Dreams. I adore them.
Breaking stereotypes. I crave it.
Setting goals and smashing right through them. YES PLEASE!!!
However, I think anyone who has ever chased a dream can tell you it's easy to get lost in the whirlwind of the journey, especially if you don't have the goals of your pursuit clearly defined. And anyone in the public light (which with social media nowadays is quite a large majority of us I think) can tell you it's even harder. And so enters the last two years of my life. After a major shift in my career in 2014, I found myself changing gyms, finding a new home for myself and my children, and redefining my life both personally and professionally. This was also occurring right after I had completed my professional debuts in kickboxing, followed by MMA, and finally boxing. I was recently signed with Invicta Fighting Championships and considering some of the biggest fight offers of my career at that point. It was a hectic time to be having so much occur in my personal life as well.
I think many that knew me personally at the time stood as silent witnesses to my turmoil, as I have never been shy about posting my life on social media for the world to see. I have always believed that if my struggles help even one person face the storm of their own struggles, it is worth putting my life out there publicly. However, the depth of my turmoil was deeper than I even shared with any but one or two of my closest friends. I was in a place where my career had really taken off. I was right where I needed to be with the public eye and with the promoters, two of the biggest factors in your success as a professional fighter, but I was missing the other two more important factors: the proper training, and a sense of community. After ending a very tumultuous relationship with the man who also happened to be my coach for the first five years of my career, I found myself without a team, without friends, and without that sense of community I had surrounded myself with at the time. It was an ugly split and great efforts were invested to slander my name and my values both personally and professionally. Fortunately, I found a new place to call home at Easton Training Center in Boulder, CO, but after only a couple months of training, I found myself despairingly questioning the last five years of my training as almost everything I had been taught had been quickly "debunked". I found myself slipping into a quiet depression as I would try to "fake it 'til you make it" in practice, and then leave wondering if anything I had been taught, or if any of the coaching "lineage" I had been sold for the last five years was true.
Now, anyone who has experienced such a thing knows that your career being at a major turning point for the better is no time to be having a personal breakdown. The fight offers were coming in and, especially considering the personal turmoil with my previous team, the stakes were getting high: the inevitable grudge match offers began. As the months went by it became more and more difficult to not get caught up in the "hype" of the industry. Since the day I began fighting, my approach and my goals within the industry were very different from the typical fighter. Did I want to make it to the UFC someday like every other fighter? Sure. But was it my end-all-be-all goal? Not really. My goal was to defy the odds, to show the world that no matter the number of people who told me it would be impossible for me to make a successful career out of fighting, I was the only person that could dictate whether that was a possibility for me or not with the right amount of work and dedication to my goals. If that meant I would find myself fighting for the UFC someday, great. If it didn't, that was perfectly alright with me too because my goal was plain and simple: Make it as far as I could while still honoring the boundaries around my goals to motivate and inspire others. For me that meant seeking fights I was never really meant to win to begin with, and from the very start of my career, all grudge match offers were denied, and trash talking was something I simply refused to get baited into. I didn't want any part in such things because it just didn't align with my natural personality or my goals to inspire and spread light in the world. My original coach warned me from the very beginning that this could affect my ability to go very far in the industry because "like it or not Maureen, this is an entertainment industry and the fans find the trash talking and the grudge matches highly entertaining". However, I didn't care. From day one, my goals were very clearly defined, and I found it easy to stick by them by using them as a decision making tool whenever offers were made. Does this offer fit my long term goals personally and professionally? Yes? Great. No? Then no thank you. (A question, by the way that I suggest people ask themselves in all areas of their life... If used, the method actually works very well!)
However, in the middle of the storm that had become the rest of my life, I lost sight of those clearly defined goals, and I quit using that method to help me make decisions. I found myself swept up in the waves of the industry and what all the whispers around me wanted. It became too loud in my world to hear my own soul speaking. I lost sight of who I was, what I was working for, what I wanted for my career, and what I wanted for my life as a result of my career.
THAT was where I failed myself and anyone who had begun following my career from the beginning. "Baby Face" wasn't the same "Baby Face" anymore. She was a darker version of herself: a confused, bitter, and angry version who was teetering on the edge of depression, panic and anxiety on a daily basis. Eventually, I accepted the grudge match. That grudge match ended poorly and just instigated the storm further. I found myself slipping further and further away from my true self and all of my original goals in the sport, and I began frantically grasping at every opportunity that came my way in an effort to redefine who I was in the industry. Suddenly I found myself as a mother, a professional fighter, a podcast host, a writer, a model, a coach, a personal manager, an event manager for Glory Kickboxing, one of the largest kickboxing organizations in the world, AND pursuing a degree in nutrition. It was too much. It was WAY too much. So on October 8, 2015 I found myself stepping onto the official scale to weigh in for yet another grudge match, on one of my own events that I was managing for Glory, overweight and not just a little overweight either. Due to events that were outside of my control, and despite doing everything within my control to prevent it, I was 7.8 pounds overweight, streamed live on the internet for the world to see. Despair. Humiliation. Devastation. Shame. Panic. Anxiety. Remorse. Pretty much every horrible feeling you can possibly imagine, enter it ALL right into that very moment when the official weight was heard over the loud speakers with cameras flashing and a full room of people watching with disappointment heavy in their eyes.
