You Can Never Go Home Again

January 07, 2003

For 8 years in my thirties I studied karate. In that time I grew emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I need structure, and an outlet for my growth then, and karate was the perfect answer. I was able to achieve some small measure of outward success and a much larger degree of inward success.

A change in my employment situation forced a separation from my original dojo. At the time this was a bittersweet experience; I was ready to take a break from the rigors of training and didn't know how. At the same time I was giving up what had become a major piece of my life. After relocating 2000 miles away in Washington State, I started looking for a new dojo. None that I visited seemed to fit. In the end I told myself that I was truly finished with the physical aspects of the martial arts.

However I continually returned to the question of working out again. For a time I did work out with a group in South Carolina, when we lived there. It wasn't a satisfying experience. I was rusty physically and couldn't live up to the mental image I had of myself. Also the dojo politics were a bit much, and in the end I just stopped attending.

Now, after a third major relocation, I am back to where I started, only miles from my "home" dojo. I have been here for over two years and I have yet to even stop in for a visit. I have been afraid to go; afraid to even openly look at the reasons why I am scared.

When I was active in the dojo originally one of my needs that was being met was that of "parental acceptance and approval." Though my efforts I excelled and advanced through the ranks. My sensei was proud and let it show. Pleasing him to get his approval was a major factor in my dedication. Over time I gradually "grew up" and needed less and less "parental approval." Like any parent-child relationship, mine had reached the point where it was time to venture forth on my own. Now that I have been gone for almost 5 years I don't know how to go back, even for a visit.

Like a child who is grown up and successfully living their own life, but who feels awkward around their parents; I feel awkward about showing myself at the dojo. Where before I wanted and got approval for doing things right; now I want peer respect for having made my own way in the world. But I am still slightly unsure of my self in this relationship because even though I am an adult in the world, I still feel like a kid at home that is the dojo.

Another aspect to this tangle is my desire to once again feel the camaraderie that existed when I was working out there. The bond that I formed with my fellow dojo mates was forged in blood, sweat, and tears. The sense of belonging was intense; and now I feel like an outsider. Even going to visit will remind me of the fact that I am no longer a part of the core there. Like a distant cousin, I feel I would be welcomed, but not truly a part of the family.

I think that there is a element of dissatisfaction in my life right now. I need to sit down and figure out what needs I am trying to meet these days, and where I am failing to meet them. Wanting to return to the dojo is merely an outward expression of some approval/acceptance/affiliation need that is currently unmet. I am not saying that going back to the dojo is a bad idea or wrong. I am saying that going with unexamined needs will only lead to disaster.

I think Michele and I will be having a long talk about this so I can hear myself better. She is very good at calling me on my little self-delusions and at not letting me get away with self-defeating behavior. Actually, I am pretty good at that too... it just helps to share it with the one person I trust and love more than any other.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.