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Boxing out of a rut

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Friday, October 5, 2012

None of my friends could keep a straight face when I mentioned in August that I was joining the boxing team. Between the smirks and incredulous laughter, I heard everything from “You’re the least aggressive person ever,” to “I thought you hated working out,” to “I really don’t think you could actually punch someone like that, if you had to.” After hearing “Wait, are you serious?” a dozen times, changing my mind really wasn’t an option anymore – at that point, the only way to avoid a year of jokes and offhand comments about being a wanna-be boxer was to become an actual boxer.
None of my previous athletic pursuits prepared me for this experience – I was an average member of my high school tennis team and a well below-average swimmer for one season. If I felt particularly motivated, I might take on the occasional fifteen-minute mile and call it quits at the three-quarter mark. I knew this, but at the same time I’d been pretty bored with the current state of the union and I wanted to do something uncharacteristic and unexpected.
Team rules hold that members have to attend four practices a week to fight in the Baraka Bouts in November, and it’s fair to say that the first week or two absolutely destroyed me. The only way to distract myself from the misery of those first runs was to spend the time brainstorming escape routes or excuses to quit the team altogether. I couldn’t bring myself to do much more than get through it and then sleep as hard as I could.
Each practice is challenging, enough to keep me questioning why I got into this to begin with, but that’s exactly what I was hoping for. I didn’t join the team so my friends would think I was tougher and realize they’d underestimated me, and it had nothing to do with some hidden desire to punch people. I don’t aspire to go pro after my Notre Dame career, and while I am proud to say that the money we raise will help the people of Uganda, that wasn’t it either.
I joined because I needed to get out of a rut, to shake up the way my life was going and see what else I had to learn about myself. I needed to know that I could ask that much of myself and then pay upfront, even if the price tags on those first miles were alarmingly high. I like myself much better if I’m a person who boxes after class instead of taking a nap; I needed to learn to fight every now and then, as long as I chose my battles wisely. Each day I feel my body getting stronger around me, and if nothing else, I’m glad I can go to bed each night knowing I’m better off in some way than I was when I woke up that morning.

Contact Ann Marie Jakubowski at [email protected]
 The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.