It’s a kind of grey day out. Standard Vancouver. We had blue skies peeking through the clouds yesterday, and today I can see a hint of orange-pink in the clouds that tells me the sun hides on the other side. Living in Vancouver means accepting the grey for at least nine months out of twelve. It’s a wet drudgery that can break your spirit, but if you give it enough time you can learn to see the beauty in it.

The city is green, and you learn to see every possible shade of green. It’s a vibrancy that is lost in every other season but the wet one. And when the skies do clear, or when the clouds lift high enough, the mountains dominate. They rise over the city and watch over everyone, sometimes with snow-capped peaks, sometimes with veils of mist. Craggy peaks and mysterious valleys…it’s hard not to look at them and think of tales of dwarves, elves and trolls. Surely if they emigrated with us from Europe, they live in those mountains.

On the odd day when the sun clears the clouds away for a few hours, the vibrancy of the colours, the clarity of the air…it’s breathtaking. Any Vancouverite will tell you that one day like that is worth three hundred and sixty four days of misery. On a clean, vivacious day like that, everyone becomes a lover…an artist…a poet…a singer…a writer. In a single day this city can transform your life. For the visitor, arriving on any given day, Vancouver will be put aside as a dull and grey city. People who never take the chance to be outside on the special days might live here for years and feel the same. But no one with a soul can see the Black Mountains from the sea on such a day, and not fall in love with life all over again.

This city is a piece of land. A chunk of earth on a spinning ball. It never had a choice in what it is. No conscious thought went into its design. It had no desire to be grey, or beautiful. It’s just one place of many.

No one gets to choose the body they were born into. No one gets to say “I want to be born rich.” Or fat. Or skinny, or beautiful…smart, stupid, deformed, handsome, blind, sickly, or poor. Or male or female. We are all born equal and innocent, and then the world puts it’s stamp on us. We grow and change as people react to our body and place in life…a thing we had no choice in. I’m going to walk through the city this morning, and I’m going to see fat people, rich people, and people lost forever to poverty. In no way are any of those people different from me. Every one of them wants the same things I want in life, but they’ve all learned different lessons, and fate has thrown different dice for them. Everyone of them is trapped into their body and fate the same way I am.

Fencing is my own battle. I don’t fight against what I was born as, I accept that. I fight against what people have told me I should be. When I struggle to become a better fencer, I am fighting my own battle against every person that tells me what role I should take in life. I fight against other people telling me what my success should be, what my failures are. I fight against every mold I am told to fit myself into. I had no choice to be born what I am, but as an adult, I have every choice in being the kind of person I want to be. That’s my battle to fight, and to hell with anyone who tells how I should fit in, who tells me what rules to follow.

When I force my body to do something it’s not born to do, when I force myself past my limits to eke out an iota more skill, that’s my defiant shout that I am my own person. Despite what fate has given me, despite what society tries to force on me, despite what everyone believes is the right thing, I will fight for my own soul. I will be who I wish to be, and that is only for me to understand.

Sometimes, across the steel of the blade, in an intense bout…I can feel my opponent fighting that same fight.