I'm coming to terms with the hakama, which in practical terms is decidedly a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it adds a certain weight that helps you to stay centered, and it encourages sliding your feet in mindful ways (so you don't step on it), and it makes awesome swooshy noises and I assume it looks cool when I fall, because everyone else's does.
On the other hand, I have to remember it and tie it and fold it properly, and the attention I'm giving to not stepping on the hakama is attention I'm not giving to, say, people punching me. This appears to happen to more experienced aikidoka as well, and no one really talks about it; but I'm adjusting, and that's how things are.
It's strange, and odd, and nice, to feel like a full adult member of the community. I don't know that it's intentional, but as a mudansha (non-black belt, completely unranked in the central Aikikai view), there's a sense that everyone is looking forward to you joining the yudansha ranks; some people invest energy and interest in helping you along, and others just sort of hang out and wait for you to get there. I think it could also be that everyone is really, really happy for me, because they like me, which I'm still not used to. But someday.
I helped out with the kids' class on Monday, and in the dressing room one kid noticed the hakama and new belt, so there was a conversation.
"So do you congratulate now?"
"Congratulate? You mean graduate?"
"There's not really any graduation. It never ends."
"So you can stop whenever you want?"
"But you're not going to stop, are you."
"Nope. I do it because I love it and it's fun and it's important to me, and it helps me help other people."
"You should quit and become a master."
"Yeah, you should quit and get a job as a master and teach the kids' class here."
[There are so many things wrong with that idea that I don't know where to start.]
"Well, teachers who don't practice aren't very good teachers."
My brother asked me what I do now, which sort of confused me...there's nothing else to do, except keep training.