The following week I found myself on a plane to Thailand with my boyfriend at the time. I thought it was going to be the trip that saved my career, and quite honestly my life because things had gotten so dark for me in my heart. It was my time to get away from everything. To unplug. To train and live a healthy lifestyle while laying on a beach soul searching and re-centering myself in between training sessions. I was going to come back a "new me", or more accurately, the "old me", the ORIGINAL me. I knew the moment I stepped on that scale where I had gone wrong in my career and where I had betrayed my own dreams, and I was sure that trip to Thailand was going to help me quite literally push pause on what had become too fast paced of a life for me to hear what my heart desired.
Fast forward a few more weeks and anyone who has been following my career or the career of Chris Tramell in the last year will know just how that trip turned out. The trip took a devastating turn for the worst and I found myself resuscitating Chris after an unfortunate scooter accident, getting him to the hospital, and spending the following seven weeks in a state of high terror that if I left his side he would die, something I had been shown was very likely several times in those two months (a story that will be delved into in much more detail at a later time as it is a very long story worthy of an entire book).
Instead of finding myself on that trip, I lost what remaining bits of myself I recognized. I came home in January completely lost both personally and professionally. By February, for reasons I would rather leave unsaid at this time, my relationship with Chris had dissolved; I had retired from fighting, quit coaching, quit training, quit writing, quit working for Glory, quit recording my podcast, quit speaking to any of my friends, abandoned (still humiliated over missing weight and allowing the hecklers to get in my head) my pursuit of a degree in nutrition, canceled my social media pages, and tore down my website. I burned every bridge to every part of my life aside from motherhood. The only part of my identity that I still recognized and was able to shine in was my role as a mother, which left my only decision making question as: Does it involve spending time with my kids? Yes? Okay I'll do it. No? Absolutely not.
In the five months since then, I have found a fresh start to life (literally wiping the slate clean and starting over tends to do that). I've been able to reassess my goals, remember my original purposes for starting this entire journey, and decide, one role at a time, which bridges I would like to reconstruct. Teaching is in my soul. It is what resonates with me as a life purpose, so I began coaching on a substitute basis again a few months ago, and just this past month accepted a permanent position as the boxing coach at Easton Martial Arts Academy in Arvada, CO. I also began recording my podcast again pretty quickly as it allowed me the outlet to continue sharing my story with others in hopes it would help someone else out of a dark place too, and it helped to rebuild my community one trusted friend at a time starting with my co-host, Justin Suzuki.
From there I stuck to my decision to take a step away from the spotlight as a fighter and began teaching myself to fall in love with the martial arts again. After the turmoil of my career the last couple years, combined with the jumbled trauma from Thailand, the martial arts had become a dark place for me, a place I associated with either the betrayals of my past or the severe trauma of Thailand, and I had lost sight of that deep love I had once felt that kept me fueled through all the challenges of being a fighter. I ignored the many fight offers that came in and the queries about whether or not I was going to make a return. Although I have not made any announcements about it until now, I have also been dealing with unknown health issues since October that I believe are related to the severity of my last three weight cuts and, despite the fact that the ring and cage have admittedly been calling to me in the most sweetest of voices, I refuse to make any decisions regarding a potential come back until I have clear answers on that and know for certain that I can train, cut weight, and compete safely. At the end of the day, I am a mother, and I refuse to make my two young men sacrifice that by risking my health in an irresponsible manner. The bright side of this is I have quite literally fallen in love with training again just for the plain and simple act of eating and moving in a way that makes me feel healthy, combined with the joy and the challenge of learning new things.
After a loss many fighters say, "It's time to go back to the drawing board." Well, I've gone back to the drawing board of my entire life, and while I still have a lot I am figuring out, I have my core goals mapped out again so I can begin once more asking myself that guiding decision-making question. After a tumultuous two years, I feel like I am back on track now. I have made peace with my distant past; I have a plan to make peace with what happened in Thailand; I feel fulfilled and balanced in my family life once more; and training is once again something I enjoy. And so I find myself closing out the first blog post of my newly redesigned website that I hope embodies my life goals: Does this fulfill my three E's to EMPOWER, EDUCATE and ENTERTAIN while ALSO allowing me to feel fulfilled and balanced as a mother? If so, I'm welcoming it into my life with open arms and I hope you'll stick around for the journey.
Much love to those who have borne witness to my journey thus far, and a cyber-hug for those of you who at the moment are braving the waves of your own storm. Clear skies ARE ahead. I promise.
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.