I’ve had an interesting last few months.
After a decade of being fairly stagnant in my growth as a person I’ve taken a crash course in a lot of things to do with life these last couple of years.
And when I say stagnant, I say it with kindness as I did my best and stayed in my safe space of soccer. In doing so I numbed many demons in a way that gave me a comfort, and a place to channel the anxiety and fear that permeated my being that wasn’t going anywhere til I took a good hard look at it in the eye.
Since I said goodbye to the drug of soccer that gave me my identity, purpose and focus, the emotions have been challenging as I’ve sorted through a lot of pain and untangled experiences that have plagued me for longer than I can remember.
I think back to an experience I had in Norway, right at the end of my time there, and at the tail end of my international soccer career. I was working with a friend who was a business coach and she asked me to visualize five years down the road.
And I just couldn’t.
I thought about what it would look like and I saw absolutely nothing.
And then I waited an awkward five minutes or the appropriate time I thought I was supposed to be visualizing and then made up something. Something that I felt like I needed to say to show that I had some kind of idea, although the fact I didn’t scared the shit out of me. Since I’d spent my whole life to that point with a clear picture of what came next.
The next few years exemplified that, as I had no idea who I was, what I wanted, and had so much still swirling around inside of me that no longer had the convenient outlet of soccer that I didn’t know where to put or what to do with.
And I struggled.
And I felt directionless.
And it was just a tough tough time for me. Like years worth, magnified by the fact that everyone else seemed to be laying the foundation for their forever.
The best visual I could give, was one that came to me often, and gave me even more anxiety; was that I was on a large ship headed nowhere in the middle of a sea, with the scenery not changing anytime fast and I felt panicked drifting further and further away from where I was supposed to be but not knowing what to do.
Til I hit rock bottom, and knew I had to just do something.
If 2016 was about pulling the plug, jumping off the ship and heading towards a land that was distant, that I could only see the outlines of, but knew it was there, 2017 was the year that I’d have to earn every stroke in the water to get there. At the end of 2017, a year that I felt deeper loneliness but more growth than I ever thought possible, I vowed 2018 was the year that the work would start to come together.
Because for a lack of a more graceful way to say it, there was no fucking way I was letting myself go through 2017 again and it was time to start becoming the best version of myself in every way possible.
Some things came together that allowed me to take a bit of a sabbatical on my happy place, a little street called the Soi, a time for which I am so grateful.
As I re-enter real life in a couple of weeks, I just wanted to share a few lessons I’ve learned from the dark places I went to, and the journey of the far more peaceful place I now stand.
There are some random nuggets I will be taking back with me from this time:
I have learned that many people come and go in your life, and although your family are the people that sometimes make you go bat shit crazy, namely because they are the mirror that shines the light on all the parts of yourself you don’t like, when push comes to shove, they are the people that are there. For people that don’t have family, some of us have also have friends that have become family, but in this case I want to give a shout out to a couple of blood relatives.
Mum and Dad, although I know I am a nightmare child for your organized, logical way of life, and your love of all things stable, 9 to 5, and in order, thank you for when I needed you, giving me your blessing and support for this time, even though I know my methods go against every bone in your bodies.
It meant and will always mean a lot.
It’s been a very interesting year for me with friends. There’s been big shifts. I’m not sure what that means, besides when there is growth, sometimes there is change.
There’s been friends that have been in my life since I was single digits that have departed, and then there’s been others that have showed up as strangers in coffee shops who have become like the oldest of friends.
There’s been others that have been near and dear to my heart, who I’ve drifted from, that have come back stronger than ever, and others that I got close quickly with but who left my life as fast and as hard as they came in.
It does make sense that as we change, so too do friendships. And that’s ok.
I have learned that friendships ebb and flow, and are gifts that represent different seasons of our lives.
That we are all dealing with challenges and unravelling things in our own personal journeys, and that the best way we can deal with anything is not to take things too personally; if someone has hurt you, they are likely hurting inside themselves and projecting that onto everything around them.
I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it.
And it’s ok to set boundaries and be selective about the people we choose to give our time, and energy and trust and vulnerability to. I’ve learned to let things go, and trust the people that are supposed to come back into your life, will find their way and the rest, send them love and let them go.
Anything else takes the energy away from so many other good things, and at the end of the day, we’re all just doing the best that we can anyways and deserve to give the grace to others that we all so desperately long for ourselves.
