My Lifelong World Cup Dream Did Not Come True. Instead, my favorite pair of Wildfang underwear caught on fire. 

“How about the US team at the World Cup?” 

As a lifelong, obsessed soccer player, I was asked some version of this question by nearly every breathing being I came into contact with these past few months. 

My answer is two pronged. The first, more user-friendly prong, is my go-to response: 

“It was awesome. So amazing for women’s soccer, women’s sports, women, and just humanity in general.” 

I genuinely meant prong #1 answer. 

But, prong #2 answer, is more flavorful: it starts with me collapsing onto my knees and bawling all alone on my apartment floor. And it ends with my favorite pair of Wildfang underwear catching fire. 

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It was July 10th, 2019. Three days after the US beat the Netherlands in the finals. Ever since their victory,  I contracted a particularly potent virus that forced me to uncontrollably scroll the inter-webs for US team content containing celebrations, interviews, highlights, and all things Megan Rapinoe. 

At a glance, this may appear to be a semi-embarrassing thing to admit to, since the women I was stalking were either players I know or players I have competed with.

You aren’t wrong. But, if you caught the same deadly virus, no doubt you’d be right there with me. Your underwear probably would have caught on fire too.

But, I’d like to clarify some technicalities of this word “stalking.”  Afters years of studying and personal experience, I’ve discovered there are different varieties:

There’s “fan girl stalking” where you start with the stalkee’s instagram and are like OMGGGG look at her luscious hair, and her dog I just want to squeeze him, and her home is like a spa, and her overalls are just WOW, ugh she’s so cool, I want to be her. I’m all about fan-girling, but I typically direct these exploits towards musicians. 

Then, there’s “investigative stalking” where you start with the stalkee’s  instagram and are like okay, what’s going on here? who is this?  how do I know her? what is happening? what does she do? and an hour later you have 10 different tabs open forming a collage of this person’s life story. 

My current form of stalking carried a twinge of the latter, but it was different. Different, in fact, than any from of stalking I had ever trial and error-ed before. 

My steadfast stalking was directed towards trying to wrap my head around one impossible, burning question: why for the life of me, wasn’t I playing at that World Cup?

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Adults often ask kids “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“An astronaut!”

“A dolphin trainer!”

"A fire fighter”! 

“A chef!”

“The president!” 

This question was too limiting for my six year-old mind.

I never “wanted” to be a World Cup champion. I was going to be a World Cup Champion. I saw it clear as day. 

One of my past mentors, gave me an unforgettable analogy about going after your dreams: when you deliver a letter to the post office, you don’t worry about whether or not it’s going to make it to the recipient. You trust that the postman and all the post office people have it taken care of.  Zero questions asked. 

That’s how you ought to view your goals. Set the goal, and trust 100% that the Universe is going to deliver it to you. 

There are some dreams I’ve had my doubts about it. But, this one… this one, I never questioned. I knew I was going to play on the world stage before I learned how to put Poptarts in a toaster,  play tic tac toe, condition my hair, buckle my seatbelt, and give my brothers wedgies.  

The letter was signed. The envelope was licked, sealed, stamped, placed in the mail, and picked up by my childhood, neighborhood,  postman, Jim. Jim was a great guy. Every time Jim retrieved our family mail, he pulled a treat out of his pocket and fed it to my dog Jake. Jim always had a soft spot in my heart. Until, this World Cup. 

This specific year. This specific World Cup. This specific gold medal. Wrapped around my neck. Celebrating with my teammates. This was my lifelong dream.

I had it all plotted out. Based on my age and the amount of work I would put in each year, I calculated that I would be at my prime for the 2019 World Cup.

But, here I was in my cluttered studio apartment, in my pajamas at 3pm, cemented to my bed, binge-watching YouTube videos of the the US team chugging celebratory beers. 

POSTMAN JIM, WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO WITH MY LETTER?

Did I not make my dream clear enough? Did the letter get misplaced? Sent to the wrong recipient? At least, give your girl a heads up,  Jim. I thought we had something special.

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This virus was lethal. I was bedridden, scouring the internet for hours on end. I knew I needed to stop. To do something. Anything. To get me out of this state. 

Finally, I told myself ENOUGH.  I was going to go for a jog and release some energy. I manually pried each of my limbs out of my bed. I threw on some shorts and a t-shirt. I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my iPhone for music, headed towards the door, and just when I thought I was gaining some positive momentum, my knees involuntarily collapsed to the floor and I started bawling. Like, bawlinggggg. It was one of those cries where you are like WTF, are these aggressive seal moans I’m hearing actually coming out of my own mouth?? 

The animal noises were followed by confusion: “Whyyyy!? Whyyy me!? That was supposed to be me! I don’t understand?!” 

I’m not sure who I was asking these questions to, but I didn’t get a response. I just kept weeping. 

You might think this is an embarrassing thing to admit to. Again, you’re not entirely wrong.

But, have you ever had a dream, a big dream? One where all the odds are stacked against you,  yet you still go after it with every fiber of your being? You dedicate your entire life to it. Every life decision you make is with that end goal in mind.

Have you ever thought, what if I give every, every, every thing I have to this dream, and it still doesn’t come true? 

Honestly, I never even allowed myself to truly ponder that question. I just kept going.

Until now. When my dreams were taking place before my own eyes. Without me. 

We hear about the importance of grieving the death of our loved ones. It’s equally as important to grieve the loss of our dreams. When we fully grieve our lost aspirations, we make space for new ones to come in. It’s painful. But, I believe the more pain we feel about something we love, the more evidence we have that we gave it our whole heart. 

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I laid on the ground for a long while. And came to the confident conclusion that this run was not in the cards today.  But, ya know, a matcha latte sounded like the perfect remedy for my broken heart. 

I sauntered over to my tiny kitchen area. I placed a pot on the stovetop, poured in some oat milk,  and turned the nozzle to heat up the electric burner. I then scurried back to my bed to cope with my pain by, naturally, watching a bit more of the NYC ticker tape parade. 

Approximately 4 minutes later, I smelled something. Oh my matcha must be done. I walked over to my stove, and… holy shit….something was on fire!!! Flames were partying all over that “something”, but I couldn’t decipher what that “something” was. I sprinted over (the most exercise I’d gotten all day) to the scene of the crime and that’s when I saw it: my favorite pair of Wildfang underwear. Scorched to death.

RIP undies

RIP undies

Now, you may be thinking, why the hell does this girl have underwear on her stovetop?

I can explain. I am not a US women’s national team member, and even if I were on a professional team right now, my salary could barely afford the cheapest apartment. In my quaint studio, the washing machine is right next to my tiny kitchen area.  

I had gotten my period that day and bled onto my underwear. So, I sprayed my underwear with stain remover, and was letting it set in before I tossed them into the washing machine. 

Now, you may be thinking that bleeding onto my underwear is a semi-embarrassing thing to admit to and not something that needs to be shared for the entire world to see. And that’s where you are wrong.  If periods grosses you out, I am not sorry. Women bleed. Welcome to human biology 101. 

Anyways, I accidentally turned on the wrong burner, the one that had my underwear on it, and subsequently, not the pot. 

I immediately transformed into firefighter mode. I turned off the burner, grabbed a pair of wooden tongs,  plucked up my blazing underwear, transferred it over to the sink, and doused it with water. 

And that’s when it hit me: Postman Jim just delivered. 

I bursted into laughter.

