|Even though we walk in the darkness alone, others still see the light we carry.|
It's Jan. 1, 2015, and I'm sitting at a restaurant. At 11:59 PM today, at the restaurant, I stopped working. I've been working 14-16 hour days, filing motions at the courthouse before our January battles. No parties for me tonight. No great celebration. But I told a friend on the phone tonight, "You know what? I've been working incredible hours ever since I came back from Chile, and I still feel excited and more alive than ever."
One evening, while driving back from downtown, Los Angeles, I was thinking about the year passed: the good, the bad, and the painful. Then, I had a thought. If I could sum up this year's lesson, it'd be this: "Suffering can only be appreciated in hindsight." In other words, pain and suffering is rarely ever fun, pleasant, or wanted in the moment. But when you look back at it, some times you realize, all that pain and suffering was really necessary for your character and maturity.
In my life, I don't think I've ever faced such harsh and constant attacks by others. Sure, I've suffered a lot of times for my own foolish mistakes and my own wrong choices. But this year, I can say that I was arrested, jailed, and had my reputation defamed for doing the right thing. And that right thing was telling the world the truth about how the city officials and administrators are stealing from the city bank account. For that, I watched the city officials fire our boxing coach - for saying that a forty cent raise after fourteen years wasn't right. Let that be a lesson to all of you, just because you're doing the right thing, some times does mean that the wrong things will happen to you. So - why did I continue? Why should we continue?
Because, in the far distance, somewhere out there, we have to believe that tomorrow can be better than today. And not necessarily for us, but for others.
And so many of us will wake up and face the ugly reality of our own weaknesses, ugliness, and brokenness. We may hear that voice that tells us we're stupid, useless, or why try. Such thoughts and opinions often remind us of who we were and the failures of our past.
For instance, I remember what it was like failing the bar examination. I was going through a tragedy during that time. But when I failed, it really sucked. I didn't want to take the exam again. I remember feeling like my life was a living hell. I thought it miserable to face my classmates who passed. I just watched television mindlessly, wondering if I should take it again. I fell off the horse. I didn't want to climb back on it. To make things worse, a relative even told me, I don't want to be associated with a failure. My mentor called me every day to see if I was ok.
At some point, I told myself I would not be defined by giving up. I told myself the right thing would be to get back up and take that test, even if it meant 100 times. I didn't know how I'd manage the bills if I had to take it 100 times, but I knew that I had to find a way.
During that time, I trained hard in boxing. I made friends there. I worked on strict study regime starting at 8 hours a day for six days a week. Then, I upped it to 10 hours a day. I think towards the end, I was studying 12-14 hours a day. One day my mentor said, "Remember, you have to pass for your boxers. They need to know that a failure could be overcome." I believed this to be true. It did motivate me.
Results were released on a 5 pm. I must've counted down the seconds of when 5 pm hit. But when it actually hit, I remember that I couldn't check the results. I told myself, I'd wait until they were published officially. What if I failed again? Oh, I don't want to take that test again? What will people think?
At some point, around 5:20, I couldn't bear it anymore. I thought, you need to know before other people.
I typed in my bar examination number. I held my breath. The screen refreshed. It said something like, your name is on the list of people who passed. I refreshed it. Same result. I wasn't overly happy. I just felt relieved. I felt like a heavy weight off my chest was removed.
And I'm telling you this part of my life, because those voices I heard had some truth to it. But the real truth was not in the past, it was what could be accomplished in the future, despite our weaknesses, brokenness, and failures.
If you don't believe me, we only need to look at what we've accomplished. When we started at our boxing club, the Director Manny Carrillo, who has stolen money from our boxing gym account, cut our program in 50%. Because of our efforts and our unwillingness to back down against fear, we got back all our hours. They thought we were nobodies, but we proved them wrong. Remember, how scary it was to do public speaking? But we had an effect. We were victorious.
This year, despite all the evil the Mayor and his Men intended for me, we've still proven victorious. Even after they jailed me, arrested me, and tried to file a restraining order again me, I crushed them in court.
Good can prevail over evil; it's just not that easy. Then, I won my first civil trial against the City and their attorney. Really, their evil attacks only made me stronger. And the proof of this, is how, even now I feel like my life's changed for the better: one of peace, strength, perseverance, courage, and wisdom. Thus, I know that the suffering I endured, and that we must all endure, had made me a better person.
No wonder why "the Scriptures say, 'I spoke because I believed.' In the same spirit of faith we also speak because we believe." It means that we speak the truth because we believe in it. For us, it means, we fight because we believe: we believe that our efforts make our world better for us, for others, and for those who have not yet come.
I believe this will be a year of victory for us. We are winning and we will win. Therefore, even in the ring, I'm committed to becoming a better fighter too. I realized that I don't enjoy sparring much, after one bad experience. I can't let that get to me. I can't let that stop me. In this too, I'm sure I'll appreciate the suffering in hindsight.
So no matter what you're enduring, I tell you this: Press on! Why? Because, we must believe that good conquers evil.