path in front of me to try and keep from falling into a neighboring creek, but every so often we’d stop so that we could look around and enjoy the scenery.
Hundreds, probably thousands, of trees kept me from seeing more than 20 feet in any direction. The rain and the rushing water in the creek kept me from being able to hear much beyond my own thoughts and the little bit of conversation that came out through labored breaths. I felt appreciative of nature. I felt one with nature. I somehow avoided strong urges to lay down in the mud and cry tears of happiness. It was the happiest I had been in a long time, and I got to that feeling by myself. I could do this by myself. My own happiness was worth it all. It meant everything.
I came back to San Diego with a heavy heart. Was I only happy in the rainforest hidden on the outskirts of Portland? Could I make myself believe that my own happiness was important once I returned to my life?
I saw the change immediately. I voiced my opinion firmly. I held my ground against challenges without fighting or striking back. I took on more responsibilities, sure that I could handle anything. I didn’t worry about coddling those around me, content to watch them die off if they were too weak to handle reality. I stopped being Mr. Nice Guy and became Mr. Smart Guy. Mr. Confident Guy. Mr. Manager.
The response has been overwhelming. I can see a newfound belief in me from those around me. I’m finally ready to lead because I finally have the strength to do so. Once I got put into a situation where I could no longer see the landscape around me, and I could no longer hear the voices of the rest of the world dancing around in my own head, I realized that the only way to move forward is with steel-toed boots and confident steps, in a direction of my own choosing.
This feeling will probably fade eventually, although I hope it doesn’t. I have so much left to accomplish.