Here I was sulking, feeling so deeply sorry for myself, grieving a deep inner wound, acting like the world was over, and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere,  my fuckin’ underwear lights on fire. 

Adulting is messy.

It doesn’t make sense sometimes. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense a lot of times. And that’s okay. That’s called being human. It’s important for us humans to allow ourselves to be human. And to allow The Postman to be The Postman. Because, The Postman, ultimately, is the one who calls the shots.

He or she or them or whatever you want to call it, is always delivering. We just have to be open to opening the letter. Sometimes, it’s not the letter we want. Or the letter we think we “know” we are destined for. But, the one that brings us to our knees so we can feel what it means to completely surrender. The one that scorches our underwear to see that life doesn’t have to be so damn serious. The one that shows us, within seconds, that it’s okay for life to simultaneously hurt like hell and to laugh about it. 

If we allow ourselves to fully receive the letters, both the tears and the laughter, it will eventually  lead us to where the stuff that didn’t make sense, all of a sudden, makes so much sense.

The Postman always delivers. Thanks Jim. 




The Scariest Question I've Ever Asked Myself: who am I without my sport?

Current Occupation: ___________________________

I’m seeing a new specialist for my concussion recovery and, per standard protocol, I was sent a waiver and history form to fill out before our first appointment. I blankly stared at the “Current Occupation” blank space with more blankness than the blankness of its blank space. 

For six years, I filled in that space with a prideful “professional soccer player.” It was a subtle nod, a “you’re damn right I’m still following my dreams and doing what I love, despite my setbacks and squirrel food salary.” 

Now, for the past 6 months I’ve looked at that space with a mango pit in my stomach (I just googled “stone fruits with the largest pits”and based on my intensive one minute investigation I believe mangoes have the biggest pits. Please correct me if I’m wrong). 

What the hell do I write down? I’m taking this season off. I haven’t played in a true professional game in over two years. I haven’t felt like myself playing at the professional level for over 3 years. I straight up just haven’t felt like myself, period. Filling the space with “professional soccer player" doesn’t feel accurate right now.

I’ve seen a lot different specialists since I’ve stepped away from soccer to focus on healing. Hence I’ve had to fill in a lot of “Current Occupation” blank spaces. Sometimes I fill in the spot with “Lyft driver.” I picked up driving for Lyft after I left the Utah Royals halfway through the season to:

  1. amuse myself

  2. feel like I’m a contributing member of society 

  3. make a little extra dough

  4. secretly practice being a therapist. I’ve low-key made it a goal to dive as deep as possible with my passengers during our time together, regardless if (especially if) it’s just a 5 minute drive to Plaid Pantry. Not shockingly, many of my passengers hate their job. They have closeted dreams of dope things like creating a movie theatre that features TV shows.  As their unbeknownst therapist, I always encourage them to make that ish happen (disclaimer: I am not a certified therapist, however my therapy sessions are included with the ride, no additional charge. Tips are appreciated, but not necessary, but like, really appreciated).

Sometimes I put down "soccer coach.” I love individually training determined young girls and boys.  But, that’s just a side gig. 

I plan on writing a book, public speaking, podcasting (consistently) and launching a mentor program for athletes, but I haven’t done any of that yet. 

Writing down “unemployed” makes me feel lazy. And I’m not lazy. 

I vacillate this blank space, the same way I do when someone asks, “what are you up to these days?” 

“Oh ya know, the same ol’, just really trying to focus on healing.”

But, what I’m really thinking is:

you mean what am I NOT up to? You mean what am I NOT up to and what have I NOT been doing for the past three years as I’ve simultaneously attempted to let go and fight for my life to stay afloat as I watch the thing I dedicated my entire life to slip away and I literally feel like I want to die at least twice a week, but not like actually die, just die for like three months so I can shut off the crazy ass thoughts that move at 100mph and filtrate my mind every day and often cloud my ability to to see how fucking blessed I am just to be a living, moving, breathing, being on this beautiful earth, but, like it’s really all good, I know people have it much worse and I’m a privileged, blond, white girl, I think I am just gonna move to a remote island and drink coconut water and eat bananas and float in the ocean for the rest of my life. Thanks for asking. 

I typically go for the more socially acceptable, avoid-my-true-feelings response. 

You know what’s wild? Ever since I was 8 years old, I have had a crystal clear picture of what I wanted to do with my life. You know what’s even more wild? I’ve had the determination, discipline, and good fortune to see actions through and make my dreams come true.  Do you know what’s the most wild? I currently feel like my once crystal clear picture has entirely disintegrated, my dreams are in menopause, and I genuinely have no idea who I am or what the future holds. 

I’m currently receiving therapy because if you haven’t deciphered by now, my mind is a little psycho and I’m totally cool with it (except for when I’m not totally cool with it) because we are all psycho, and if you think you aren’t psycho, then my personal theory is you may just be the psycho-ist of them all. I highly support therapy for everyone. 

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But essentially, I believe I’m dealing with what my therapist deems “post-traumatic sports stress.”  I have currently been participating in this really neat modality called brain-spotting.  I’ll be writing about it more when the time is right. I have literally no idea when that “right time” will be because my ability to actually make things happen right now comes and goes like the Portland sun. If you want to learn about post-traumatic sports stress and brain-spotting before I write about it 9 years later,  I recommend the book This is Your Brain on Sports by Alan S. Goldberg and David Grand. They write all about how unresolved emotional sports trauma, and past emotional trauma in general, can affect your physical sports performance and increase your chance of injury. 

It’s strange because my will to take actions towards my dreams right now has been playing hide and seek with me. But, my passion for my dreams is still there. It hasn’t faded an ounce.

There are days when I am 100% certain, without a shadow of doubt, that all of my aspirations are going to come to fruition.

Dreams are sickkkk!!! Anything is possible! My breakthrough is so close! I’m going to take all the lessons I’ve learned over these three years, apply them to my life to make a full comeback and play the best and most enjoyable soccer I have ever played in my entire life!!!!!

I still fully believe this is a feasible option. But, will my life actually turn out this way? I honestly do not know. 

I believe a large reason for my disappearance of discipline is not necessarily from the physical blow of the concussion itself, but rather how this injury has made me question my entire belief system and the way I have gone about living my life. 

I hear people always say “do what you love and you won’t have to work a day of your life! ” But the thing is, I was doing what I loved. I was following my dreams and doing everything possible to make them happen.  And for my entire life, I had been successful at it. 

For the first 20 years, I was riding on cruise control with my “work really, really, really hard” recipe. I’d face a setback, work hard to get through it, and eventually achieve the thing I wanted. I intended to follow this plan until I made the US national team roster and played in a World Cup. 

Soccer has been my greatest protector throughout my most difficult challenges in life. When I got the call my brother was in critical condition at the hospital from a near-death car crash, when my boyfriend whom I  (naively, obvi) thought I was going to spend my life with broke up with me, when I found out my grandma unexpectedly passed away while I was 7,497 miles across the globe in New Zealand…I committed myself to my sport even harder. 

Yet somewhere along my journey, the lines got blurred between my profession and who I am. 

‘Soccer player’ proudly became my main identity.  But, I didn’t just see myself as a soccer player,  I saw myself as a good soccer player, one who works really hard, one who keeps getting physically better every day, one who achieves their dreams. 

A few years before my big concussion, I experienced energy issues, and it felt like the harder I worked, the harder I ran into walls. My illogical rebuttal was to work even harder, which resulted in many more wall crashes. And then the big bang happened (referring my concussion from my head smacking the ground, not the beginning of the world, but actually it kinda was the new beginning of my world). 