Love and Let Go
I think the above point needs reinforcing because I think the ego, which I’ll talk about in a hot second, screams at us to not do this, but its where the greatest peace and joy lie.
For anything that is bothering you, any person that has hurt you, any one that just does your head in, any situation that replays in your head that you wish you could do again….
Just send love and let them/it go.
It’s the most amazing elixir for pretty much anything causing us grief and frees up so much space for so many epic things.
Let Go of the Steering Wheel
I’ve been working on letting go of the steering wheel. As in I’ve spent most of my life trying to outsmart the universe. Like thanks buddy, I know you’re there, but I’m gonna just analyze this and figure out how to get from A to B faster, plus I don’t really trust that you’re gonna get me there.
And, coming from a certified expert in trying to outsmart the universe, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t work.
I’ve been working with a meditation coach and I’ve been playing a fun game of visualize what I want, and how it feels to have it, and trust that the universe will get me from A to B and I don’t need to do much besides trust, and it’s been creepy watching it unfold. Like seriously creepy, and serendipitous and rad.
It’s like one of those weird paradoxes of life, I’ll use soccer as an example. You think you need to care so much to play well, when in reality, the best games of my life, was when I absolutely didn’t give a shit if I messed up.
Ask God, the universe, your higher power whatever for what you really want, and tell them that you’re gonna put in their hands to figure out how and when to make it happen. And watch the magic unfold. It really works.
It’s Ok. And You’ll Be Ok
I’ve done a lot of reading over this period of time. And somewhere I read something that talked about how our ego/mind goes into overdrive and tries to problem solve everything and cause problems in everything. The ego loves drama.
At least for me, I have a voice in my head that doesn’t shut up and commentates everything, and sees and invisions all problems before they even come to fruition. It’s amazing how much crap we make ourselves go through that doesn’t really exist at all.
All you need to say to yourself and to truly believe is, that I’m ok. And I’m going to be ok. That’s it. No magic formula. Truly believing that has silenced about 80% of the crap that used to be floating around in my head.
The Ego is Our Greatest Enemy
I read an epic book called Untethered Soul (shout out to my East Coast Twin Nicole for recommending) that I think everyone residing on planet earth should read.
It’s completely reworked the way that I look at everything.
So much of the crap we put out there, the stress we cause ourselves in relationships with others, how we interpret situations is led by the ego and not by the soul. I read a great article the other day, and it described the difference between the ego and the soul perfectly:
“The soul takes a second to process. The ego is immediate. Think of your soul as sober and your ego as a blacked out Jersey Shore douche trying to get in fights at a strip club.”
I know for me, I’ve been led by my ego in my interactions.
In many things I’ve felt.
In many times I believe I’ve been hurt by other people.
In things that I’ve held on to.
We’d live in a freaking epic place if we all were aware of our ego and listened patiently at the BS it spews at us, and then told it to STFU and listened and acted from our soul. There’s so much more to say on it, but honestly, for now go read the book Untethered Soul.
I feel a million times lighter after doing so.
Be Yourself You Never Know Who You Will Inspire
My favourite thing about my sabbatical place aka the Soi, is the people.
They are fucking epic.
I came here, not very sure about what I wanted to do with my life and just desperately searching for some direction in general.
The last bunch of years have felt as chaotic as all anything, and even with soccer and coaching, while at its purest form, the girls who I love dearly and who it is a real privilege to interact with, there was so much more intertwined in it for me that made me unsure if it was what I still wanted to do; the politics, the nastiness of people protecting their little soccer empires, my own experiences as a player that I was still unravelling, overbearing parents whose intensity in their child’s sporting careers sometimes overwhelmed me.
But I met two people in my time here that really had an impact on me and gave me direction and reminded me that making a difference doesn’t have to be digging ditches in an impoverished country, it’s as simple as being the best version of yourself, because you never know who you will inspire and impact in doing so.
I know the two following people have no idea the impact they had on me, but they hugely did and for that I am incredibly grateful.
The first is one of the instructors where I’ve been working out, a red headed Australian boss named Danae.
I think girls way too often try way too hard to be liked, and I loved how Danae just did not give a shit.
She was strong, took no shit, but was also hilarious and fair.
I loved the culture she created in her classes, by just being herself. She brought out the best in all of us.
It also did not hurt that her playlists included almost every song that I shouted an inner “yes” to that spanned my own random tastes, everything from Metallica, to Kendrick Lamar to the Killers.
