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This is the eighteenth profile in our Society Nine Storytellers series where badass female fighters across all sports, media and culture in our community share their definitions of femininity, strength and empowerment and discuss what they fight for.
Have a story to tell? Submit it here! Tell us who you are, a little bit about your journey and what you fight for – in life and sport.
As the youngest child of three, I often felt overlooked, not good enough, and criticized. I remember feeling like my family was never proud of me. So, throughout high school, I resorted to skipping class, getting bad grades, and frequently getting into trouble. Continuing to college, the only thing I was concerned about was where I'd be partying that weekend, or how I was going to get high. I thought since people weren’t going to take me seriously, I might as well give them a reason to feel that way, and that's exactly what I did. One thing that I was good at, however, was being an athlete - I played softball, basketball, field hockey, and even rugby in college. Yet, even though I was aggressive, strong, and competitive, I still didn’t feel as though I had a purpose in life. After about three years of college, where I spent my time partying, I decided to buckle down and play catch up with schoolwork. Miraculously, I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology. Following college, I moved from a city in Pennsylvania to New Hampshire for a job. Two months later, the job situation didn't pan out, so I was feeling devastated, lost and desperate for answers. I packed up my bags and made the eight-hour drive back to Pennsylvania.
When I got home, I went to various gyms, searching for a positive outlet and taking advantage of free day-passes at the gym. The last gym that I visited happened to be a boxing gym and it is a day I will never forget. Weeks later, after spending countless hours training, my coach said, "So do you think you'll want turn pro one day?" Turn pro?! I wasn’t even aware that this was a possibility. But I knew that if I chose to be a fighter, I would be standing up to the most difficult challenge of my life. I truly believe that boxing is the ultimate challenge, both physically and mentally. Once I entered that boxing gym, I have been there every day since. Boxing gave me the purpose that I had been searching for. It challenged my strength, courage, physical ability, fears, commitment, and determination. I am tested every single day as a fighter, and I continue to face those challenges head on.
Currently, I am working full-time as a ‘crisis interventionist’ at KidsPeace, a partial school/hospital program for kids with emotional and behavioral problems. My job is to keep everyone in the building safe and to make sure the classrooms are running smoothly. I work from 7am – 4pm followed by an hour-long commute to the train. Although there are gyms in my area, I personally feel that if I want to be the best, sacrifices need to be made and therefore, I commute an hour away to train with the best. On a typical night, I get home at 10 pm. Yes, this life is exhausting, stressful, frustrating, and painful, but the positive outcomes far outweigh the negatives.
The feeling of that single hand raise is simplicity at its finest – it’s the feeling of my hard work paying off, the feeling of doing something that I couldn't do a month ago. It’s the feeling of being a fighter, in all aspects of life. Not only am I a fighter, but I am a FEMALE fighter. That means I have to work twice as hard for half the recognition that males get. It means that no matter how hard I work, some people will still not take me seriously. But I'm not doing this for them, I’m doing this for me - to prove to myself that I am worthy, that I am capable of accomplishing anything that I truly work for. Boxing has brought out more fight in me than I've ever seen. I don't live to make others proud, I live to make myself proud, and I do that every damn day.
Lacking motivation and direction as a young adult, Kayla struggled throughout her high school and college years. It wasn’t until she entered a gym to take boxing classes that her life was turned around. Finding strength, determination, and courage allowed Kayla to see herself as a strong woman and as a fighter. She currently resides in Reading, Pennsylvania working at KidsPeace charity and spending her free time boxing at the gym.
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