What provoked me to begin a career in combat sports almost seven years ago was a deep need to make a difference in this world by sharing the joys and struggles of my story with others in hopes that doing so might serve as a lighthouse for someone sailing through their own storm. To serve this purpose, I have always kept my social media pages public and have shared my life quite authentically. I try not to hide the shadows when I'm facing them, just as I don't hide the light when it's shining either. To do so would defeat the entire purpose of why I do what I do. So when I share joyous stories, they're authentic. And when I share my struggles, those too are very authentic. Neither is ever exaggerated in an effort to earn likes, clicks or followers. I'm just plain and simply me.
However, through the course of my experience with social media, public profiles seem to garner a sense of entitlement in some individuals. We forget that it is a privilege to know someone or be invited a look into the lives of others. Sometimes we see so much of a person's life through social media we even feel like we know them personally. It's easy to forget that no matter how authentically that person shares his or her life, we are only seeing the snapshot version, and we actually have no clue as to the moments between the social media updates that link it all together to comprise that person's full life. And yet judgments and criticisms begin to form in our minds based on what we're seeing through the lens of our own paradigm, and some of us even reach out to share those judgments as if we have the right simply because we've been granted access to that person through social media.
During (and since) my last trip to Thailand, various people who don't actually know me thought it was their place to reach out to me and tell me they felt I was a terrible mother for going and leaving my sons behind. Memories of those unsolicited opinions are of course circling in my mind as I prepare myself to leave on another trip. Any good parent, I think, feels guilt over pretty much any decision they make that involves taking care of themselves because our children become our first priority. I am certainly no different. I also remind myself that just because my career is a cool one (and one that quite frankly most hecklers don't have the courage or tenacity to pursue) it doesn't make my business trips any different or any less valid than the business trips I would take as a sales rep, executive, or IT tech for a large company, and they don't make my children any less of a priority.
As I get ready to board my plane to Thailand tomorrow morning, I have a lot of contradicting thoughts and emotions running through my mind. Voluntarily returning to a place where tragedy struck is a very difficult thing to do despite the beautiful tropical-vacation picture many people may paint in their own minds. My "fight, flight or freeze" system is screaming at me to stay put because that part of my brain has connected Thailand with scary events. A part of my brain has whispered to me every night for eight months now that if I go back there, something horrible is going to happen to someone I'll have to save and I'll be separated from my sons to do so. This isn't a vacation for me; it's therapy and quite honestly, work. I want to heal from what happened; I want to come out of retirement; and I'm doing everything I can to make both of those things happen. The thought of being away from my kids twists my heart, but I know I'm doing exactly what I need to in order to not only provide for them as best I can through my career, but to provide for them as best I can as an emotionally healthy mother. My career has always been a family decision between the three of us and this is the choice we have made together.
My gentle request is this: Don't share your unsolicited (and unwelcome) opinions about someone's life, especially if you don't even know that individual personally. Do not share your judgments or criticisms that were formed without knowing anything about the moments between the status updates, because you don't have enough information to form an accurate and educated opinion. Of course, this won't stop an opinion from forming because that's what we naturally do in an effort to understand what we're seeing in the world, but it's important to remember that opinion is not a fully informed one and THAT is why you should keep your opinions about people you don't actually know to yourself.
In the words of Disney's adorable Thumper, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Well, at least not if your opinion wasn't invited into the conversation. Be gentle in your judgments of others. Be mindful that any opinion formed without the full story is most likely inaccurate. And make empathy a daily, moment-to-moment practice; always, always treat people in a manner you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. Don't judge the path of another if you've never walked that exact same path yourself.
Much love <3
A lover of words, magic, and the idea of changing the world by encouraging the pursuit of one dream at a time. Living the dream myself as a professional boxer, kickboxer, and MMA fighter.