What I'll Do After Winning Gold At Rio

by Kayla Harrison

The plane jostles me from sleep. Glancing at the screen in front of me, I can see we have about two hours to go before we touch down in Boston. I'm anxious. I'm ready to be home in a way I've never felt before. On one hand, it's just been too long and I miss my bed. On the other hand, I am done. My job is done. I went to Rio and I won. I still can't believe it. But what now?

Instead of focusing on the fact that I am now basically unemployed, I let my mind drift to all the things I've put on hold for years. Once I'm home, I'll make a list of all the things I'm going to do to keep me busy. Hiking. Taking a cooking class. Trying skiing. Maybe dance lessons?

Also, I have a ridiculous schedule once I get home. Speeches, appearances, two homecomings. One's in Ohio with my family (and a parade!), which I can't wait for. After that, there's one in Lynnfield at the spot where my teammates and I hang out at after judo. That one will be a fundraiser for my foundation. Speaking of, I'll have more time to work on the Fearless Foundation. To really get it up and going and growing; to have it start actually making a difference in peoples lives — not just talking about it.

Of course, I also have big decisions to make about my future. Everyone wants to know: MMA or no MMA?

Plus, there will be the Kayla Harrison Cup to promote! That one's a new tournament in my name that we'll be running each year. Also, the Senior Nationals will be run by me from 2018 onwards. Lots of planning and coordinating and logistics will go into those two events. It should keep me busy.

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Of course, I also have big decisions to make about my future. Everyone wants to know: MMA or no MMA?

It's a decision I've been weighing in the back of my mind for almost a year now. And I'm no closer to having an answer. I think, deep down, I know — but a hint of uncertainty wavers in me still. I can't wait to be home. Jimmy, Big Jim, Jerry. They'll know what to do. They'll know which path I should take.

As all of this is churning through my mind, I can't help but reminisce about the last 20 years of my life. All I have done. Where I have been. All because of judo.

I have seen the sun rise in Abu Dhabi. I have climbed to the top of a mountain in Japan. I have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower and I have looked at Mona Lisa's smile. I've been all over the world and I have made so many amazing friends. I have seen things and done things and lived. Really lived. And not only that — I have done it all while chasing a dream. A dream to be the best. One of the best there ever was.

After everything in my life. All the heartbreak. All the ups and the downs, all of it, it was worth it. It has been a long road, but it's all been worth it. And now, finally, it's time to close the chapter. It's time to move on. It's time to come home.