Ever since then, doing what I loved physically, emotionally, and mentally felt like I was pushing a flat-tired semi-truck up an ice-covered hill.  My body wasn’t working the way it had been able to work for my whole career. I wasn’t getting the praise I had received my entire life for my athletic endeavors.  I wasn’t able to use soccer as an emotional outlet. I finished last in fitness drills. I was cut from my team. The single thing I had poured my entire life into turned into a slow-motion eyebrow threading session; almost torturously, little by little, plucked away from me. 

Stepping away from my sport was the first time I have ever examined my existence without soccer. It didn’t take long for me to see that I have NO. FUCKING. IDEA. who I am without it. 

When we identify with our sport so deeply, we often subconsciously believe that we need our sport to feel complete. Consequently, this means that we don’t feel like we are enough as we are without it. 

It makes complete sense then, that removing soccer from my life feels like I’m missing a part of myself. It’s as if I’m frantically (but trying to act like I’m totally not frantic) trying to find out where that missing piece went.

In a way, soccer has been a coping mechanism to hide my insecurities. 

I believe a big reason my concussion happened was to force me to stop hiding behind my accomplishments; to stop basing my happiness on if I start in a game or not, if I finish first in fitness testing, or if I play well. 

I am no longer able to cover up my flaws with more drills, more long balls, more sprints, more…anything. 

My athlete cloak has been taken off. I am naked. And when I first looked in the mirror, I hated what I saw.  I felt like a toddler who was learning who I was all over again. But I have committed myself to showing up every single day. Even days when I literally feel like I’m trapped in a heavy load, hot water, extra wash, washing machine cycle, filled with a months worth of my dad’s sweaty workout clothes, somehow I always make it through. And I’m starting to see that the “missing piece” was never actually missing, but simply covered up by false narratives about my worth being tied to factors outside of myself. Step by step (with a lot of assistance from therapists, specialists, and my people ), I am standing a little bit taller on my own two feet. I am looking in the mirror and staring at the core of who I am. Without the awards. Without the notoriety. Without anything or anyone, but me. 

I made this old childhood pic of me my phone screen saver to remind myself who I’m returning to.

I made this old childhood pic of me my phone screen saver to remind myself who I’m returning to.

If you ask me “what are you up to these days?” my answers will vary on any given day from “(insert some short, generic BS answer that I’m well)” to “I have no idea” to “I’m making my come back bitchezzz.” But, really, none of those answers matter to me.

I am not and will never be defined by my career,  even if I am an out-of-this-world, Lyft driving, therapist, inconsistent-podcasting, mentoring goddess. 

I am enough. Exactly as I am. Right now. In this very instant. I will continue to remind myself of this truth until I feel it in every fiber of my being.  

Until then,  if you need a Lyft ride and/or therapy sesh and/or soccer coaching,  and/or know of any great podcast guests and/or are interested in being mentored by me, don’t hesitate to hit me up. 


Sincerely, 


Kendall, Current Occupation: ______naked_________







Dear Soccer, FUCK YOU, I Love you, Do I Have to Let you go?

Dear Soccer, 

I went shopping for avocados the other day to concoct my new lunch obsession: toast with mashed avocado, sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, aged balsamic, olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper. The colors, textures, and flavors are like a game-winning goal celebration in my mouth. 

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At the store, I intimately groped each avocado to find the perfectly ripe one. I found it and drove home, salivating at the mouth. When it was time to create the masterpiece, I pulled out the cutting board, surgically sliced around the pit,  un-hugged the halves, and the avocado was …brown. It tasted like solidified dirty bath water. 

I immediately thought of you. Because it reminded me of our last two years, eight months, and fourteen days together. 

I have soooo many things I want to say to you.

First and foremost, Fuck You.

Secondly, I love you. Please forgive me. Take me back. I need you. I want you. Do I have to let you go? 

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“Have you ever heard of something called MS?” the doctor inquired. 

“Ya.” I muttered back. 

“Now again, I’m not saying that’s what it is, but when we see that we have to check it off the list.” 

“What could other possibilities be besides that?”

“Lyme disease, hypertension, sometimes diabetes…there’s something going on that’s quite unusual for someone your age…but if we never got this scan, we might never have caught it.”

I just completed an intensive 5 day concussion rehab program at Cognitive Fx in Provo, Utah. The program is intended to balance out the blood flow in certain areas of my brain that got out of whack from my concussion.  I’m in the conference room reviewing my results with the head doctor. My structural scan revealed that I have white matter changes on my brain, that sometimes indicates a demyelinating disorder. 

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Dear soccer,

When the doctor was speaking, all I could think of was what this meant for you and me. 

“What would you recommend in terms of playing soccer?” I asked, fearing the answer. 

“I would wait until you know more about what’s going on. The great news is that with a lot of these things like lyme disease, and MS, and hypertension…getting the most blood to your brain is only going to help you. The healthier and more balanced the brain, the better it will deal with some of these other issues.”

I thought only old people developed Multiple Sclerosis.  And even if younger people could contract it, Kendall and MS don’t go together. This wasn’t meant to be my battle. It wasn’t my plan. 

I was meant to represent my country and play in the Olympics and the World Cup. Ya, people don’t know me now, but I don’t care. That’s how all the greats start out. As nobodies.

But, you know who I am. Our game plan. We promised each other. 

At the presuppose of our relationship, we were inseparable. We held hands (mostly feet), danced until the sky’s curtains closed, and then, we climbed under the covers, and dreamt of our future together. We had the wildest aspirations. We weren’t the kind of couple to settle. 

You were my safe place. I could run, compete, and push my body to its limits with girls who also lived to run, compete, and push their body to its limits. Not much else mattered to me. When I was faced with a painful challenge, I didn’t see any other option than to keep moving forward. For you. For me. For us. 

We knew we would encounter obstacles, but we always two foot slide tackled them. Get cut from a team…two foot slide tackle. Tear my ACL…two foot slide tackle. Hospitalized for a week in a foreign country…two foot slide tackle. Until we were back in the game. 

We were promiscuous, secretly escaping to racquetball courts, abandoned side allies, and recreational baseball fields. We put in the work. And then we got rewarded. It’s how I helped my high school team win its first ever state championship, how I got recruited to my dream college, played in a U20 World Cup, and was drafted to the pros. 

You + Me + Work Harder Than Everybody Else= Get $$$ (not actual money, because it’s women’s soccer, and we get paid diddly squat).

What happened to us? When did our system stop working? 

I think October 16th, 2015 was our tipping point. 

It was gradual and sudden all at once. 

Sudden, in the sense that I was instantly bed-ridden. The concussion was gnarly. For months, I couldn’t ride in cars, read, walk in crowded places, listen to music, let alone play soccer

But even then, I had no doubt I was going to get back to you. 

For the first year and a half, my comeback was clear as Crater Lake. It wasn’t a matter of can I??, it was simply when? I knew we were going to reunite.  Each setback would make the return that much sweeter. We were going connect on a deeper level. One that could only be experienced by those who’ve gone through the ringer. I was going to play the best ball of my life, and inspire others who were struggling in the dark. 

I feel like there are two distinct “Me”s: Kendall-before-her-concussion and Kendall-after. 

