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  • Writer's pictureSpencer Bennington

Every Year is a Blessing

Welcome back to Rhetorical Roundhouse, your home for some wacky combination of martial arts, Rhetoric, and whatever I feel like blogging about this week. Last week's Thanksgiving special featured some of the things I'm most thankful for (like turkey and pie) so be sure to take a look at that if you want to make yourself hungry.

As a quick reminder, I wanted to let you all know that I still have many care packages for the needy if you'd like to pick one up. If you see me at US Tae Kwon Do or at USF feel free to ask me about these. Otherwise, if you'd like, you can always email questions to

One more plug before I start, right now US Tae Kwon Do in Wesley Chapel is offering a holiday gift certificate good for a new uniform and one month of training for only $75! Get yours while supplies last and give someone the gift of a personal transformation through martial arts education this holiday season.

Ok, so, on to today's topic. Last week I was doing the whole Thanksgiving thing and talking about things in my life for which I'm thankful. But, the truth is, when things are going well, it's easy to count your blessings. It's when things in your life seem devastating, when burdens seem to heavy to carry that it becomes most difficult to see those blessings.

This past week was my 29th birthday--that's right, I'm a turkey baby. Gobble gobble. I can remember that, as a kid, my mom would always tell me that I started acting grumpy about a week or so before my birthday. It didn't help that she made this a self-fulfilling prophecy by continuing to frustrate me with her annual prediction. As I grew older, I realized that the reason I became so irritable is that I felt a kind of pressure, an anxiety about making the right birthday wish. This sounds silly, I know, but it would always make me feel a little upset if someone asked what I wanted for my birthday and I couldn't think of an answer. Most of the time I really just didn't want anything--I was pretty content. The problem with that though, at least in my head, was that I was denying the people I loved the most an opportunity to give me a gift or do something to make me happy...and I hated that feeling. As I grew older, I knew that, some years, no amount of presents of special celebrations would make me happy or give people the satisfaction of seeing me smile. The reason? Because I hadn't figured out how to see my stress, my worries, my despair and my joys, my hopes, my blessings at the same time.

The truth is, there are no perfect days. We can only hope to take the good with the bad and learn from both. We can only appreciate what we have while we have it and be thankful to have ever been so lucky.

This year was an amazing birthday because, despite there being stress in my life in terms of my career path, my health, and my family, I was able to appreciate all the good that surrounds me with a little help from my friends.

My roommates helped me not let my memes be dreams when they took me to the J.C. Penney portrait studio to take some of the goofiest "family" photos I've ever seen. When I look at them, I'm reminded of how there are people in my life who are always willing to play along for the sake of the joke, people who will put the work in to help me laugh and feel joy, people I call real friends.

Santa Ninja ready for the war on Christmas

From our family to yours---murry krimuz

There are a LOT of these silly photos and every time I look at them I can't help but laugh.

But these clowns weren't the only ones to help me celebrate. Master Vahid and my US Tae Kwon Do family basically threw me a Tae Kwon Do birthday party on the night before Thanksgiving. We did 29 reps of all our exercises (something I'm sure they were all REALLY happy about...sorry not sorry guys!), I got to spar the man/myth/legend Eduardo himself, and everyone got to kick me 29 times. The truth is, I haven't felt so at home, surrounded by a martial arts family like this, since I moved away from Pil Seung in Blacksburg VA three years ago. Thank you Master Vahid and thank you to everyone who made that night so special. I love you all.

And yet, all these blessings are tinged by some sadness and loss. Just a few days before I was feeling so at home and surrounded by love in my dojang, another member of our Tae Kwon Do family lost his life in a motorcycle accident. David Engberg was a former student of Master Vahid's and a very talented martial artist. Though I first only met him a year ago, his intensity and passion for competitive sparring left a lasting impression. Before Rhetorical Roundhouse launched, I shared these videos on Facebook where I had the pleasure of getting absolutely destroyed by David in a match. This was a pivotal moment for me because it showed me just how much more I could learn and improve and, for that, I'm eternally grateful. I last saw David in October when he was coaching some younger students at our Spartober event. I'm sure that his spirit and love for Tae Kwon Do lives on in those students and many others just as it does in me.

David was 29--my age.

So while it might be easy to take days off, to wallow in the darkness, to procrastinate until tomorrow, I'm going to choose to do the hard thing. I choose to remind myself that every year--every day--is a gift. It's up to me to live the way I want to live, to treat people I want to treat them, and to bring the level of intensity and commitment to all the things I care most about--like Tae Kwon Do. Even though I didn't know him well, from sparring him, I can tell that David DEFINITELY did that. None of us know just how long we have in this world, so it's up to us to be that happiness, to bring that joy, and to create that vigor for ourselves every single day.

My condolences go out to the family and everyone who lost a loved one with David's passing. But with this sadness is gratitude-- I'm glad I got the opportunity to meet and train with David while he was here, and I thank him for how he's inspired me to be a better martial artist,

That's enough for today.

Thank you all for reading.


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