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Thinking about Paul Howe this morning and the training I did with him before COVID. A small smile at the sheer amount of bullshit he gave me the WHOLE day, the jokes and the poking fun at me as the only woman in the entire training.

It was a brutal training. Super hard and I was nowhere near ready for it having just gone through the first of two major injuries. I knew it would be hard but I had no idea HOW hard.

I barely kept up the whole day, though there were a couple of points where I actually unexpectedly shone, particularly Unconventional Shooting Positions, which I sailed through so gracefully that the entire squad of men stopped and watched and said “holy shit.”

Turns out that being a dancer who improvises as a practice is a great floor for being able to move through all kinds of non standard positions while holding an AR-15. Lol.

But what I really remember was that at the end of that brutal, long, exhausting day that left me doubting literally every skill I thought I had ever learned or trained, a complete day long experience of what- the-fuck-am-I-doing-I-will-never-be-good-enough-ness, the way that Paul came up to me and said quietly, “I know this is really hard. And you know what? You’re doing great. Are you SURE you don’t want to train with us tomorrow? Because I think you can do it. I really believe you can.”

I said no that time. I was overwhelmed and injured and deep in self doubt. But I remember how surprised I was – and then, how deeply moved. So much so it brought tears to my eyes. Because it was at that moment that I realize that he had been watching me closely the whole day like an excellent teacher does, he knew how discouraged and bad I was feeling, and he still believed in me. And that that belief was real, it had a basis, because the top of the top, as he is, does not mince their words when it comes to their assessments. People at that level, of which there are very few on this earth, do nothing to make you “feel good” about where you are, and if you can’t do it, they will tell you directly.

I go back to that moment often when I am feeling down and doubting myself. The way he looked into my eyes and the clear, tender and true way he spoke to me in that moment. I look back on that woman I was, injured, scared, and feeling hopeless, and now I see in her what he saw.

This is what true teaching is about. I still correspond with Paul as I check in on whether he is running civilian programs, which he isn’t as of yet due to COVID catch-up. But every time he says, “will be great to see you out here again.”

I said no. I said no to Dave Carapetyan when he first asked me to come out and learn rally, too. Same reasons. Overwhelm. Self doubt. I was physically fucked up and knew I needed to be in a much better place to really try at the level needed, and that getting there was going to be a hard, long journey.

Which I then undertook. I took responsibility, and made the commitment. I am still in that commitment as all of you can see, and it has transformed me, made me into the thing that they saw I could become. It has been hard, it has been painful, it has dragged up every single thing I have ever needed to look at and made me sit with it over and over again. It is a daily journey.

I said no the first time.

But next time?
The next time I said yes.

And I’ll keep saying yes.

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