The journey to feel more comfortable with self expression has been a long arduous path.
I felt somewhat satisfied with my accomplishments as a US Rugby player, but something was still missing when I retired. I coached high school girls for a short time and gave back to my sport for what it gave to me, which felt good. Still something was missing- I had a general unsatisfied feeling. Like something was missing from my accomplishments.
As a kid around 10 years, I remember everyone talking about the Golden Gloves event and I wanted to do it too. My dad told me girls weren’t allowed to box, so I did what is natural to any 10 year old. I proclaimed that boxing was the stupidest sport ever and boycotted watching it or even thinking about it.
When I was given an opportunity to check out a boxing gym and the workout it provided at the age of 31, I jumped at the chance. I loved the sparring (well I hated it too, but was so intrigued at all it brought up for me) so I kept coming back. When I was offered the chance to compete, it was a no brainer. Something about competition wasn’t complete within me; my satisfaction with accomplishments was still missing and this could be my chance to figure it out.
When I started competing, I had an immediate feeling of exhilaration and the desire to accomplish more. Why not go for being the best? I won the 2004 Amateur National Championships and still didn’t feel satisfied. The competition wasn’t very deep and I was still searching for a feeling I couldn’t describe yet. At that time, there was nowhere to go but pro as the cut off age for amateur competition was 34.
So, again, why not go for the next challenge? I turned pro and became more serious. I dropped 20 lbs and set my sights on my pro debut. By this time my coach’s gym business was flourishing and his interest in competition was lessening. He sent me to another gym to begin my career as a pro while I worked as a coach at his gym. This was a difficult challenge. I often felt torn and unable to express myself fully. I had to be mindful of each gym and both wanted to claim me as their own. I was always feeling “careful”.
I started my pro career successfully under careful management. I was finally narrowing in on what was missing. My manager’s Italian heritage gave me access to experiencing my own heritage and it felt good. Expressing being Italian and allowing my frustrations to come through my fists felt right! I seemed to be on a path that was opening me up more.
I started out strong and passed a fierce test early on by matching up against a former World Champion Lisa Holewyne. It was my first 6 round fight and first formidable competition. I earned the Pacific Northwest Title Belt and was finally feeling satisfied with my training and what I accomplished and was ready for more.
Still, there was a little something missing. My old coach wasn’t happy with me competing and wanted me to focus more on coaching and my new coach wasn’t happy with me spending time between two gyms. My focus was torn between my workplace and all I had learned as an amateur and my need to find out what I was dissatisfied about. This split was shutting me down versus opening up more. I found myself fighting for approval more than expression.
I got my first World Title opportunity and 10 round fight versus top ranked Mary Jo Sanders in Detroit Michigan. Prior to this fight I was interviewed by the Seattle Times and had a huge spread. I didn’t have preparation for how to do interviews and I struggled with how to express myself given the complicated situation of being at two gyms. I didn’t understand how to answer the reporters questions and stay authentic to myself. It was quite the learning experience. My current coach didn’t address the lifestyle aspect of boxing and my old coach wanted to handle only the lifestyle aspect of boxing. The two of them didn’t work together, so it wasn’t the best match up. I was going into this Title Fight with many side matches happening. My old coach’s displeasure with the outcome of my interview, my new coach riding high on my successes. And, my family was in town to watch me fight for the first time. It was all more overwhelming than I realized.
After my pro career, I discovered that my need for competition was a need for public recognition and attention as well as expression. My entire competitive career, I struggled with stage fright and performing in front of a crowd in a way that didn’t allow my skill to fully come through. In hindsight, I was never going to feel satisfied looking for accolades coming from the outside. This was the source of my dissatisfaction.
In May of 2012 I had a major perspective shift that opened me up to others and in a sense, opened up my peripheral vision I made a commitment to myself to build off of this and be an example of expression for my gym, community and boxers. I began to see where feeling bad about how I expressed myself made me stiffer, more uptight, less accessible and completely dissatisfied. This realization has been so releasing.
So many of us walk around feeling bad about who we are, or for what traits we display. We do what we are supposed to do or what others tell us. We doubt ourselves when our families question our courses of action. It is time for us to be ourselves and to encourage others to be the same. To me, boxing is the best medium for this to happen and I am committed to sharing this with my gym community and my athletes.
When people see Arcaro Boxers, I want them to think, “I want to express myself like that!”