Pre-concussion Kendall was narrow-minded. I think you have to be with such ambitious goals. It was you and me until the end of time.  Post-concussion Kendall, felt like someone silly stringed my body with so many challenges that I didn’t have a choice to change, unless I wanted to be miserably trapped in neon green netting for the rest of my career. 

The physical symptoms were difficult enough, but then I got depressed. Wow. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so low.

Depression is very different for everyone. For me, I knew something was off and was desperate to get out of it. But it was like a vampire broke into my soul and sucked out any ounce of motivation. I felt trapped in between a myriad of polar opposites. 

I wanted to make magic happen in the world, and yet I felt this force field around me (like the girl’s from The Incredibles’ superpower) that prevented me from making any forward movement.

I wanted someone to hold my hand and walk me out of this emptiness, but I had an even stronger desire to get into my car and drive and drive and drive until I found an isolated cave in the depths of the forest for hibernation. 

I was sad, confused, lonely. Intensely uncomfortable. The scariest was when I started feeling nothing at all.

During my lowest low, I wanted to resort to you. For you to be there for me, like you had been the past 20 years of my life. But you weren’t. Or couldn’t. 

Fuck you, for that. I needed you.

I was mad at you. Really mad. Why couldn’t you just accept me for who I was? 

When I got released from the Portland Thorns, I was upset, but felt it was exactly what we needed. To say goodbye to our past, and welcome a fresh start.

I decided to move to Utah to tryout for the new NWSL team. For the first couple months, we were jiving. Things were hot and heavy. It felt easy. That fairytale kind of love. 

But it was naive of me to think that a location change could fix all of our problems. My symptoms crept back up. Even at my best, it was always mind over matter.

Nearly every training session, my eyes were more glazed over than a Krispie Creme donut fresh out of the oven. Energy-wise, it felt like I had eaten one-hundred of them. Exercise took 10 times more effort than it used to. 

My whole life, training was about improving our relationship. How can we be our best? Ever since my concussion, it felt more like survival.

I am an all-in kind of person. 100%. I never bought into that “110% work effort” bull crap.  That’s not physically possible.  When it comes to the things I love, I’m not a half-asser. 

I pride myself on controlling the controllables. I was always one of the fittest people on my team. It was part of my success formula: You + Me + Work Harder Than Everybody Else = Get $$$. 

Now, whenever I toed the line for sprints with my teammates, I finished in last.

I used to always do extra ball work before or after training. Now, I was too emotionally and physically drained to put in extra time. 

Playing wise, I hung on. I don’t think I was at the level for onlookers to be like “ohhh that girl sucks, she doesn’t belong here,” but I fell way short of my standard. I constantly compared myself to pre-concussion Kendall.

That’s often the hardest thing for people to understand. From the outside, I look fine. I’m able to live a normal life, even train at the most elite level. But I’m constantly living with this feeling that something is off. Like I’m sinking in quicksand while everyone else appears to be walking on water. I try so hard to hide the feeling though, because I yearn to be Bruce Almighty.

Dear soccer,

You really did me dirty. 

Sometimes I felt like you found great joy in taunting me. I entered the league starting every game, incredibly optimistic about my future. Over the past 6 years of my career, almost systematically,  I slid back to a “practice player.” 

You full on chucked my ego into flaming barbecue coals. You made me question my worth as a human. You used to be the thing that let me forget about my worries. Now, you are the thing that reminds me who I am not.

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When I signed up for my intensive week of concussion rehab at Cognitive Fx. I felt this was going to be the thing that set me free. I think it was, but not in the way I anticipated. 

After the doctor informed me of the white matter on my brain scan, she left to give me time to process the news. I hyperventilated-ly cried for a few minutes. I was crushed and confused. Yet, in the midst of my meltdown, I felt something shift deep inside of me.

This entire recovery journey my mind has taken the driver’s seat, and my body, slammed in the trunk. Whenever I thought about throwing in the towel, my mind piped up: you’ve got this Kendall! You are so much closer than you think. How amazing is it going to be when you step on the field and feel like yourself? All this suffering will be worth it.

But this current feeling was so subtle, yet so distinct-too powerful to be coming from my mind. It was that inner-knowing that unexpectedly shows up to guide us in inexplicable ways. The one that makes no sense to you or me or anyone else, until one day it does. And it implored me to get out of my head.  

In that moment. I asked my body “body, what do you want?” 

Without hesitation, I heard ”Please. Please. Please,  give me a break.”

When you’re a lifelong athlete who’s sole love is your sport, life can get skewed pretty easily. Your sport isn’t just something you do, it is a part of your identity. It’s your most intimate relationship. 

Letting it go, feels like betrayal. 

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Dear soccer, 

I said I hate you. You know that’s not true.

How could it it be?  You made me feel things I haven’t felt with anyone else ever before. You introduced me to lifelong friends. You took me to places I never knew I’d venture to: Guatemala, Spain, Germany, Peru, Australia (hot damn, I love you Australia) and several others.  You allowed me to access parts of myself I didn’t know existed. You taught me (I’m still learning) that I am so much more than you and everything else external. 

I truly feel like I’ve given you every part of me. I put you before school, family, and my wellbeing. 

But something isn’t working. I wish it were. I’ve tried and tried and tried to get back to the way we used to be. I can’t ignore my body any longer. It’s exhausted.

The Universe is clearly trying to speak to me and I think it’s pretty selfish to keep plowing through. 

It doesn’t make sense to me because I want you so badly. But this sensation is beyond logic. 

I needed a permission slip, this brain scan raising concern, to step away. I’m too driven and stubborn (and mostly afraid) to walk away from the game on my own.

They say losing your first love stings the most. Isn’t that the truth.  I dream about you. More than I ever have. Almost every night. Sometimes nightmares, other times glimpses of hope. I’m not sure what it means. But I’m tired of trying to figure it all out. 

I need to breath. To let you go. So you can do you. And I can do me.

 I don’t know if this is the end for us. It’s scary as shit. A little bit exciting. I feel both confident and lost. Confidently lost. 

 I sincerely hope our paths will cross again. If not, that’s okay too. What’s meant to be, will be.    

Just please know, you are the ripest avocado I’ve ever known. 

I’ll always love you,

Kendall 



Safe Travels, Salads, and Sloppy Seconds

For my travels to Australia, I crafted myself a Zupan’s Market salad of mixed greens, steamed beets, roasted Brussels sprouts, rotisserie chicken, crumbled goat cheese, toasted sunflower seeds, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic (the dressing was in a separate bag of course to prevent the greens from premature wilting). I packed an additional ziplock bag to fill with ice once I passed through security to preserve the salad until dinner time.  I reveal my epic meal not to brag, but as a blatant illustration as to how much I’ve stepped up my travel game.

Last year, I arrived at the airport with my belongings shoved into three colossal bags-two of which were overweight, a loaded to the brim backache-inducing backpack, and a few straggling items such as my foam roller, puffy jacket, and water bottle. My mom and I had to splay out my belongings in the middle of the airport and redistribute some of my heftier items into the lighter bag.  I then had to sit on top of my bag as my mom pried the zippers closed. From there, my trip spiraled into all sorts of Amanda Bynes crazy. I realized 10 minutes before my second flight’s departure time that I was in the entirely wrong terminal. Somehow by the the most microscopic hair on my chiny chin chin and grace of the heaven-sent Qantas flight attendant I made my flight (Full story here: Not So timely Travel Day).

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As much as I fancy wild adventures, I was keen on maintaining a normal blood pressure this time around. So I strategized and downsized days before.  On the day of my departure, I moseyed into PDX with two regulation-size bags, a comfortably fitting backpack, and my 40 ounces Hydroflask water bottle masterfully carabingered to my backpack strap.

