It’s Better Up Top (The Second Time)

A city street, shoulders shoving, bobbing umbrellas, rain blotting your jacket, a phone buzzing in your pocket, car tires squeaking over the concrete — thoughts, so many of them like little notifications in your head: I have to send those emails, I need to clean out the front hall closet, my dog needs a haircut, the boss is expecting more of me than I could ever imagine, my coworkers are going out to eat tonight — should I go?

Amongst all of these thoughts, pulling our minds across one thousand directions, we find ourselves reverting back to our cores. What may that be? For some, it may be a career; others, writing, playing an instrument, running track, drawing. In times where our lives are burdened with work it only makes sense to come back to our hobbies — head down, full speed ahead.

Ed Latimore, amaetur boxer turned professional, is an unlikely star. At age twenty-three, most of the competitive boxing world would consider him an anomaly. Beginning in his early twenties, he recalls, was like starting to box as a senior citizen.

One can only imagine the nursing home where that would take place.

After determination and practice, Latimore earned the opportunity to go professional. This was unexpected — anomaly was a fitting term, undeniably. Boxing had become his identity over the decade he practiced.

In his early thirties, he flew to Oklahoma to fight on international TV.

First round, three minutes in, he was on the ground. It was done. Over. It was as if he reached Everest’s peak. Wind hit, sending him tumbling back to the bottom.

Latimore likes to think of our growth as climbing a mountain: we learn and evolve. And yet, once reaching the top, the true hardships aren’t evident until experience of the journey is stolen from you — replaced with stinging embarrassment.

The morning after the fight, Latimore was upset with himself, feeling that he could not handle the loss. He assumed the same thoughts were filling the minds of those in his inner circle, too.

Failure’s inherent effect on our psyches and how we perceive our identities to crumble each time we fall, whether literally or metaphorically, struck Latimore that morning after, while watching the news.

Lives were taken by guerilla warfare, gunshots. Latimore realized that “if the worst thing that happens to you,” he says, “in your life is that you lose a little money [because of a lost fight], you’re doing alright.”

He has a family, a supportive audience, and suddenly the embarrassment didn’t seem so imposing anymore. Our experiences are based off of our perspectives. We are in total control of our lives, and “how we react to it…determine the quality of our life.”

If we can remove ourselves from the hobby we have found so tightly intertwined with our identities, the perception of the failure doesn’t have to paralyze us from climbing back up the mountain.

It took him ten months before he could watch the re-run of the fight: it was ten months he stole from himself, stunting any possible growth from studying the mess-ups, the flaws.

Recognizing our mistakes, granted, with time to “lick our wounds,” the journey back up top is ten times as worthwhile, as engaging, as enchanting, as moving.

Daphne Kass