January 5, 2021, Israel
I can picture in my mind quite clearly the day I walked into Itay's gym for the very first time. More than 30 years have passed since that fateful moment. I can recall the conversation, and then he asked me to hit that old greenish punching bag that was hanging from the ceiling. It was the hardest heavy bag I had ever hit. I would spend years hitting that bag. Memories.
We have memories that came true and memories that we let slip away. What does this mean? I had been thinking about starting up with Karate again when I arrived in Israel, but of course my life is in an upheaval; new country, new circumstances. I had left behind my familiar hunting grounds in Brooklyn, and here everything was new. I had to find a new job, find a place to live, buy a car, register for medical insurance and so forth and so on. But I also wanted to continue my martial arts training. I left the Oyama dojo in New York and needed something here in Israel.
It would be easy to let one's dreams slip away, I had every excuse, as outline above, but instead I signed up for classes as soon as possible. I would continue to attend every class for the next 18 years. This is an opportunity that I took full advantage of. I might have had a memory of some classes and wondered, why didn't I continue? What didn't I pursue this when I was young? But instead I have an ongoing memory, I stepped into the dojo, I stepped up to the plate and I stayed with it. This has become my career and way of life. I have no regrets.
I know that I passed on many "jobs" that interfered with my training. I sacrificed those jobs for a career, but more importantly for a life goal, to be a black belt, to reach my potential. I can look back and say to myself that this is one thing I did correctly, I pursued a goal with total devotion and I have seen the fruits of my labor, in a thousand different ways. The question is, can we do this is all aspects of our lives. I am talking about living.
Life presents us with opportunities every day, and yet what do we hear, from ourselves and others: If I were only younger I would go to medical school. Had I thought of this ten years ago I would now be a ...fill in the blank. We live with regret, missed opportunities. Had I not walked into the dojo that day, who knows what my life would look like today, I might still be stuck in a dead end job in some bank, taking orders from some buffoon.
At my age I am sometimes asked for advice. I can say the following; take a chance on something you want. Go for it. Do not live with regrets. As my dear father would say, Would have, Could have, Should have, the cry of losers. Do it now! Go for your dream! It is never too late. You can still learn to play the guitar, you can still learn a new language, you can still take up painting or art.
I recently got in touch with an old friend from high school. I feel renewed, I feel joy. We can chat about our old teachers, long since deceased, find out what happened to our classmates, reminisce a little, it is good for the soul.
What advice would I like to offer? Jump at the opportunities life offers you, live without regret, stay in touch with old friends and family - they are your living history. And, this may sound strange, keep old letters and keep a diary. Years from now you will wonder what were you doing during these times. You will be amazed how easily your forget important details. What may seem insignificant now will be important latter. I found the letter I wrote to my parents about my decision to take up Karate, back in the 1980s. I mention it casually but now I can trace the exact beginnings, and my thoughts at the time.
May we live our lives fully, with passion, with undying hope, may every day be a renewal.
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