With a swagger in my step, I checked in over 2 hours before my flight. My parents and I then meandered over to a pub to chill and catch some of the Duck football game.

As we were walking, I felt a punch-like sensation in my gut followed by a vivid visual of my salad left behind on the kitchen counter. My salad!

Was I getting too cocky and comfortable? Before I could answer this question, I thought just maybe my brain was lying and perhaps I did slip the salad into my bag before I left. I zipped open my backpack and sure enough there my salad quietly rested.  Silly Kendall, don’t doubt your travel game. 

I regained my confident stride, and we made our way to the pub. None of the channels were playing the Duck game because they don’t receive the proper channel. I wasn’t too concerned but my parents are massive fans, and I felt bad they were missing it. I called my brother up, who has a knack for fixing technical glitches and he instructed me how to whip it up on my computer. Nobody, not my brain nor the pub, was messing with my travel day.

After shedding the obligatory few tears hugging my parents goodbye, I headed to my gate for my first leg to Los Angeles. When I boarded the plane, I realized I forgot to fill my ziplock bag with ice for my salad. A bit of a buzz kill, as I’m not particularly fond of warm salad or flirting with salmonella. But not a big deal, I was still cool as a cucumber.  I strolled through the tunnel, into the plane and a gust of glacial air blasted my face. I’m an inherently cold person, but the chilly shock was potent enough to cause commotion amongst my fellow passengers.

The woman sitting two rows to the right of me asked if the flight attendant could turn up the heat. The flight attendant acknowledged that it was “very very very freezing” in here, and assured her that they’d fix it once we took off.

We departed and the temperature remained unchanged. I wondered whether the airlines were smuggling some sort of perishable drugs or polar bears in the back of the plane, but then I remembered we were headed to LA, where the temperature sat in the high 90s.  In recent years, I’ve found a strong correlation between American facilities air conditioning and the external weather. In particular, the hotter the temperature outside, the more places feel the need to blast the air conditioning to ungodly low degrees. It’s as if the logic behind this philosophy is that the two entirely, separate located temperatures will balance each other out. I’ve yet to find substantial proof to this theory.

I observed the humans around me. One woman couldn’t stop shaking her legs. Another young girl was wearing a blanket and some arm warmers. I couldn’t help but crack a smile at the people all bundled up on our airplane ice age.  I disliked the coldness as well, but I found comfort knowing that this bitter draft was blanketing my salad at a premium temperature for my supper.  We may all contract hypothermia, but don’t worry everyone my salad is ok!

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I tried to shut my eyes to fall asleep, but my hands went numb and wouldn’t stop tingling. My attempt to nap turned into my mind wandering about the fascinating fact that I was headed back to Australia for my second season with the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Often we do things a second time because we enjoy them and feel secure with the familiarity.  We are creatures of habit attracted to things that make us feel sunny inside.  Once we find something we like, we attempt to follow the same steps to recreate that desired sensation. If I find a killer-vibed coffee shop, I’m no doubt returning for another iced Americano splashed with almond milk.

This is definitely a component of the Why-I’m-Returning-To-Australia equation. I loved frolicking in the the warm blue waters, conversing with the carefree people, sipping on flat whites, and the overall soccer experience.

But another reason we repeat an action is for it to serve as a barometer of improvement. One day we run a mile as fast we can. A few weeks later, we retest and compare times.  These results inevitably elicit an inquiry of our personal growth.  For me, this is the main reason for my return. I want to compare the past Australia me with the Australia 2.0 me.

Last trip, I almost missed my flight, I lost my all-time favorite sweatshirt,  I spent a week in the hospital (Full story here) , and consequently didn’t get to perform on the field the way I wanted. Of course, I experienced unreal situations playing at the pristine Suncorp stadium, camping with friends on an isolated beach,  and descending caves filled with sparkling crystal.  But as is the trend in my life, I learned more from the setbacks.

Over the year, I’ve grown to embrace and appreciate uncomfortable situations. I am eager to utilize the insights I’ve gained and do Australia better than last time.

I want to appreciate all of the wonders of my past experience, but not confuse this with complacency and what some call “sloppy seconds”.  I want to challenge myself and return an all-around better player and human.

Before I had a chance to take my motivational rant to Martin Luther King level, the flight attendant’s voice shook me from my daydream.

I attempted to push my belongings under the seat below me for landing. My frozen fingers proved it to be a substantially more difficult task than necessary, but I managed.

Surprisingly, we all exited the plane hypothermia-free. The instant I got off the plane, I quadruple checked with the airport assistant to make sure I was headed to the correct gate. I navigated my way through the terminals without missing a turn.

Two hours to spare until my next flight. Take that past Australia Kendall. I made my way to the food court to enjoy my much anticipated dinner. I took out the components of my meal, and poured the dressing onto my perfectly chilled salad. Each bite sent Marvin Gaye vibrations throughout my entire body. As if the meal couldn’t get any better, I pulled out the dessert I packed; a Prasad (one of my favorite Portland cafes) oat-nut muffin. A final farewell to Portland and it’s fine cuisine.

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This day was going smoother than I’d ever envisioned. As I popped up enthusiastically to throw my trash away, the tip of my shoe caught the floor, rocketing me forward. Mid-stumble,  I was 98% confident that in .42 seconds I’d be face planted onto the cement floor. But instead, I channeled my forward momentum into a jog and slam-dunked my container into the trash can.

 Australia 2.0. Let’s do this.

Why I Saw Strange Men in my Room (and am telling you about it 9 months later)

I have been wanting to tell my story for awhile now. But every time I went to write my eyes strained, my neck tensed up, my head throbbed and I felt nauseous. After 10 minutes, I’d lose concentration and shut my laptop.  On bad days, it was because of frustration. On good days, it was acceptance; today’s just not my day. I would convince myself that my time is coming. That I will know when the time is right.

At the early stages of my concussion, I closeted my experience. The pain I felt was deep, and I didn’t want to burden people with my afflictions. Who wanted to hear about the fact that every time I crawled out of bed, blood rushed to my head and I nearly passed out? Or that at night it felt as though someone was perpetually hammering a nail into my skull. And when the headache did subside, and I was finally able to shut my eyes, I would unexpectedly jolt awake and spring onto all fours, hyperventilating because of the strange man I swore I saw staring at me from across the room.

I honestly despise excuses and complaining.

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. There are people-cancer patients, soldiers, rape victims-with far greater battles.

Plus, I like to make the most of my situations, and knew I would overcome this one eventually.

So I downplayed my symptoms to my parents. I hid tears behind closed doors. I practiced mindfulness, self-reflection, and focused on getting better.

With my physical limitations, my thoughts and feelings consumed me.

Questions swirled around: Why is this happening to me? When am I going to get better? What did I do to deserve this?

The more questions I asked, the faster the tornado spun.

I am hardwired to find answers. To get from point A to B as efficiently as possible.

But with this concussion,  I was living in a real-word version of that game at Chuck-E-Cheeses. The one where the gophers pop up and you have to smack them back into the ground. Each time you hit one, another one or two or three resurface (I swear, that game is rigged).

Every time I weathered one storm, another swarmed in. And I would re-activate problem-solving mode.

What was I trying to solve?

A while back, once I was able to tolerate minimal screen time,  I navigated my way to my blog: arrowliving.com.

