A bit late for New Year, I know, but my plan is to write more in 2014. Not because I have the ambition to be a great writer, or because I think I have something terribly important to say – but mostly because I’ve discovered that I enjoy writing. I like the process of trying to sort my thoughts into some kind of order. I like being able to go back and read things I wrote, and remember what was going on in my head at the time. And I like getting messages from people who’ve read something I’ve written and can identify with it; the emails that say “I’m glad you wrote that – me too”. I love all those random connections that remind me I’m not alone; that in many ways we’re all more alike than different; and that some of the things about me that I thought were quirky, or crazy, or broken, aren’t unique to me after all.
2013 was a roller coaster of a year. It saw some of the best, and the worst of me. There were amazing experiences that I’ll never forget; and there were other times that I feel sick just thinking about.
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
A whole lot of different factors, including my MMA career, an injury with the possible need for surgery, and some major upheavals in my personal life, all came together at the same time. By the end of the year, I felt like I was staring at the remains of a town that’s been flattened by a tidal wave – everything that was comfortable and familiar was gone, broken. I was overwhelmed by an aching, empty feeling of loneliness; for several months, everything felt pointless and I had no idea where I was going or what to do next.
I’m not under the illusion that my situation was particularly unique or special. I’d guess that a lot of professional athletes, and plenty of people in general, have a similar experience at some point. While you’re in the midst of it, though, it’s hard to get a sense of perspective. It’s a little like playing Japanese Binocular Football (If you don’t know what this is, you’re missing out) in that it looks a lot easier from the outside than it is when you’re in there desperately trying to figure out the difference between perception and reality.
“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Fortunately, I have some very good friends who patiently put up with me being a mess for those months, and were there for me. Slowly they persuaded me that it wasn’t actually the end of the word. I realised that what I was left with was a pile of raw material, and a lot of freedom to decide exactly how to put my life back together. I’m still in the process of sorting through the debris, trying to figure out what to keep, what to get rid of and what I want to build with all that empty space in front of me.
“From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole I’ve been told where I must go and who I must be. I’ve been shrunk, stretched, scratched, and stuffed into a teapot. I’ve been accused of being Alice and of not being Alice but this is my dream. I’ll decide where it goes from here.” – Alice in Wonderland (2010 film)
I’m starting to think about new projects and new opportunities. Questioning my assumptions about how my life was going to turn out, and thinking about possibilities I hadn’t considered before. The freedom, and the uncertainty that goes with it, scares the hell out of me; but it’s exciting at the same time.
I’d still like another MMA fight. Of course, fights are like beers in that respect – everyone says they’re going to have “just one more”, but it’s not always easy to stop at one. People keep asking me about it, but whether or not it’ll be possible – and right for me – remains to be seen. That’s a decision I’m leaving to one side for the moment. Right now, I have a lot of other things to focus on. But I’m beginning to feel positive about the future again, and looking forward to seeing what it brings.
“…once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore