I’ve opened emails and sipped coffee, starred at this page, doodled, walked around, and came back to stare.
I can feel my heart racing as I type, physically aching, and then it subsides and I’m filled an indescribable feeling that can only be semi understood as gratitude.
My hand wasn’t raised, but this fight saved me.
I’ve been struggling. Struggling to understand my place, what I’m supposed to be doing, what I should be doing. So, I poured all of that uncertainty into things I can semi control- my training and my nutrition, to the point of insanity. I was strict and when things wavered, schedules, macros, techniques, I’d crumble. Physically, I’ve never felt stronger. Emotionally, I could barely function. I constantly compared myself to other fighters, judged myself for my training and nutrition choices, shut myself off from anything that wasn’t geared towards fighting. I struggled with that too, should I be doing this? Am I good enough? I’ve devoted almost 7 years of my life to this, will I ever be good enough? What are my goals? I do this because I love it, but when is love not enough.
Over and over, day after day, these thoughts rolled through my head. I could barely sleep. I’d lay awake watching the clock tick until morning, wondering what was wrong with me. I felt alone. Completely, utterly alone. I wrapped myself up so tightly into this cave of negativity that the only thing that felt like coming up for air was yoga. In an effort to bury the negative thoughts, I made yoga a part of my training camp. That one hour almost every day was the only hour I felt not bombarded by my own frustrations and self-deprecating thoughts. Life isn’t perfect. Schedules don’t always mesh. I couldn’t handle it, I didn’t see it as timing just being off, I felt like it was abandonment, like I wasn’t worthy of someone’s time, I was no body.
For the first time, I felt like my dreams and goals were silly and unattainable. I’m barely making enough money to live. I’m lost when it comes to my career. I want to be a top contender in Muay Thai so badly I shut myself off from everything else. I’m 28 years old and don’t have a clue what I’m doing, and to me that’s not okay. I thrive off of a plan and schedules and to be this lost for this long finally hit me hard. I became hyper focused on this camp and when things didn’t go according to plan, I’d fall apart internally and then it became externally, written all over my face, pouring out in the tears that streamed down my cheeks. I took to writing down mantras, poems, anything, everyday telling myself all the good things, up talk. It wasn’t enough. I took to repeating them out loud when the negativity became unbearable. I let teammates tie my hair back and wipe tears from my eyes, I let them tell me to keep going and keep moving. I cried. I slept more. I breathed more. But the negative didn’t go away, I pushed it as far back as I could. It was a long couple of months. It seemed like the harder I tried to push the thoughts out of my mind, the faster and more intense they came back… but negative thoughts have no place in a fighter’s mind during fight week. Maybe I was so spent from trying to change my thought process or maybe it was sense that I had almost reached what I had been working towards, I don’t know how, but I went on auto pilot.
I landed in a snow storm and woke up to the polar vortex. It was cold, but I hadn’t felt that at ease my whole camp. Staying at a hometown friend’s house, we went down memory lane, lounged on the couch wrapped in blankets and cuddled by pups. I went to yoga with another friend and sipped hot coffee and caught up on everyone’s lives. My heart was already filling. I hadn’t seen these friends in a long time and they opened their homes and time to me, like no time had passed. The sense of ease continued straight through to fight night. I felt like I had let go of everything. I just kept telling myself (sometimes aloud) I can do this. My coach would sometimes answer saying, you don’t need to tell me that, of course you can.
I felt comfortable. I felt in control of myself. I felt like I could breathe and make decisions. I heard my corner clearly. I felt comfortable.
In the end, my hand wasn’t raised.
And this is where I’m supposed to say that it was okay and I felt great because I had done the work, just wasn’t my night, I’ll get it next time. Live and learn. But that’s not what happened.
My heart broke. I felt the wind knock out of me. I felt small. I felt unworthy. Gone was my confidence. I felt lost. All in the span of 3 minutes. It all hit me like a bus. I saw all the faces that had helped get me here, the time my coach put in away from his family and other clients, my strength coach training with me early mornings and answering my frequent texts about my at home workouts, my TMT family covering classes for me, my teammates putting in odd hours for sparring, my students dealing with Monday Jill and telling me jokes or giving me gum just to see a smile, my family sitting with me not judging or poking fun as I ate my portioned thanksgiving and Christmas meals, my friends still asking to grab a drink late night even though they knew I couldn’t or would be too tired just to show that they still cared. My hand wasn’t raised. I felt like I had let them down. I was wasted time. I didn’t understand. I had given it my all and it wasn’t enough, again.
And then something happened.
Strangers, friends, family, reached out to me. Quite literally, as I walked away from the ring, people reached their hands out to congratulate me or offer a high five. My phone buzzed all night with words that left me speechless. Every single conversation, every single text, every person that showed up to that fight for me in New York and across the world, left me completely filled. I listened to every person share with me words that changed my path forever. Before this fight, I didn’t know if this was what I was meant to be doing or if there was even something I was meant for. Before this fight, I was completely broken inside.
I’m not going to say that magically I feel emotionally stable and everything is fine and dandy, because that’s not the truth. I refuse to put a rosey picture of me on Instagram and say everything is fine to save face or to make other fighters think I’m unbreakable. Nothing is fine. I am breakable. I am afraid. I am sensitive. I am still hurt. I am still broken, but I am holding on to courage. I will face it all and keep going on this path. This is exactly where I am supposed to be, exactly how I am supposed to feel. Where it’ll lead, I have no idea, but I will continue to strive to trust the process, to trust that this is my path.
I have never felt such a sense of gratitude. I am in awe of the people who are in my life and I refuse to give up because of them. I really can’t accurately describe how much you all mean to me and I don’t think I could ever thank you properly, so I know now what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to create a life where everyone who steps through our doors at TMT feels what I felt walking away from that ring as strangers and friends alike reached out to me and picked me up off the rock bottom I was in danger of hitting. You reading this right now have NO idea how incredible you are, how you are inspiring SOMEONE out there in the world you may not even know. We are all so very different and each offer something completely new to the world around us. I am so thankful to be a small part of this community. There’s this thread that unites us all, whether you practice Muay Thai or not, you are connected by a common thread and it’s a beautiful thing. I will work every day to sew that thread into the lives of everyone I meet.
Thank you all for saving me.
And thank you to Amy for giving me one hell of a fight, one that was fun and challenging and all the things a fight should be. It truly was an honor to share the ring with you. And also eat cookies and get our legs hugged by compression pant leg things.