The home page popped up and I scanned the quote at the center of the page:

“AN ARROW CAN ONLY BE SHOT BY PULLING IT BACKWARD. WHEN LIFE IS DRAGGING YOU BACK WITH DIFFICULTIES IT MEANS IT’S GOING TO LAUNCH YOU INTO SOMETHING GREAT. SO JUST FOCUS AND KEEP AIMING.”

Below, was the intention of my blog;

“Arrow Living is intended to inspire and encourage individuals to overcome all circumstances, even the seemingly impossible. The stories, interviews, quotes, and excerpts, are meant to motivate individuals to live the most wildly rewarding and satisfying life humanly possible.”

In that moment, it hit me.

A year ago, I had unknowingly written out my destiny. I had gotten what I asked for.  To get thrown directly into the embers of a “seemingly impossible” situation, and somehow find a way to make the most of it. A chance to perform my own case study on what it means to be an Arrow Liver.

Once I had this revelation, my motivation to get better rose even further. I couldn’t wait to overcome this concussion so I could share my story and inspire as many people as possible.

My concussion occurred while playing in Australian Women’s League. I rested, waiting for my symptoms to subside. Weeks passed, and I had little to show. I would have to postpone my story on perseverance.

After 8 weeks of stagnation, I saw a migraine specialist who told me to take a certain medication and I would be back in a matter of weeks. I started progressing quickly, and after just three training sessions, my coach played me in a game.  I made it! I thought.

I thought wrong. I played a full match, 60 more minutes than planned. By half time I was physically and emotionally depleted. The following day, my symptoms flooded over me and I was back to feeling terribly disconnected with myself.

A couple weeks later, I flew back to Oregon. With great medical and emotional support at home,  surely I’d get better and back on the field in no time.

For nearly 9 months, I have been living in a physical and mental cloud of ambiguity. My symptoms, at their worst, have prevented me from doing many things that bring me joy: play soccer, write, read, explore the outdoors, and spend time with my loved ones.

A few months ago, I hit up one of Portland’s finest treasures, Powell’s Bookstore. I ventured to the health section and stock piled every novel I could find on concussions, and sprawled out on the floor, determined to fix my brain’s ailments.  Again, I was problem-solving.  Within 20 minutes, I had to stop reading about treating concussion symptoms. Because of concussion symptoms.

A month later, having made progress,  I again decided to visit Powell’s. By the time I walked into the store’s cafe, I felt like I was engulfed by an energy-sucking vacuum. I sat down to journal, but picking up my pen felt like I was ascending Mt. Everest. The chattering couple next to me sent my brain over the ledge. I got up with the intention of walking home, but my entire body ached, and I found myself gravitating to the corner of the sci-fi section. I laid down, and pulled my sweatshirt hood over my eyes. A few minutes later, someone tapped my shoulder. I lifted my hood and a store employee was an inch away from my face.

“Excuse me you aren’t allowed to sleep here.”

I outwardly laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, but inside I felt defeated.

For months, my journey has been a one step forward two gallops back process. Any time I set my eyes on a target date, I have been let down. And once again, I postponed telling my story.

Although physical symptoms have prevented me from writing, I recently uncovered the real reason I was withholding my story. It wasn’t to spare others.

At the eye of the tornado of my struggle was MY OWN fear.

I was safekeeping my problems until I surpassed them.

Or at least until I was on the right track.

So I could be in control and have an answer.

I believe it’s a natural human tendency to share our vulnerabilities only once we are able to wrap them up with a bow.

It’s a mechanism we use to protect ourselves.

Because society admires those who overcome tough times.

How Oprah Winfrey endured poverty and hardship to become the world’s most motivational talkshow host.  How Steve Jobs went from college drop out to founder of tech powerhouse, Apple. How Major league baseball player Mike Lowell overcame cancer and went on to win the World Series.

Through the media, we often hear of these stories post-struggle. Once they’ve made it.  It’s truly inspiring.

But there may be something more brave and powerful about divulging unsolved issues. About confessing that you are trying everything possible, but still have nothing to show for it. That you are scared out of your mind not knowing how things are going to turn out.

The more I exchange my story with others, the more people share with me their own battles, and I realize we are all ultimately chasing the same underlying feeling of worthiness.

Whether it’s losing weight, earning a promotion or finding a soulmate,  we often theorize, that once we figure out our most pressing issue, everything will fall into place and we will finally achieve these feelings.

I believe this thinking is fruitless and flawed.

Once we tackle one challenge, another one will undoubtedly present itself. Life is a never ending string of obstacles. We will never have everything figured out.

Sometimes, the strongest thing we can do, is allow ourselves to be present and accept where we are right now. To understand that everything we are feeling—from the hopelessness of lying on the Powell’s bookstore floor, to the radical acceptance in reading Arrow Living’s home page—is real. To trust that everything is going to work out.

That it’s okay to simultaneously not have all the answers, yet still have an unwavering belief in my ultimate vision.

That if I am intentional in my actions to be the best I can be, to discover my truest self and fulfill my purpose, then by the law of momentum, good things are bound to happen.

This is my endless story of Arrow Living.

p.s. If you need to contact me I’ll be curled up at Powell’s in the self-help section

p.s.s I no longer see strange men in my room, but in future posts I’m going to backtrack to the beginning of my concussion when I did, and reveal the revelations that have gotten me to where I am today-still Arrow Living

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The Magic of Magic and Magical Moments

My heart hopscotched like a 5th grader answering the final question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Except no encyclopedia or trivial pursuit could prepare me for the task before me.

As my train rolled into Circular Quay, I closed my eyes one last time and envisioned the path that guided me here today. I inhaled one last deep breath, thanked my family and friends, then let fate play its course.

A few months back, my international mates Carm, Keelin, Paige and I purchased tickets to The Illusionists, a magic show,  at the Sydney Opera House.  I’m all for the “wow factor”, and this show was touted as one of the best magic performances in the world. We’re talking humans disappearing left and right, scantly clad woman being sawed in half, and mind readers pinpointing what audience members ate for breakfast three Tuesdays ago.

On the day of the event, Paige caught a stomach bug. Keelin, elected to stay behind and help nurture Paige back to health. Due to the short notice, Keelin and Paige were unable to refund the tickets. They asked Carm and I to find replacements, but since the show was during the work day, we were only able to find one interested and available teammate.

That left us with one spare ticket.

On that afternoon, Carm and our replacement, Eliza, drove into the city, and I trained in to meet them.

As I arrived, my pocket buzzed. A text from Carm informing me they would be late.

An electrifying shock rippled into my soul alerting me of the gravity of the situation.

In my pocket rested the extra ticket.

I was on my own, a lone wolf, with the hefty responsibility of allotting someone with two hours of complimentary magic.

A job that sounds trivial to most, but of which past experiences have left me riddled with guilt for neglecting an opportunity to provide someone with significant joy.

My train arrived into a pouring down rainy Sydney, setting the scene for the dramatic duty bestowed upon me.

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Challenge accepted. I threw on my rain jacket, exited the train, and began rehearsing how I’d initiate a conversation with my chosen pedestrian.

“Excuse me sir, how do you feel about experiencing two hours of magic with me this afternoon?…free of charge?”

I definitely needed to practice to avoid giving off the wrong impression.

As I contemplated proper verbiage, I realized I was getting ahead of myself.

How does one even begin to identify an innocent bystander whom fancies magic, let alone someone who would be willing to spontaneously accompany a stranger?

Do they wear bright neon colors? Do they walk with an extra pep in their step? Do they speak in a highly animated tone?

Even if those were the parameters, I struggled to find any suitors.

I decided to first follow logic and narrow my candidates down to independent travelers.

I then quickly devised a general “friendliness scale” in my head:

Resting Grouchy Face         —1——2——3——4——5—   All 32 teeth-revealing smile

Boring Outfit                       —1——2——3——4——5—  Wildly fun accessories

Eeyore-esque slouchiness   —1——2——3——4——5—  Tarzan-esque uprightness

Staring at ground               —1——2——3——4——5—  Soaking in the scenery

 

Any score less than 16 resulted in a nullified test.

I approached the event grounds with 10 minutes to find a suitor.

The scale proved to be effective, eliminating over 90% of passerby.

I scanned the crowd like an undercover cop scoping out her perpetrator.

Up the stairs walked a tall grey-haired 65ish man, BMI 34, in need of some nose hair clippers. But it was those stray hairs that gave him an endearing grandfatherly vibe, and earned him high points on the scale.

He was my man. I forged a smile, pulled back my shoulders (like the self-help books suggest for instant confidence), and approached my nominee.

“Excuse me sir, are you going to the magic show?”

He responded, “no why?”

“I have an extra ticket and was wondering if you wanted to come with me?”

As I finished my question, a similar-aged women shuffled beside him and grabbed his arm.

“Do you have two? I’m with her. ”

A swing and a miss.

This rejection instantly provoked a flashback to a middle school function. A boy named Max asked me to slow dance to Chris Brown’s “Say Goodbye.” I declined his offer. So this is what Max felt? How terribly inconsiderate of me. I took a second to spiritually apologize to Max and commend his bravery, but time didn’t allow for any further analysis of the situation. I’d reflect more on rejection later.

7 minutes until show time.

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I scurried outside and surveyed the contenders again. An army of kids traveling as part of a school program. They failed to even pass the initial “solo traveler” screening.   A bloke wearing all black sitting on the stairs, shoulders slumped. Warranted a “1” on multiple accounts. A man approximately 45, bright yellow rain jacket, blue jeans and 1970’s style running shoes. Eureka!  Anyone who wears jeans with old-school running shoes screams good-natured to me. He also carried a camera strapped around his neck. Excellent, someone who enjoys capturing the moment. I crept closer to observe my finalist for a minute-he resembled a “Gregory”-and  I completed as extensive of a security check as possible in such limited time. He bent down on one knee to snap a more artistic shot of the Opera House. Sold.

I jogged up the stairs and waved “Gregory” down.

“Excuse me, are you attending the magic show?”

“No, I’m not” he responded in an uplifting voice.

“Would you like to come? My friend was going to come with me, but she can’t come anymore so I have an extra ticket?”

“Aww I’m with my wife and kids.”

“Oh, ok I really don’t want this ticket to go to waste, I’m not sure who to ask, I’m just looking for people who are solo.”

“Um well I’m with my wife and kids” He repeated. At this point I realized that it sounded like I was seeking a romantic date. “Maybe try that man over there” he added.

“Oh no, sorry I didn’t mean solo, like single…..sorry, no offense, not like that…. I am just looking for someone who is alone because I only have one extra ticket.”

“Gregory” let out a forced chuckle, strong enough to stab discomfort through the both of us.

I left apologizing one last time, slightly embarrassed, but more-so agitated with the time I wasted on this unsuitable candidate.

I looked at my watch. 2:58. Show starts at 3:00.

I shut my eyes and “abracadabra-ed” my imaginary magic wand for a miracle.

I hustled inside and came across only one person by themselves: a mid-20’s man of asian

descent, flipping through an Opera House brochure. He wore a bucket hat. Bonus points for the bucket hat. If he wasn’t my dude, then it wasn’t meant to be.

Here we go Kendall, third times the charm.

“Excuse me, are you going to the magic show?”

“No.” My abrupt inquiry startled him.

“Do you want to go?”

“How much for ticket?” He asked in broken english.

“Free. My friend isn’t coming so I have an extra.”

“Free!?” His eyes flickered like a kid about to watch a magic show.

“Yes.”

“Yaaa!”

His animation jolted me to life. I love it when people are as amped about something as myself.

I told him we had to hustle, we only had one minute before the doors closed.

I rushed to the theater entrance, and The Chosen One quickly mimicked my strides.

I handed the ticket man my printed confirmation ticket. He told me I had to retrieve my actual tickets from Will Call. He urged me to run and required The Chosen One to hand over his backpack at the coat check.

The Chosen One and I locked eyes and nodded at each other, internationally communicating that we’d meet at the entrance. We then sprinted in opposite directions.

By some supernatural blessing, we whisked through the gate, and sat down with salty liquid mustaches and 30 seconds to spare.

“Wow!!!!”  The show hadn’t even started and The Chosen One was blown away by the venue’s vivid red curtains and theater lights.

“I’m Massa.” He shook my hand. Massa was from Japan and had been traveling alone for over a year in New Zealand, Bali, and Fiji. He arrived in Australia just yesterday. He had never been to a magic show before, but told me he really likes ball juggling and card tricks.

Before I could inquire more about his travels and illusion preferences, the lights dimmed. It was show time.

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Our hearts danced with enchantment, wonder, and awe for two straight hours. An acrobat floated in thin air, then disappeared in a flash.  A puppeteer skillfully pulled dozens of strings to manipulate his puppet person to perform a dazzling mini magic trick. A man, submersed underwater and shackled by his hands and feet, used a paperclip to escape in three minutes. It was wild and ended too soon.

The acts were jaw-dropping and mind-altering (still trying to figure out how you chop a woman in half, then another woman spontaneously emerges from the same coffin), but the magic I felt flowed beyond the wooden stage.

It sounds cliche to say that meeting Massa was destiny, but I believe when you open yourself up, miraculous things can happen. I had the opportunity to provide someone with joy so I interrogated random people, faced rejection (not bitter about it…), and ultimately stumbled upon a traveler exploring on his own for over a year. Both of us stretched outside our comfort zones.

Every day, in some shape or form, we have the opportunity to open up to others.  Even if it’s just sincere “hi, how are you?”, it could result in a rejection (like I said I’m not bitter…), but if you’re persistent, it has the potential to attract unexpected whimsical things into your life. Like a last minute complimentary invitation to a magic show from a frantic stranger, who just-so-happened to select you based off a self-invented “friendliness scale” because of your bucket hat. No scientific explanation. Just simply, true magic.

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Throwing Away 9 Trash Bags Full of my Belongings Changed my Life

On every away trip I travel with a banana in my bag. I rarely anticipate traveling with the banana, but before I leave the house, there’s always one banana on the counter staring me down, begging not to be left behind. I give in and chuck the thing in my bag with the intention of eating it on the plane ride. Yet, without fail, I always forget I packed the banana until I arrive at the hotel. I open my bag and find a sticky, smeared brown mash covering the innards of my bag.

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The vomity goo serves as a blatant reminder of one of my least favorite qualities; I am a slob.

Before I could talk, my parents nicknamed me SQ, short for Spill Queen. An average meal ended with mac and cheese splayed across the kitchen floor. As I grew older, my biggest fights with my parents revolved around my messy room. They’d ask me to pick up my stuff and I’d stall as long as possible.  Usually, they laid down an ultimatum and threatened to call my friend’s mom to tell her I wouldn’t be able to have our much anticipated weekend sleepover. Only then, would I give in, pile up all my belongings from the floor, and chuck them into my closet with just enough space to shut the door.

