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  • Writer's pictureStacie Haas

Getting off the Mat

I recently had one of my proudest moments as a Mom. I was fortunate enough to witness my 11-year-old son achieve what has been, up to this point, his greatest life goal: winning a national gold medal in karate. He became a two-time Junior Olympic gold medalist on July 31 in Houston, Texas.

It was a journey that began just over a year ago when he narrowly missed a gold medal at AAU Karate Nationals in Raleigh, North Carolina. He made a mistake during his weapons kata, one that hurt his chances only because his instinct was to correct it mid-form. He left the tournament with two bronze medals and he celebrated it, but he never forgot that he didn't achieve his goal that first time and went to work for his next opportunity.

The opportunity came in Houston, but the road there was hampered by challenging circumstances: his dojo had to be relocated, which changed the competition team practice schedule in ways that meant he couldn't practice every week. Family circumstances meant that we had to miss the AAU Karate Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and his Sensei was unable to accompany him to Junior Olympics, which meant we had to fund-raise to finance the bringing along of another coach, one we weren't all that familiar with. He was also the only member of his competition team who trained for Junior Olympics so he felt the absence of his teammates' support as he alone prepared to represent our state.

Despite this, or maybe because of it, my son found even greater determination in his at-home training and his one-on-one sessions with his Sensei. It filled me with immense pride as he walked onto the mat with a clear focus and his eye on the prize. He learned last year that all of the training in the world matters little if you don't focus and execute on tournament day.

I knew from the moment he started his routine with his bo staff that he would win, and in the end, it wasn't close. Surprisingly, he followed that with a second gold in kata, which is typically his weakest event. He left with two gold and one bronze medal, the achievement of a dream in hand.

You may be wondering, now that we're five paragraphs in, what that has to do with my aspirations to be an author. I'm attempting to draw strength and inspiration from my son. He got off the mat last July and trained his body and mind to accomplish his goal one year later. I write here with the month of August nearly half-over and I don't feel any closer to my dream than when I first submitted my manuscript at the end of February. The only thing I have to show in terms of progress in my writing career is two Flash Fiction contest wins and an encouraging book critique (that I had to pay for).

Just yesterday, I received a rejection from the agent that favorited my #PitMad pitch. I had assumed a rejection since I hadn't heard back, but seeing it in writing was a bitter pill to swallow. I was grateful for the response, but I have to be honest, it hurt. She was excited by my query and loved the premise of my book, but she did not connect with the writing enough to become a champion of my project. Ouch! Tell me I'm ugly, insult my style, even frustrate me with your political posturing, but reject my writing?

After 24 hours of reflecting, I am trying to regain perspective. It's harder to regain the drive to move forward. These crises of confidence for writers are very real. I know that I have to go back to the revisions I mentioned in my last post, but my current state is pretty sluggish. I am trying to recall the advice and encouragement I gave my son last year when he "settled" for bronze. I told him I was very proud of him, that his achievement was worth something, and that I believed in his talent and his determination to work for next year. So I will do this because he wants me to. He's a reader like me--in fact, he's a lot like me in many ways--and he is very proud of my book. He has read it and can't wait to see it in print. I have to do my part to make that happen, just as he showed me. For him, I will get off this mat.

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