In her classes, I could not help but think that we need more women like Danae in the world. Little girls, teenage girls, hell, even us adult women, need more exposure to the Danae’s of the world. The guys as well.
Girls that are strong, and not afraid to call it as they see it, and put people in their place when it’s necessary and not give such a shit about being liked. And in a way that shone true beauty.
And then I looked in the mirror and thought to myself, “Ciara you have the potential to impact so many girls with what you are doing. You need to start doing it again.” So girlsCAN is back in business, and shout out to Danae, I hope to channel a piece of you into every girl that we work with.
The second was a guy named Miles.
Miles was in a few of my classes, and I noticed his super friendly, positive vibe right away.
I never spoke to him, but on St Patricks Day we were at the same large pool party.
I had swigged down a few too many Mojitos which subsequently brought out many victims of “Ciara-thinks-she-is-best-friends-with-everyone-Ciara”, including Miles, who I had a hazy memory of chatting to amongst many others.
The next morning as I went through my videos and pictures, I noticed a 3 minute long video, and thought to myself, WTF is this.
As I opened the video, I watched as I proceeded to interview, Miles-who-I-had-never-spoken-to-before and he kindly answered my questions. I watched, perfectly perched in a space between dying laughing and mortification.
The next day when I saw him in class, I sheepishly introduced sober Ciara, and told him about my discovery of his interview to which he kindly reassured me he thought was pretty funny.
The day after that I was on my computer in the coffee shop and we started chatting, and long story short, when I asked him what he did, he said he was a PhD researcher in artificial intelligence and his studies also included blockchain and bit coin.
It launched 2 hours of some of the most inspiring conversation I’ve ever had with anyone.
When I asked him if he had an idea of what he wanted to do after, he said his goal was to include more women in the artificial intelligence conversation, because he found that it was totally dominated by white men as most things, and he cited societies that women had a great deal of influence and how much better and healthier those societies were.
I thought to myself, if a white man can want to spend his life empowering and including women, why am I still sitting on the sidelines when it is my passion to my core.
So shout out to Miles for both allowing interviews from strangers and also being so rad in his life purpose.
In doing so, you reminded me of mine.
If You Aren’t Happy Change it Up
We all have the inner voice that knows exactly who we are supposed to be and what the absolute best versions of ourselves and our lives looks like.
I think we are at different levels of consciousness with it.
We’ve all lived different versions in how we are interacting and aware of that voice. But its there for all of us.
There’s the version where maybe you think you’re fine, but you’re projecting all kinds of insecurities and your own unhappiness (or happiness) with your life and your choices in your interactions with others.
There’s another version, where I hung out in for a long time, where I knew I was unhappy but I numbed because I didn’t know how or have the strength to get to the bottom of it. There’s so many ways to numb, drinking, drugs, working, elite level sports, overworking, overtraining. Anything where you don’t have to think. And a place so many people go.
There’s a version that’s dull unhappiness, that you recognize, but you feel its too much energy to fix, so you continue on, but long for something different.
There’s the version where you don’t really know what’s bothering you, but you do do something to try and get some perspective and understanding on it. Things like therapy or reflection.
And then there’s the taking action phase where you recognize the space of where you are and where you want to be and something propels you forward to say enough is enough and you take the initial rocky ride to get yourself into a state of action to get things on the inside of you right.
And then there’s the version filled with peace, where negative things can be happening, but you know with certainty in your heart that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be and it makes anything that comes up so much easier to handle.
We live once people. Once. You and I.
We all live in the mostly unrecognized peril that tomorrow something could happen and we take our last breath.
We all have a purpose and a destiny if we want to listen to it. Varying in all kinds of degrees and scope but all so important and perfect because its our true and authentic path.
So if there’s a little piece of you telling you, that you aren’t where you are supposed to be. Listen, ask for guidance from God, the universe, whoever, and then act and take steps forward towards becoming that person.
What do you have to lose?
The Power We Have to Reframe
When I was 10, I got picked for a school choir trip to go to California.
I’ll never forget the crushing disappointment when Saddam Hussein and the Iraq War happened, and my parents came home from the meeting telling me that the trip had been cancelled because parents were worried about their kids going to the US.
It always made me laugh how just 10 years later, travelling to California was something I did a lot, and missing that trip really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
Whenever anything feels like a catastrophe in my life I always think back to a cancelled trip to California at age 10.