This is not something I’m proud of. I dislike my slobby tendencies and have failed many times in attempt to become tidier. After a deep clean of my room, I’d swear on my Eeyore pillow pet that this would be the day that I consistently put away my belongings. One week later, I’d be back to square one.

I simply accepted that I was an unfortunate beneficiary of this irreversible personality trait.

But then, awhile back I was at a family dinner and my mother informed me of a book she started reading;  “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”  I had never before witnessed someone so animated about organizing and cleaning.  My brothers, dad, and I rolled our eyes as she explained the book’s philosophy which involved clothes having feelings and a tutorial on how to fold your clothes.

I left the conversation intrigued, but not sold. I always have heaps of books that are on my to-read-next list, and a book detailing how to clean wasn’t a worthy addition.

A couple days later, my team and I landed after a late-night flight. We arrived at our hotel near midnight and I zombie-walked to our room, eager to hit the hay as soon as I reached my bed. I zipped open my bag to grab my pajamas, and felt something sticky on my fingertips. Another smeared banana.

You’ve got to be kidding me! This was the last straw. I was fed up with having to wash my bag after every trip. I’d had enough of this monkey business. Tomorrow I would start the “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

The book commenced with a background of the author Marie Kondo. When Marie was in middle school, she hid in her classroom and tidied up the bookshelves while her classmates were outside running around in PE class. She spent her free-time scouring magazines and articles for the newest methods of organizing. After school, she’d hurry home to emulate these techniques in her own room. Now at 30 years-old, Marie has established herself as an organizing consultant.

Right off the bat, Marie’s undeniable passion intrigued me and embodied an Arrow Living mindset. This is someone who managed to create a career around her obsession of tidying.

Marie went on to explain that messy rooms aren’t due to a lack of skill, but rather a lack of awareness. Only a select few organize naturally. All this time, I blamed myself for my inability to stay clean, but Marie was telling me it’s not entirely my fault. I was starting to dig this chick.

Marie claimed that her method, if followed, will allow you to be tidy for the rest of your life. I took out my pen and a pad of paper, and vigorously took notes.

I finished the book in two days and am convinced Marie cast a spell on me. I could not be more excited to get home to begin the tidying process. Who was Marie turning me into? I didn’t know, but I liked it.

Due to the vagabond lifestyle of a professional women’s soccer player, the majority of my clothes reside at my parent’s place. Once we landed back in Portland, I drove straight to their home to begin the organizing.

Marie’s first step is to choose a category and place every item you own of this category into the same vicinity.

I decided to be aggressive and tackle my biggest category first; clothes. My closet is jam-packed with 12 year old soccer cleats, holey socks, high school memorabilia , yellow-but-supposed-to-be-green weathered shirts, Forever 21 star-ladened belts, and every free t-shirt I’d ever caught at a sporting event. I keep most everything with the thought process of “maybe next year my sparkly crop top with embroidered artificial diamonds will be trendy.”

But that was the “pre-meeting Marie” me. Now that Marie was my homegirl, I was inspired to make moves. I heaved every shirt, jacket, pant, scarf, skort, and purse out of my closet and into the middle of my room.

After compiling all of my clothes into the same arena, I realized a few things. First, I am a raging tea bag and gum wrapper hoarder. I could open up my own tea shop with the amount of spare tea bags I found dispersed throughout my coat pockets and backpacks. And I could then decorate the wall with a 10 foot by 10 foot edgy art piece solely consisting of vibrant 5 gum wrappers.

But even more startling was the amount of clothes I’ve acquired over my lifetime-especially for an anti-shopper like myself. I want to gauge my eye balls out when I walk into a store and see a plain grey V neck shirt that is the same price as a four-course steakhouse dinner.  I appreciate shopping occasionally, but I’m more a one shop and done person.  Then I crave my eye mask, some chamomile tea, and a nap with my dog.

Next, I began the second step: purging. In the past, I’ve gotten rid of things because I simply didn’t like them, or for size issues. For instance,  I’ll part ways with my middle school dress only because it now fit like a skin-tight tank top.

But my girl Marie had a different way of looking at it. Marie instructs you to take each item of clothing, hold it, feel it, do what you need to do with it, then ask yourself the question “Does this bring me joy?” If it does, then you may keep the item. If not, or if you even doubt your love for it, then it goes in the discard pile. You need not feel guilty about getting rid of anything, even if the purchase ripped a hole through your wallet or your grandma gifted it to you for your Quinceañera. Marie explains that the item brought you joy at some point, thus it’s served its purpose. Thank it and move on knowing it will bring someone else joy.

I am firm believer that a successful life revolves around experiencing happiness. We should be doing things that make us happy in the present moment or in the foreseeable future. In order to achieve this joy, we should surround ourself with positive supportive people, and take actions that trigger enjoyment.

Yes, many times we perform tasks that don’t immediately elicit happiness- like running hill sprints, paying taxes, and voluntarily entering the torture chamber that some call the dentist office-but the reason for these actions, almost always comes down to the fact that it will eventually make us happy.

I’ve made a conscious effort to follow these happiness guidelines. Yet up until now, I’d severely overlooked the significance of my room. The space that bookmarks ever single one of my days. The space I come home to, slide under the covers, and shut my eyes to absorb all of the day’s insights.  Then,  9 hours later I open my eyes to this space, verifying that I’ve been given the opportunity to live another day.  Yet I’ve cluttered this sacred space with meaningless and outdated items.

There are many circumstances in life that are out of control. But we do have the ability to dictate what items surround us and I’ve realized that all my life I’ve unnecessarily immersed myself with “okay” items.  But I’m not okay with living an okay life. I’m not okay with okay dreams or okay relationships. I want insanely rewarding and fulfilling experiences. If I want to achieve maximum happiness, it’s logical to create a living quarter filled with things that ultimately align with this innate desire.

After asking “does this bring me joy?” to my underwear, socks, and hundreds of other items, I gained a pretty solid understanding of what brings me happiness. Since then, I’ve used this question as a filter beyond my linens and garments.

“Does this bring me joy” is an invaluable question because it discourages deep analytical thinking or outside influences. It’s an emotional question that is based on intuition that only you can answer.

It’s pretty transparent whether something elicits or will elicit joy. This allows us to hone in on our self-judgement and get a better sense of who and what we want in life, and then take steps towards living in alignment with these values.

Through asking this question, I eliminated 9 garbage bags full of belongings. Holy s*&t!(pun intended).

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After purging, Marie then tells you to put your clothes in their designated home and fold them the “Kon Mari” way. The standard stacking clothes method, leaves the poor clothes at the bottom of the drawer neglected and suffocated. The Kon Mari method allows each item to stand up vertically, giving the clothes life and making each item visible. The method essentially brings the clothes to life.

 After fully completing the entire process, I can verify that Marie’s title, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, is warranted.

 It’s been months since my re-vamp and I can honestly say I’m a new woman. I’m not only tidier, but I feel a sense of relief and bliss when I enter my room. I am happier and I am the first to admit that it’s weird. Really weird. I never in a million years thought tidying up would have such a profound impact on my life. Occasionally, I let my clothes pile up and I still spill on myself at meals. Some things never change. But one of the most revolutionary byproducts of the process: I haven’t had to deal with any smeared bananas since. Does that bring me joy? Yes, yes it does.