Finding my Strength

Grace Yarrow, Editor-in-chief

In the spring of her junior year, my best friend was raped. Walking in her school parking lot in Michigan, her ex-boyfriend forced himself on her. She didn’t tell anyone for two weeks. I was the first person to hear her story and to cry with her.

About a month later, my family got a brochure for a local kickboxing gym in our mailbox. My mom (known for being a fitness nut) persuaded me to give one 30-minute free trial a try. I had spent years of my life trying to be athletic like my parents and younger sister: I took dance lessons, played on a soccer team my dad coached, and met with friends on Sundays to play tennis at the recreation center. From about third grade on, I remember being insecure in my body: I’ve never been seriously unhealthy, but almost all of my friends were involved in sports they were really excited about, and I felt like I was missing out on an aspect of life that my peers were all experiencing without me. 

My first encounter with a punching bag was less than magical: I felt dizzy after watching the bag swing back and forth, and sick when I thought about the taste of that morning’s breakfast. I expected to feel strong. I fell on my backside when I tried to kick the side of the bag. I had never realized the intensity of jumping rope for three minutes. After about 30 minutes, I felt frazzled and not at all like I had expected. I didn’t feel strong in the way I expected to, but I felt motivated.

I didn’t feel strong in the way I expected to, but I felt motivated.”

— Grace Yarrow

From then on, I have undergone a new form of empowerment. I go (sometimes still with my mother) to the kickboxing gym three or four times a week. My form has improved. Jumping rope is still the bane of my existence, but after every round, I am proud of myself and feel stronger than before. Before this year, I didn’t have an activity that could actually be productive and simultaneously relieve stress. Uppercutting a 150-pound bag is so much more healthy than my old habit of watching Vines and crying about my responsibilities every weeknight.

As a female in 2018, I can’t help but notice the dialogue around harassment and sexual assault that has been embedded in our society over years. For this reason — and because of my own experience with assault — I took a self-defense class, and learned some defense techniques, but mostly mental strategies to prepare for attacks of all sorts.

Inspired by those who I’ve talked to about their own experience with sexual harassment (especially my best friend), I’ve grown both physically and mentally. In general, my increased knowledge of how to defend myself has empowered me to go out alone, walk downtown at night, be physically and mentally stronger, relieve stress (thus creating fewer road rage-induced screams from my car), and generally be a normal, independent, functioning human being.