Shit is going to happen. It’s a confirmed hazard of being a human in this world.
But what if we chose to look at everything that happens as something that has been divinely placed in front of us because it is a lesson that we are supposed to learn. Instead of feeling negatively about people that have hurt us, looking at them with appreciation for teaching us a valuable lesson that is going to make our lives look so much better in the long run.
Looking at hurt and pain as wounds within ourselves that need to be healed to be our best selves, and focusing on where they lead, instead of lashing out at who delivers them.
Looking at when someone triggers a negative feeling from us, and instead of judging them, looking for what we are insecure about ourselves and our own lives or what we fear that they are triggering that is causing us to project negativity on to them and get to the bottom of it.
Thinking of what the best version of ourselves looks like, and when something comes up that we want to react to asking ourselves, “how would the best version of me feel, what would the best version of who I want to be do or say in this situation?” And act accordingly.
We can’t control where the universe decides it wants to take us, or the people that hurt us, but we always should remember that we hold the incredible power to decide the lens that we look at whatever challenges we are faced with through and we can always use it for our highest good.
The Importance of Community
My favourite thing about being where I am is the community. I have met so so so so many amazing people, and the best part is most of them literally that I’ve met them, turning to them in a restaurant, in a coffee shop, in class, and just having a chat with them.
Some of these people include, a beautiful yoga instructor from Montreal who is one of the kindest people I have ever met, a wonderful Muslim couple from Manchester, England, who are moving to Istanbul and having their first baby later this year, a couple of Italian guys from the same small town, one of who identified as Rastafarian as a 15 year old, and grew dreadlocks for 15 years, moved to Jamaica and is now training to fight Muay Thai in Bangkok, and the other, a beautiful soul who has travelled the world. A Swedish guy in his 20’s who shared his story with me on the ferry which explained to me why he seemed like such a beautiful old soul.
I’ve met an incredibly brave beautiful guy that survived horrible abuse as a child, whose journey to now is one of the inspiring I have ever heard. An amazing Irish couple that lived in Dubai the last few years, who have the happiest baby I have ever seen, and are moving home with the plans to start their own app. A guy from Chicago that has been traveling the last couple of years, who I had some wonderful philosophical chats with. A girl from Australia that I crossed paths in person with for ten minutes, who I kept in touch with and who felt like an old friend. A guy with gold teeth from Compton that ran track at UCLA, that moved to Japan to study martial arts and now is a yoga instructor living in Thailand, lived next door to me for a time, and tossed a lot of wisdom in my ear.
A guy from Australia that is an incredible designer that has lived around the world and has his own incredible story that I got to know.. A girl from South Africa that left her very small town to travel and come to Phuket and teach. I’ve left out about another 50 people. I could go on and on and on.
They are all amazing in that they have chosen to be here. To better themselves. To find a way to question and get out of the matrix of thought and reality that traps and stunts so many of us.
Connecting with them, learning about them, having inspiring conversations with them have nourished my soul and reminded me of how important it is to connect with other people, and how making the effort to get to know people is the greatest gift we could give ourselves.
Community is our lifeblood, and it’s inspired me to want to bring it everywhere I go.
Live Outside Your Comfort Zone
One of my good friends made the comment the other day how I inspired her by the action I took in my life and how I wasn’t afraid to do things.
I thought it was interesting and it actually was very enlightening because I realized that I actually live in my comfort zone in the same way she felt she did. Maybe my scope is a little wider because of my entrepreneurial nature but I realized that I have not been living outside of my comfort zone and doing things that are big and where I thought I had a chance to fail.
And she inspired me to start.
The Simple Life Is Where It’s At
My favourite thing about getting out of North America, is the reminder that simplicity is where it’s at. We are chained in our pursuit and the payment of material goods.
I can’t tell you the freedom in a room that costs $500 a month to rent with the basic necessities, walking everywhere without a car, working out a couple of times a day, eating fresh, healthy food for $10/day. And putting in the time building and growing a product that I am passionate about.
I get caught up in the rat race to material shit when I am at home, and how our worthiness is judged by it, and for lack of a better way of saying it, I feel grateful for being removed from it because it’s a waste of life.
Experiencing life and connecting with other humans in a meaningful way, is everything.
And clarity comes through simplicity.
So thank you my dear Soi, for all the love and lessons and new friends.
I will most definitely be back.