My brother and I would play in the backyard of our house. We used sticks as swords. We pretended we were knights or samurais, or two boys with sticks. One summer day, when the dirt was especially warm, my brother stood across from me holding the stick out in front of him. “Okay, I’m going to give you a free hit,” my brother said to me, “just hit me.” For a minute I thought about it. He told me just to do it, pushing me to slice the air with the wood and initiate a lethal slash on my brother face or into his torso. I didn’t. I pretty much just significantly tapped the far end of his stick with mine. He looked at me and shook his head. “You don’t know how to fight,” he stated. I was 6 years old.
In middle school, after all my classes were over, I would hang out in the parking lot along with everyone else who didn’t have to be anywhere soon. Everyday I fought my classmate, and everyday I lost. I didn’t know how he did it. I memorized everything that he did. He used the same pattern, the same sequence of movements. He’d throw a punch, step behind my legs and trip me onto the floor, and then punch me several times in the ribs. I knew it all. I mathematically pulled it all together. The punch would lead me backwards, and then since I moved forward after that, he’d be able to trip me. I ran the sequence in my head over and over. Every morning I thought I’d be more prepared to fight the next day. I wasn’t. I fell onto the floor, and I would feel my lungs collapse every time he’d punch me in the ribs, over and over, until someone screamed for him to stop. I was 12 years old.
I was working for a newspaper subscription company the summer before I started high school. I would walk door to door to recite my prepared speech that I usually mumbled over in hopes that someone would buy a newspaper subscription from me. It was a scam. I didn’t know it until later in life, but it was definitely a scam. I didn’t get paid hourly. Some weeks I would work 6 days a week between 3pm to 7 everyday, and I some wee ks I would only end up with 30 dollars worth for that whole week. However I liked my job. It brought me into a whole new world of experiences. I never left a 10 mile radius of my house. Everyday I’d leave my little city and go to places with lakes, mansions, and our boss would pay for warm oily pizza after work. I didn’t even know what a Jamba Juice was or a Starbucks until I started working for this job. We’d come home after the sun would set and I would walk to my house from across the street with my binder, which most of the time didn’t make any sales or anything to show for my day. It didn’t matter though. I was starting to see a lot more to my life.
We were sitting in the back parking lot of large retail stores drinking frappacinos. Those frappacinos were my newest favorite thing. I felt like an adult; making a paycheck, drinking blended ice coffee. We were talking about my failed attempt to “slap box” with one of my coworkers during one of our days off. It was pretty ugly. He didn’t know how to fight either.
“You want to spar?” one of my other coworkers, said almost sporadically. Matt placed his drink down on the hood of the car and took a few steps away from us into an open area in the empty parking lot.
My coworkers cheered me on. I seriously didn’t want to fight or humiliate myself in front of all my coworkers. Before I knew it, I was being pushed closer to my new instant fighting opportunity. I didn’t know what to do. We were going to slap box, which is where we weren’t allowed to punch each other with a closed fist, it was still something I obviously wasn’t good at. I took a breath and thought for a split second.
The plan: Hit him as many times as fast as possible.
One of my coworkers said go, and I swung my right hand into Matt’s face with my open palm, and then did it again with my left. Back and forth, left and right, again and again. It was my only two moves, my two options. I sucked my hands back and then swung into his face and then did the same thing with my other hand. I could see my hands rip into the sides of his face. It was the same pattern, the same sequence, the same tactic, the same attack, and it was working.
Matt put his guard up, placing his forearms up by the sides of his face. I just went faster. I needed to get pass his defense, but I only knew one thing that worked. I didn’t have time to regroup. Matt would time my hits, and block almost every single one. Then he would slip through and swing at the side of my face. So I went faster. I needed to break through his defense. So I went faster and swung harder.
I swung again and again. My eyes focused on the center of his face. I could see Matt infiltrating my simple pattern of left and right punches. He caught every open hand with his forearm, and within three of four failed attempts to reach his face, he ran right through into mine with a solid friction burning painful collision across my cheeks. My ears were getting red. Before he could suck back and get back into position, I dove in, driving my hands into his face over and over. It was the only opening I could get. He would block my hits, slip in his hit, and then before he could regroup I struck him with as many hits as possible, moving forward, not letting him rest. I could feel my breaths climbing out of my body. I could feel the weight I placed on my calves and how they tightened every time I followed through with a punch. It didn’t matter that he was blocking some of my hits; I was hitting him. I could still see his head swing backwards, and feel the skin on his face break from my hands. I had it. It was that eureka moment. The heartbeats, the slow motion, the solving answers to all the equations. This moment, it was the moment where everything seemed so simple now that I have the answers. The aftermath, the conclusions. I was holding up the master key to unlocking every lock that I could never open and that now stood in front of my face. I just did what I needed to do, and did everything I could to get there. I had a path, a working plan, stepping closer and closer towards success. It didn’t matter that my ears burned red. It didn’t matter that I was breathing heavily, or that the pain building from under my face echoed across my skin. I felt a passion burning, running through me with every punch that reached my face, and every poetic journey that ended with my hand ripping onto his face. I had finally found direction.
I found everything…
“Hold on,” I said laughing, my body aching. I placed my hands on my knees and caught my breath. I pulled my body back up quickly, “Okay let’s go!” I said, not waiting another second to get into the fight.
“No, we got to get home,” my boss said. “What? Why?” everyone asked in broken unison. My boss said it would be a long ride home and he didn’t want to get calls from all of our parents asking where we were on a Friday evening. Matt and I hugged. Everyone couldn’t stop laughing. We all couldn’t stop talking about it. It was a spectacle to witness. Two young boys, I age 13, Matt age 15, both killing each other with open palms in an empty parking lot. The night sky was clear, filled with stars that evening.
“Is that blood?” Matt said, touching the side of his face. We all laughed as I sipped from my caramel frappacino.
- Find something that works and go with it.
- The road to success isn’t as complicated as everyone else makes it.
- If you have a goal, go for it. Don’t let anything stop you, no matter how much pain you might be in.
- The world is filled with clutter and information overload.
- Simplify everything.
I don’t encourage fighting. This happened since when I was a little kid. Adults getting into physical fights just sounds immature and you could get into a lot of trouble.
Read my previous life lesson here: The Cure for Assholes and Losers: