Adventures in Running with Maurine

Broken Dreams Hurt


I was cleaning out my cedar chest today (long ago gave up calling it a “Hope Chest”) and reliving memories as I emptied it to rearrange a room and fix the hinges.  When I got to the bottom, my heart gave a tug and memories flowed back in of one of my first broken dreams that has never quit hurting. 

When I was going to BYU for my first Bachelor’s degree, Chuck Norris (long before Walker, Texas Ranger) was just starting to become a film star.  We went to see Breaker, Breaker and Good Guys Wear Black several times and this started several years of my seeing every Chuck Norris movie, reading everything I could get my hands on regarding the martial arts, and dreaming of earning a black belt. 

The summer before my senior year, I took a martial arts class and was hooked.  This class was repeated until I graduated a year ago and I lived for the hours when I could go and workout.  I even practiced katas in my tiny apartment. 

Once I graduated and moved home to Illinois, I lost no time signing up for classes at the Westmont Academy of Self Defense and spent the next 7 years almost living at the dojo.  I worked hard.  I advanced.  I was a good teacher and spent many nights and weekends teaching the children’s classes and beginner’s classes as part of my studies.  

White, gold, orange, purple, blue, green, brown, black.  Dreams – countless hours of dreams of earning that first degree black belt.  Books filled with notes from classes.  Hours spent practicing both at the studio and at home. I was so dedicated that I would put in a full day’s work in my office in downtown Chicago, get off the train at the Westmont station and teach/practice/attend classes for a few hours until I drug myself home. 

The day I got my first degree brown belt was so thrilling.  There were three degrees of brown before you achieved the coveted black belt, but I was on my way.  I was not advancing as fast as some of the “favorites” or those who had countless free hours, but I was advancing and I was a valuable part of the staff (all unpaid of course). 

Then I made a mistake.  I fell in love and got married.  I got pregnant with my daughter and we moved 50 miles away.  I still came down one night a week and most Saturdays to train and my parent’s watched my daughter.  Then I got pregnant with Kevin.  During this time I was chastened a few times for my lack of dedication to the sport because I put my family first.  Yeah – it was great seeing all the black belts going through divorces.  They starting changing the program some and my instructor said that I was ready for my black belt test.  We knew that I would possibly be on bedrest soon and had been told I had to quit training until Kevin was born.  

We scheduled the date for the test and I left with my family on vacation to Utah. When I came back from vacation I went in and did some private practice with a friend.  Then I called to ask what time my black belt test was that weekend.  I was stunned to be told, “We have decided that we are not going to hold the test.  Your dedication has changed lately.” What?  I was on vacation!  They knew that! I was given no answers other than that.  

My heart was ripped out of my chest.  My world felt like it ended.  I was blind with anger, rage and hurt.  After a day or two, I wrote the instructor a letter letting him know my feelings about what had been done to me and things that had occurred in the past. 

I was informed that I was not welcome back.  More heartache.  If you start over with a new style, you have to start over – not at the same rank. With a toddler and baby on the way – my dream was over. 

Over the years I gradually got rid of my gi (karate outfit), equipment, and most of my belts. But tonight I found all my rank certificates and my two brown belts. (The blue certificate is from BYU – the other certificate is my third degree brown belt).

I can still tie the Obi (belt) with my eyes closed.  I still dream of some of the routines and katas they were so ingrained in my life. 

Did it hurt less to find out that they had never awarded a female a black belt in my studio and that they didn’t want me to be the first one?  No.  Did it hurt less to find out that they were opening a couple of new studios and would have to pay black belts to be instructors instead of using me as free help like I had been for years. No. I still had a huge, painful hole in my heart. 

This was 25 years ago.  It still hurts.  Maybe not quite as bad as it did 25 years ago – but it is still a huge part of my life that ended. 

I can’t bear to get rid of these symbols even though they hurt me.  They also represent 7 years of work, sweat and dreams. 

Once I earn my 100 mile belt buckle this fall I am going to find a studio with a style similar to what I studied and I am going to go back and finish this dream. 


4 thoughts on “Broken Dreams Hurt

  1. Maurine, that’s amazing! I never had a clue! I don’t think you’ve mentioned it once! What a major accomplishment, even if you didn’t officially get the black belt you should have been awarded. As far as I can see, you earned it, but I would be glad to see you work on it so that you know you have it, and there’s no way they can ever take it away from you. A lot of unfair things like that have been done to women over the years. It’s a joy to me every time I see one of those righted! Good for you!


  2. I would love to say, “their loss” but I can feel your pain through your writings!!! You are an amazing woman who has gone so far and above what most of us could even dream about!!!! You rock!!!


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