My first fight would seem a disaster.  I wasn’t prepared for what was about to hit me…literally.  It would not last an entire round.  I stood as the ref raised her hand, I smiled and congratulated her, and I then stepped out of the ring.  For a split second, I thought that it would be the last time I exited a ring, but my heart, my gut, knew otherwise.  This boxing thing was a part of me now.

As I made my way home that night, I went through a myriad of emotions.  There was humiliation; had I made a fool of myself? There was elation; I did it, I faced all of my fears and stepped into that ring.  There was pain, not physical pain, but none the less pain; had I let my trainer, family down? There was fear; was this the end of boxing for me...was this NOT the end of boxing for me?

I wasn’t sure how to proceed or what was next.  This was all new territory for me.  It had taken every ounce of will power and courage for me to step through those ropes and face my biggest opponent, myself.  And in my mind, I had failed. Thus confirming every anxiety-driven affirmation that I had ever allowed myself to believe about myself.

What I didn’t know then, was that I was about to learn the most important lesson in my life.

I had to divorce myself from all of the hard, painful, negative feelings I was going through and get a little analytical about it. At the very heart of the problem was the fact that this boxing thing was in my soul, it had a hold on me.  I was then, as I am now, unwilling to let that go.

So, now it was time to figure out how I was going to proceed.  Time to get a little real with myself.  No room for pity or hurt feelings here, if I allowed that to take hold I knew that I would probably never box again.

This is when a tradition began with me. After every fight, win or lose, the first thing I do is ask myself, “What is the take away?” In other words, what was I meant to learn from this fight? What were the boxing gods trying to teach me?

There is always some truth to be learned from every loss and every win.

Through this initial process, I began to realize that my journey in boxing was going to be intensely meaningful, but it was not going to be easy or smooth.

Missy Fitzwater
Missy Fitzwater, 2017

This has certainly proven to be true.  I have experienced some of my happiest moments through boxing. I have also dealt with some of my most frustrating and heartbreaking times. Now, I can’t say that I enjoy these times, however, I don’t shy away from them.  I embrace them.  I know that there is a reason for them, a new strength to be gained from them. 

I refer to these times as “paying dues.”

Nothing worthwhile in this life is free.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  There will always be dues to pay.  If something comes cheaply and easily to me, I have a hard time understanding and appreciating the value in it. 

So, when I lose a bout, don’t have a good night in the gym, suffer an injury, or something simply doesn’t go the way that I’d hoped, I take a moment, day, week, or month, to figure out what dues I’m paying.  It may sound trite, but these are truly the experiences where I have gained the most growth.

Through the act of paying dues, following my first fight, I “purchased” lessons in fortitude and resilience.  Boxing requires, rather demands, emotional and mental strength. To participate fully in this sport, you have to be willing to get beat up, knocked down, and plain old worn out, and still want to get up and do it all again on another day.

The coffers of fortitude and resilience are always in a state of replenishment with dues that have to be paid. I happily refill them.

Along my odyssey in boxing, I have paid dues and gathered lessons in patience and perseverance, as well as focus and determination.  I’ve learned to balance my emotions to fuel my ambitions rather than let them destroy them.  I’ve had the opportunity to procure my most valuable treasure; the ability to believe in, and value myself.

Moving forward, I wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity to explore the take away.  In boxing, and in my life, I never want to feel entitled to any prospect of growth. I want the work, the sweat, and the tears that teach me the most valuable lessons.  I want to pay my dues.


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