Our Life Story Creates our Identity

by Brent M. Jones

Each time I think back over my life story, I rethink what happened and draw new conclusions. The following story has stuck with me throughout my life.

When I was about eleven years old, I had the unfortunate experience of being chased home each day after school by a kid called Owen who was much bigger than me. One day my mother met me as I was running into the yard. She had probably noticed I was out of breath on my return each day. That day she asked why I was running so hard, and I told her Owen was chasing me. I guess I could have said, “I was running to avoid getting pounded.” That would have been an honest answer.

We lived by a river and crossing the bridge in front of our house meant that I was home. The next day my mother was out front, waiting for my arrival as I came across the bridge. She stopped me there, and when shortly Owen came thundering across, she called him over and announced to us both that the following day we would meet right there in the park across the street from my house, and fight. The announcement surprised me. What surprised me even more was that it was my mother setting this fight up. Looking back, it also surprises me that I didn’t try to get out of it or worry about it. I just figured that was what I had to do. I had to fight him.

The next day at school, word got out. I was asked by some of the kids if I was really going to fight him. I said yes, I was. After school, Owen arrived at the park with a crowd of kids from school, some even before I arrived. My mother was there, waiting. She had all the kids that had shown up form a big circle. Owen and I entered the circle with fists up, ready to start swinging, and Mom was the referee. I still remember looking at Owen, who was much taller and heavier than I was, and not really feeling afraid.

The fight began and I danced around with my fists up, trying to land some punches and trying harder to avoid getting punched. I hit him as hard as I could a few times. I had boxed with my dad in the evenings and understood a little bit about the process, but Owen didn’t look like he even felt my punches. He wasn’t very good at boxing and preferred to just push and shove, several times jostling me to the ground before jumping on me and pounding me. Even lying flat on my back, I would hit whatever part of his body I could connect with. Each time we landed on the ground, my mother had us get back up and continue boxing. It wasn’t a fight I stood a chance of winning. Finally, my mother held up Owen’s hand and said, “There you go, Owen, you won!”

What has always surprised me most then, and ever since, looking back, is that I wasn’t scared. I felt like I did the best I could, and I didn’t hurt too bad. I lost my fear of failing. Life went on. I did get into a fight or two in later years at school and did much better.

When I tell this part of my life story, it seems to be an important connection and even explains many of the future challenges and changes I have had in my life. I have not been afraid of failures over the years and instead have worked through them. For sure, I learned that when you get knocked down you get back up, you keep fighting, and when it is over, life goes on.

By the way, a side note. I have always loved boxing. Watching it, in particular. Muhammad Ali is my favorite boxer, and this quote of his has special relevance for me:

“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”