The end of 2015 came cloaked in catastrophe and found me rushing home from Thailand with my then boyfriend after spending seven weeks by his side in a government hospital following a scooter accident that led to a series of surgeries for him. If you were following him or me at that time you would have been hard pressed not to have seen the articles that surfaced while we were there as our story went viral.
The first of the year is often a time of reflection for us all, but never had a New Year's Eve felt more profound to me. We were released from the hospital on December 30th, but were not able to fly home until January 3rd, and as I lay in our bed on New Year's Eve listening to the hundreds of fireworks erupting through the streets to herald in the new year and watching the colorful lights splash against the walls of our dark room, I felt angry and frustrated by the celebrations, which wasn't at all my typical personality. New Year's Eve has always felt magical and full of promise to me. However, I realized I was listening for my boyfriend's breathing, something I had become accustomed to doing while in the hospital because there were several periods where we weren't sure he was going to survive the trip, and the sounds of celebrating in the streets were preventing me from being able to hear those breaths.
It was at that same moment that I realized I hadn't truly slept or lived outside of fight-or-flight mode since the accident on November 17th. Before that trip I had never been away from my children for more than one week and while I was supposed to have returned home by Thanksgiving, it had been twelve weeks since I had seen my boys. The intensity of homesickness that washed over me for my children and the weight of the stress from the last seven weeks suddenly became too much and I found a rage washing over me like I had never experienced before. As silly as it sounds looking back on it so many months later, I was furious at my boyfriend for needing to be resuscitated on my watch; I was furious at Thailand for being the place where the accident happened; I was furious at my fight career for leading to the trip in the first place; I was furious at anything and everything that led to that moment and I erupted in tears that kept me awake the rest of the night thinking about how much I missed my children.
After reflecting on the amount of time my career had taken from my children, the following day I announced my retirement from combat sports. I had never really discussed the impact my career had on our family with my kids, but I assumed they must feel the same way I did and would prefer to have a more "normal" family schedule. I was sure I was making a calm and educated decision and figured if it was an emotionally charged decision based on the situation I found myself in I would experience some level of anxiety once I made my announcement. However, announcing my retirement on social media brought nothing but a soothing sensation to my heart, reducing the amount of anxiety I was in as I waited to return home to my kids.
It was a few months after I returned home that my kids asked me when I would be fighting again and I told them about my retirement, thinking they would feel relief at knowing I wouldn't be away from them anymore. Their response, however, came as a shock. My youngest son said, "But I don't want a normal mom." It turned out my kids enjoyed what I did for a living; they enjoyed witnessing the journey; they enjoyed that while the schedule often had me busy training in the evening it always allowed me to take them to school, pick them up from school, and even on the latest of nights be home in time to tuck them in before bed. When I asked my son what a "normal mom" was he explained that all his friends who had normal moms with normal jobs spent all their time before and after school in daycare and those moms rarely made it to field trips or school activities. They both agreed that while they missed me when I was gone, they much preferred my occasional trips away over the choice of never seeing me if I were working in a different industry that had me home all the time anyhow. They also reminded me that we all train in the martial arts together, so while we might not be sitting around the table playing a board game together, we were almost always all together at the same place, just on different mats.
By the time we had this conversation, the itch to compete again had already returned. I am a naturally competitive person and while I was dealing with a lot of psychological/emotional trauma from the trip that was affecting my ability to train consistently, I was missing the martial arts, my team, the larger community I was a part of, and the thrill of competition. I was already suspecting I wasn't quite done, but after that conversation with my kids a heavy weight seemed to slide off my shoulders. I realized I felt guilty about wanting to return to training full time, but hearing them say they preferred the life we had been living was like receiving permission to keep following my path. My career has always been "so much more than face-punching", or so I explained it for a few years. The deeper purpose of my journey from the start was to face the huge challenges that life throws at us and walk out the other side of the storm whole, healthy, and hungry for more. I wanted to show my kids that it was possible and that the real depth of life was found in the lessons we learn in the middle of those storms, and I wanted to extend that message to as much of the world as possible, which fighting has allowed me to do. Fighting allowed me to not only live my "What's YOUR Possible?" message, but extend it to others who needed a bit of inspiration in their own journeys as well. Retirement wasn't allowing me to continue that aspect of my journey and I quickly began to feel unfulfilled.
Some of you may have seen an article that was released a couple weeks ago that suggested I am coming out of retirement. Am I? That has yet to be entirely clear. However, what I AM doing is returning to Thailand to deal with some unfinished business and resolve some emotional trauma I experienced during my last trip. I would like to think of Thailand and remember mostly good memories instead of the memories that have caused me nightmares every single night without fail since returning home on January 3rd. I would like to see my friends again, the friends I had to leave without telling goodbye as we rushed home on an emergency flight that didn't allow time to make our rounds before departing. I would like to see more of the island than I saw of the hospital, which at this point is not the case. I would also like to focus on resolving whatever health issues I've been having that I eluded to in previous articles that are affecting my ability to return to MMA, if that is what I eventually decide I want. When I was signed by Invicta Fighting Championships in 2014 it was on a four fight contract, which because of various circumstances only ended up being one fight. While I was in Thailand, I was offered a place on the King's Cup to fight in front of the King of Thailand on his birthday, one of the highest honors I can imagine receiving in the sport, but the accident prevented me from being able to accept that offer. There are a few offers in boxing I have had to turn down as well, and this has all left me feeling like I have a lot of unfinished business in the sport. If I am honest with myself, the only reasons I have not accepted one of the many fight offers I have received since coming home are the emotional resolution I need from Thailand, and my weight plateau as I can not safely compete in MMA at my current height and weight. If an opportunity to compete in Muay Thai arises while I am there though, I can guarantee I'll take it so yes, perhaps I am sort of coming out of retirement.
I have two of the greatest teams behind me and there is no reason I can't figure out how to make a safe and healthy return with the right medical staff behind me as well (which I have been slowly accumulating). Easton Training Center and Elevation Fight Team are here in Colorado with some of the best coaches and fighters in the business, and Phuket Top Team in Thailand remains my home away from home with an amazing coaching staff waiting for me. I will not make a final decision until I return home from Thailand, as I am well aware that settling the emotional unfinished business I have there may resolve more than I expect, but I have been listening to the sweet song the cage and ring have been singing to me for months now and I am itching to return to the sport. I do know for certain that I have so much more to give as long as I can resolve certain circumstances that are preventing me from giving it. I hope you'll continue to follow my journey. The count down to Thailand officially begins.
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.