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You Have to Experience it for Yourself

Recently, I went out to dinner with a fellow black belt after a martial arts session. We talked about a lot of things over burgers and drinks (my chocolate milkshake was particularly satisfying in the blistering Arizona heat), and naturally, conversation included martial arts. We discussed training partners, tournaments, techniques, her excellent flip-kick to my head only 10 minutes earlier… yes, it left a mark.

Anyway, we also discussed the change in our mindsets as we each moved through the ranks on our way to black belt. Both of us agreed that by the time we reached black belt, we both realized just how much we didn’t know. That, for all intents and purposes, our real training was just beginning. Furthermore, both of us had been oblivious to how long the martial art’s path was until we reached 1st degree black. Throughout the lower ranks, we thought of black belt as the end. That by that point, we’d be kick-ass masters.

Wrong.

And we agreed that everyone beneath the rank of black belt is oblivious to how much they don’t know, or that reaching 1st degree black is just the beginning. It’s one of those things that you have to experience for yourself to really understand.

I started thinking about other things you have to experience for yourself to really understand. Those moments in life that hit you in such a unique way (sometimes good, sometimes bad), that only someone who has gone through the same experience can relate with you. We’ve all been there. We try to explain something to a significant other, family member, friend and then end up telling them “You just don’t understand.”

The reason for this random train of thought is two-fold.

First, it’s our (the writers out there) fun task to capture those you-have-to-experience-it moments and somehow write them in such a way that the reader feels like they did experience it. To ground those moments in emotions and relationship that they can relate to.  Then using those commonalities and building on them to relate a completely new experience.

Second, I’m curious what other you-have-to-experience-it moments exist. What are the times when you just think, “No one can understand this. Not unless they went through it themselves”? Both good and bad, big and small. The other one I have for my life is grad school. I’ve found that only other grad students seem to get the geeky jokes, absurd exams (orals, thesis, dissertation), and that grad school is essentially a return to a kindergarten lifestyle. So, what about for you? What are your moments that automatically bind you to others who have experienced it because they’re the only ones who can understand it?

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1 Comment

  1. For me, and probably for a great many other writers, some of my best research comes from throwing myself into a situation just to “experience” it. However, I may have to draw the line at HALO jump.

    Reply

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