Growing Older, Getting Stronger

I grew up knowing about the Rocky movie franchise, but I don’t recall having watched any of the movies at a young age. I might have seen one of them when I was a kid, but I can’t think of a long enough movie scene. The earliest viewing that I could remember was probably when I was already in High School, when I watched the 1976 film Rocky on television. I could remember Sylvester Stallone and his trademark way of talking, his fight with a guy called Spider Rico, and a girl from a pet store who would eventually be his love interest as the movie progressed. It’s been a long time ago since I saw Rocky; those were all the details that I could remember. I didn’t get to watch the sequels on TV, and at that time, television was my only means for watching movies. The days went by fast, and slowly my memories of “The Italian Stallion” faded to oblivion.

Fast-forward to 2007, and while with my college classmates, I saw a movie poster for the latest installment in the Rocky franchise: Rocky Balboa. I didn’t think any of it back then, but I remembered searching it on the Internet, to find out what the plot was. Skimming the article led to me not being interested in the film. From what I understood, there was this computer simulation that pitted Rocky Balboa against the current undisputed world champion. It was supposed to determine who among the two boxers would win, had they met each other during their prime. During that simulated fight, Rocky emerged as the victor. I couldn’t appreciate the concept that time, and I thought it was kind of a lame plot, if the champion suddenly wanted an actual match with Balboa, because he was insulted by the simulation result. And so, it would be a few more years before I’d watch the sixth Rocky film.

I can’t remember the reason why I finally decided to watch Rocky Balboa; I might have been bored that day for all I know. But for whatever reason that may be, I’m thankful that I watched it. The movie has been a great source of inspiration ever since, and I never get tired of seeing it again and again.

Rocky has long retired from boxing, and now runs his own restaurant called Adrian’s, named after his late wife. They have a son, and I was amused that Milo Ventimiglia was cast to be Robert Balboa Jr.; the way he talks is like a younger version of Stallone. But it was a good decision to cast him in the film; the strong father-son dynamic between them was an integral part of why I loved the movie.

 

You ain’t gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. [taps on the inside of his hand]

I’d hold you up to say to your mother, “this kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.” And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time came for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did.

But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow.

-Rocky, talking to his son Robert

Rocky had seen the way that Robert’s boss would talk down to his son, when he dropped by for a visit at his son’s office one day. He’d also seen how his son would just stand there silent and meek, like a kid being lectured. A few years back, I can remember how I was in the same predicament, sort of. I was getting irritated with how everything that I did seemed to be.. inadequate to some people. I try my best, but it always ended up not being good enough. I was slowly becoming disillusioned with the mundane reality that I was stuck in. It’s never a good feeling, thinking you’re no good.

 

I mean maybe you’re doing your job, but why you gotta stop me from doing mine? Cause if you’re willing to go through all the battling you got to go through to get to where you want to get, who’s got the right to stop you? I mean maybe some of you guys got something you never finished, something you really want to do, something you never said to somebody, something! And you’re told “No”, even after you paid your dues.. Who’s got the right to tell you that, who? Nobody! It’s your right to listen to your gut, it ain’t nobody’s right to say no after you earned the right to be where you want to be and do what you want to do!

-Rocky, addressing the Boxing Commission

For the longest time, I’ve tried as best as possible to improve myself in whatever field I pursued. I’ve always made it a point to give it my all, and to truly immerse myself in what I was doing. The price I paid though for quality was a decline in speed. And even back then, I knew that it was an enemy that I would be struggling to defeat. I did my best to cover all the bases, but it’s frustrating when your strengths also end up being your weaknesses. But still, I continued to battle. Some would say that I was not cut out for the task, and annoyingly, even I would say that to myself too sometimes. And yet, I would stubbornly push on and fight, because I was not about to let anyone prevent me from doing what I wanted to do.

Not even myself.

 

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that, and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!

-Rocky, talking to his son Robert

A few years back, I left the ring after having lost the battle. It was a tough blow, for who would have thought that doing my best would bring me to this miserable path? I tried to be optimistic, but I also knew that I soon needed to get back up on the canvas and fight again. This round may be over, but the match has not yet ended. I slowly made my way up, and struggled to stay on my feet. The next few months saw me working like my life depended on it, which was funny, because it did. I was off to a good start. I figured that I would take back control of my life, and see to it that I accomplish my goals as I steadily improved myself. I’ve went down once, but I will continue to stand up and fight.

With every year that passes, my age increases. But each passing day is an opportunity for me to strengthen myself. I know where I went wrong before, and today I will work on polishing my skills. Every second brings something new to learn about the world that I live in. Every day will not pass by without me having come to a breakthrough of sorts. I may not be where I dreamed I would be when I was little, but even that is a wake-up call for me to continually do my best. Every day may not be as exciting as the one that came before it, but I’m no longer worried. As I grow older, I will grow stronger, wiser.

 

There’s always somebody out there. Always. And when that time comes, and you find something standing in front of you, something that ain’t running, and that ain’t backing up, it’s hitting on you, and you’re too damn tired to breathe… You find a situation on you that’s good. Cuz that’s baptism under fire! When you get through that, you find the only kinda respect that matters in this damn world..

Self-respect.

-Martin, talking to Mason “The Line” Dixon

Until the day that my feet will leave the ring, or my body falls to the canvas, I will keep pushing myself to exceed my limits. I will not back down. I will steel myself to fight. I will not let anyone decide what it is or what it is not that I can do. I will not let doubt cloud my vision. I may fall down a couple of times, but I will continue to rise up above adversity. I believe in myself and in what I can do, and in the fight that is called Life,  I will continue for one more round.

 
Until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life.
-Rocky Balboa
 
-Ed. E.

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