As absurd as it sounds, there was a logical process of thought behind my decision to try prize fighting. I had reasons for choosing to do this, now.
First, there was sheer curiosity. Which is admittedly a stronger driving force for me than is perhaps healthy. But when I get a question in my mind it fucking burns until I get an answer, man. Especially when it’s a question of ‘Can I [insert task here]?’ I need to know. And this one had been nagging at me for a long time: could I hold my own in a cage fight?
I’d trained in martial arts before. But I’ll admit readily – not a lot. There was some Shotokan Karate back in my last year of high school and some half-assed Jeet Kun Do back in my short-lived university days. But the style I really loved was Muay Thai, in which I had trained during my early years of tattooing in Newfoundland, as well as for a while in Ireland back at the start of my travels.
And I loved it. Which brings me to my second reason: Desire.
While reviewing my options, I questioned not only what made the most sense right now, but also what I most wanted. What did I find myself longing to do each day that I wasn’t already getting my fix of? What did I love, and want more of in my life, right now? And the answer was, most consistently, ‘fighting‘. I wanted to feel that raw mixture of pain and pride, to own the feeling of accomplishment that comes from testing your own limits, from pushing on despite your body’s screaming protests to stop.
Perhaps it’s difficult for some to understand, but this wasn’t a lust for violence. I am not a violent person. I just love fighting. I love the focus and conditioning it demands. The drive, the heart. You have to love fighting to make a go of it because there’s no other reason you should be doing it. There’s sure as shit easier ways to make a living, and it’s not something you’re ever going to get rich doing. Hell, if you can manage just to pay your rent with it you’re doing better than most. Fighting usually tends to be more of an addiction than a job – a job is what you get to support your fighting habit; to pay for new mouth guards, gym fees, your inevitable medical bills.
I realize I am not making a great case for fighting.
Let me try a different route: It comes down to knowing what drives us, what we feel we most need. And that’s different for everyone. Some people need security. Above all else, they want to know that they and theirs are taken care of; that there is always the promise of a roof overhead and food on the table.
Some long for purpose. They need to feel connected to the people around them, feel a sense of community in their lives. They long for a niche to fill, a place that will feel the absence of them should they leave it.
Some are driven by lust. Some by substance addiction. By a desire to ‘fit in’. A love of music. A craving for solitude. A quest for validation.
Many people have various co-existing drives. But while we may be concurrently pulled by multiple desires, there tends to be one that stands out above all others, one whose call sounds louder than the rest.
I crave understanding, but I’m driven by far more hedonistic urges. I have a junkie-like hunger for adrenaline highs. I long to lose myself in the moment; to get out of my head and into the world. And few things allow me to do that like fighting does.
But despite the excited cheer that was sounding from the adrenaline-junkie in me, my other more pragmatic voices were sounding a warning call. That voice is all passion, they reminded me, and no forethought. Do you really want to start out this new stage of your life by pursuing an unlikely pipe dream, one likely destined to leave you black-eyed and penniless?
There were other options. Other (more practical) things I longed to experience in my lifetime, some of which I could make a living at. I want to do more farm-stays, want to complete my master diving certification. There are a number of places I want to volunteer. I want to learn to sail.
But what allowed me to make the final decision of which goal came next was the same factor that had helped me select Australia as my next geographical destination: age.
I turned 30 this year. That means a whole lot of countries are moving out of my reach simply because I’m getting cut off from my ability to work abroad without sponsorship.
In an act of ageism I don’t see the logic behind, the working holiday visas on which I’ve been living in other countries throughout the years – long term and legally – are largely aimed at the ‘under 30’ crowd. 31 is the cut off age for many countries, Australia among them. And I wanted to live in Australia in my lifetime.
I also wanted to fight, and this was likely my last chance to do so. Realistically, it might already be too late. Most prize fighters start their professional careers far earlier – your 30’s are when you’re looking into retiring from the sport. Pragmatic voice piped up again that I should just chalk this one up to ‘alternate reality could-have-beens’ and move on to option ‘B’.
But it was unlikely, not impossible. Certainly it was possible to try. And I still had that question burning away at my brainmeats, begging for a definitive answer – Could I do this?
I needed to know.
None of the other things I wanted to do had an expiry date on them in the same sense that fighting and living in Australia did. And they paired nicely; Oz has a number of great MMA camps. Topping the decision off was that out of everything on my bucket list, fighting was the one I currently felt most passionate about.
So, though it may have been more practical to do things in a different order, starting with something that could yield a new career or at least some solid financial gain. . . I’m doing this. Cause it’s my last chance to. And because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering if I could have.
I’ve no illusions as to my chances, or of the sacrifices this is likely to take. With little in the way of savings, I’m going to need to do something to support myself financially and it’s got to be something that doesn’t require the time and dedication that tattooing did. If I want to make a good run of this, my focus has got to be on the fighting. That likely means manual labour or hospitality work, something I haven’t had to pursue since my early 20’s.
Speaking of pursuing shit, I haven’t had to go on a proper job hunt in. . .some time. Last time I printed off a resume it was on a goddamn floppy disk. My tattoo work was largely arranged through online forums, or through ‘I know a friend of a friend who’s looking for someone’ connections.
So a whole slew of new challenges then, in addition to a main one that may well culminate in my being knocked unconscious by some burly Aussie broad. But I like challenges. They’re fun, even when they’re terrifying. Hell, especially when they’re terrifying. And they teach and give us things. Not always the things we expect, or want. . .but things of undeniable value all the same.
And hey, at the very least, by the time I leave Australia I’m going to be in KILLER shape.
*Photos of Krys once again trying to look badass are once again courtesy of the talented Jared Reid.