Here's an example: My learning school is an hour away from my home. For three and a half years, I planned my schedule around 7PM Tuesday and Thursday night classes, breaking my neck to finish all my work and family stuff so I could get out of my front door by 6PM whenever possible. But in the last few weeks, my mindset has been "If I make it, I make it and if not, well..." On Election Day - after rushing around all day and even hurrying to vote so I could be done on time - I sat in my driveway with my beloved at 5:45PM and told him that I just didn't feel like going. So I didn't. I felt absolutely no guilt or anxiety about my last-minute decision at all - just relief. To me, that speaks volumes.
Yes, gas in my neck of the woods is a crazy $4 a gallon and after transportation to and from is factored in, a two-hour class actually nets me closer to five hours which are huge time and monetary commitments - but those aren't really the reasons I'm staying close to home these days. Being totally honest, it's the actual class itself that's giving me pause.
You may have noticed hints of it in my past few posts, but since writing about it has proven as difficult as talking about it (the latter actually makes me cry), I've tried to sort of kept it out of this space. That's beginning to feel very dishonest these days, so I think I've gotta just write it out already.
For a lot of reasons, my learning place has become a very unfriendly environment. It goes way beyond being gigged for the most minor of things (because I EXPECT to be corrected and taught - that's why I train, after all). The best way I can explain it - and hard as it is for me to say this - I feel like I'm being bullied on the mat. That is NOT what I expect to feel when I'm training in an art I've come to love as much as anything I've ever done in my life.
Does it matter that my sensei is dealing with some seriously tough emotional issues? It shouldn't, but it does, as it is causing some very weird and uncharacteristic behavior from him on the mat. Although I feel very badly about what he's dealing with, I'm just going to say the most politically incorrect thing imaginable: I can't really see what that has to do with the students when we're training. As callused as that sounds, I see it like this: we ALL have crap on our plates. It should be no more acceptable for an instructor to make the envorinment for his/her students an emotional mine field than it would be for a student to do the same to his/her fellow karateka. As hard as it is to do, shouldn't that stuff all be left outside the dojo door along with our shoes and attitudes?
The vibe has definately changed - so much so that there have been many, many classes in the last several months where I've driven home in tears - and that simply shouldn't be. On my desk scrawled on a note pad is a quote I found somewhere and jotted down: "Karate is supposed to be fun. If it feels like work, you're doing it wrong." Right now, it feels like work in a sweat shop. In the middle of sweltering August heat. Without an open window. And it most certainly sucks.
Don't misunderstand - I'm not expecting side-splitting hilarity in class, but I don't think I should be feeling like walking out 15-minutes after bowing in either, because that has never, ever, EVER been my reality. A not-so-great class every now and again is to be expected, but when those occasions become the rule rather than the exception, something may be amiss.
I'm just...tired...but really sad, too. I left a not-so good (instructionally speaking) school for this one - because of the amazing level of instruction and mutual respect, and I've stood by/sallied forth even when not one of my black belt training partners was able to (due to work and life responsibilities) or willing to do the same - but now I can't steel myself to go to class. Three and a half years ago, I thought I'd never have a need to ever even explore another school. Today I'm Googling area dojos. How the heck did I get here...again?!?
Karate is a leisure-time activity - not my profession - but it is very, very important to me. I miss that I'm only teaching these days and barely sharpening the tools in my toolbox or acquiring any new tools. I miss my training partners - even the ones who no longer train there - and I miss the way my school used to be as well, I really do.
Addressing this with my sensei at this point is not an option, as this is not a conversation that can take place over the phone or via text message and I can't make it down before or stay too long after class to chat because of my work schedule and travel time. I keep having the same debate with myself: is the point of a sit-down an attempt for me to help foster change or is it just to make my feelings known in an "I must get this off my chest" sort of way? Is either even productive or necessary? How will that (whatever THAT is) be perceived and received? Experience has burned me badly; it wasn't received well the last time I was here.
Right now, on this Thursday afternoon, I'm watching the clock to figure out what I can juggle/move around in order to be out of here on time to get home and pack my gear bag. Today's not too crazy a day, so it can be done. But the question becomes "Do I want to?" - the same as it was on Tuesday, last Thursday and the week before that as well.
But, as I used to tell my son when he was having issues with his grade school friends, if the same situation keeps happening over and over again, you should take heed. It can't always be everyone else's fault. This is the second time in as many schools where I've felt like I didn't belong or that I've over-stayed my welcome. But it can't always be someone else's fault. I'm sure I have some onus in this as well.
I just don't really know anymore...