It's almost been a month since I got promoted. The belt is a little bit floppier with wear (when I got it, it was stiff as a board), and it feels a little more comfortable, though I still stare at it sometimes. And it got me an exit row on the plane home from vacation--not first class, but still more legroom than the typical seat.
I didn't think things would change after the promotion, but they have, almost imperceptibly. While I was with my family on vacation, my mother commented that I carry myself differently, and that she doesn't worry about me the same way anymore. We talked about it a bit, and it sounds like she has breathed the same sigh of relief she did when I successfully defended my dissertation. I'm not in limbo anymore, and I don't have that uncertainty hanging over my head. I still maintain that I have a crapload to do to live up to the promotion, but now that it has happened, I am trying to settle into it and "own" the status, if that makes any sense.
No, that doesn't mean I'm acting like a self-important douchebag with a sense of entitlement (at least, no more so than I always have). I do keep joking that I'm going to gain 200 pounds, make people call me Sifu Val, and surround myself with white belts who can pick up my dry cleaning and get my car washed (because that's how they can acquire my grappling knowledge).
One thing that is true is that I have this weird mixture of relief and anxiety. On the one hand, I feel like I have nothing to prove anymore and after 12 years, I can finally get down to the business of learning how to grapple. I've been pretty mellow in my training in the past month (although for me, "mellow" is relative), and I'm spending more time watching other people train, with an eye to thinking more strategically about teaching, and about improving my game through observing others.
On the other hand, I also feel the weight of the belt. Not just in terms of wanting to be worthy of black belt status in my technique and my rolling, but also because there are more demands. One of the only things I remember from my college graduation, dazed and hungover as I was, is the college president talking about how we are now graduates, with all the "rights and responsibilities pertaining thereto." It's the same here. I get some cool perks as a black belt, some cool professional courtesies, but I also have some responsibilities and some visibility that are always going to be there.
There's more, but I'm still ruminating. I'll keep you posted, as always.