People often ask me to share our love story – how did Rodger and I end up together? Maybe it’s because people think it’s glamorous, or they wonder how they can end up with a professional athlete, I’m not sure. Maybe people just look for a romance. Let’s be clear, our love story is a nice story, it really is, and I’m happy to share it. But I believe that there’s a more important story that gets lost behind the whirlwind romance, and I want to share that story with you today. I recently shared it during the Second Annual Women of the NFL “Set an Example” conference held in Miami (something I’ll dive into more at a later date, cause it was such a great conference and experience), and what an honor it was to be on a panel among other strong, empowered women.
The panel I was invited to speak on was about our individual identity within a marriage, and the topic could not be more relevant for me. But I’ll get to that. First, I’ll give the people what they want – I’ll tell you how Rodger and I ended up together. I admit it’s a nice story! I’ve been told before that it’s kind of a story out of a movie – met as kids, reconnected later and fell in love. How does it go, again? First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage… right? Pretty accurate for the Saffolds (except one baby came before the marriage, but I digress).
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN…
Rodger and I met as little kids in Cleveland. I was only six and he was eight – we were friends. Life happened, moves happened, and about fifteen years later, we reconnected. I was in college, and Rodger was in his first year in the NFL. Once we got back in touch, it happened kind of lightning speed – we began dating, fell in love, and within a year we were engaged, pregnant, and moving in together. Whirlwind for sure.
THE REALITY BEHIND THE “FAIRY TALE“
Picture this: I had just graduated from college, was engaged, pregnant, and moving halfway across the country to follow my man’s NFL career. Was it all exciting? Absolutely! Was I in love and happy? One hundred percent. And then I moved to St. Louis (nothing against the city, it could have been anywhere!) and I just felt… lost. You see, I went to UNC-Chapel Hill and studied exercise and sports science as well as sports administration. I was a cheerleader for the first half of my life. I was used to being on a team. I was driven, determined, and ambitious as hell. I worked three jobs while going to college. I was the definition of independent and had big aspirations of working on the business side of sports. Then suddenly I was very pregnant, engaged, and in a new city.
I think you can see where this is going – I was alone. New city, no job, pregnant and hormonal – then a new mom and hormonal. Sure, I had a few friends through the league and they were lovely women, some of who I am still friends with today. But mostly, I had Rodger. And only Rodger. And then baby Aaliyah. I was a new mom, a housewife, and lost. I depended on Rodger for everything – to be my best friend, my fiancé, my family, my everything. My whole identity revolved around Rodger. I was needy and clingy, and it put a huge strain on our relationship.
Truly, this is something I never thought I’d share with the world, but I know how important it is to talk about it. If I can help just one other woman feel like she’s not alone, I want to. So here goes: I became very depressed. I completely forgot who I was, I was unmotivated. It was a dark, dark place I found myself in. I felt totally worthless. I didn’t even recognize myself. This wasn’t what I had dreamed of becoming — even though I loved my husband, was crazy about my baby, I was not happy. I didn’t feel whole.
FINDING MYSELF AGAIN & THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: DEPRESSION
Who was I anymore? I wasn’t who I wanted to be when I was younger. I was being judged (or it at least felt that way) for starting a family so young. Then, I was judged (or felt like it) for how I was choosing to raise my kids since I’m not at all traditional. I wasn’t measuring up to anyone’s expectations, or even my own.
I made myself fully available to my husband, totally dedicated to him, his career, and his passions. And mine? Completely forgotten. I was a devoted wife, but man was I nagging him all the time. We argued constantly, we were always annoyed with each other. It was just constant tension and honestly misery in our house. I know we questioned if we’d make it. It was rough.
In my devotion to Rodger and to Aaliyah, I alienated myself from my friends and family. I was constantly surrounded by other people but always felt so, so alone. If it’s not clear by now, and it’s only clear to me now years and years later, I’m sure I suffered from postpartum depression after Aaliyah. And it wasn’t something I just snapped out of — I had to put in work, but it took time. A big change, a big shift in perspective. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Hang in there with me, I’ll get there.
My story isn’t unique. I know many women, millions even, can relate. While, sure, my husband is a professional football player, which I guess isn’t relatable – that’s hardly the point. Like many other wives and new mothers, I lost myself. Even now, it feels confusing. How could I love these people so much, love being a wife and mother so, so much, but still feel so empty? I know the answer is depression, and it’s not a rational beast. But beyond that — in all that chaos of newlywed “bliss” (ha) and new motherhood, I neglected my spirit.
A FRESH START + A NEW IDENTITY
Fast forward to 2016 when the Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Not only did my surroundings change, but also my whole life. It was just the shakeup I needed. With the start of a new chapter for Rodger’s career and our family life (did I mention that we had our second child, Price, in 2015?), I decided that I, too, needed a fresh start. I needed to find a community and reawaken my spirit. I prayed that God would deliver me from my circumstances and lead me to my true calling and purpose. And He did. I found a new community and purpose in a Bible study group. The women and the Bible study itself reminded me of all the promises God has for my life and I got inspired, really fired up, to live more fully and abundantly.
It wasn’t simple, and it didn’t happen overnight, but ultimately I found myself again. And I literally thank God for that. But since it had been so long since my truest-self had shone through, I had to teach others how to treat the new me, including my family. I ditched the mom guilt. I decided to be who I wanted to be and pursue the best version of myself, instead of settling in behind someone else’s shadow. I felt free.
I know now that it doesn’t matter how much I love my husband (and I do), or my kids (and I do), if I don’t show myself the same kind of love and respect that I show them, how can I expect to feel good about who I am? How can I live a life that I would be proud of, that God has designed for me if I am not pursuing my own happiness and fulfillment? How can I tell my kids to pursue their passions, if they’re only seeing their father pursue his with me hanging in the background? How can I be a great mom, wife, friend, daughter – how can I be anything I want to be in this life if I don’t really tap into what makes me tick, what lights up my life and find my passion? The short answer that we all know is that I can’t. So, I was finally honest with myself and decided to make a change.
I decided to be who I wanted to be, really and truly. My focus became tapping into what I loved outside of being a mom and wife. I decided I wanted to leave a legacy – not just let Rodger lead the way and leave his mark on the world, but I want to leave mine. I want to leave my mark as a key figure in our family unit. So, that’s exactly what I’m doing.
I now know who I am as Asia. Not as Mrs. Saffold, or Aaliyah and Price’s mom, or an NFL wife, or anything else. I am me, Asia. I am an encourager, I’m enthusiastic, I’m passionate. I’m a TV personality, a blogger, a clean beauty advocate. I’m a philanthropist. I’m a lot of things and I refuse to be defined and put into a box of what society thinks I should be. I choose to believe who God says I am instead.
PERSPECTIVE & ATTITUDE
This shift in my thinking allowed me to wake up and lead days with more passion and joy. I felt confident in my own skin, in my own power and purpose again and man, I can’t tell you how incredible that felt after feeling so lost for so long. I was determined to intentionally grow each day. To stretch myself out of my comfort zone and really become the best version of myself. And that’s been my daily goal each and every day since — to be super cliche, I wake up to seize the day.
I opened myself up to new opportunities. I prayed on it and opened my spirit and mind to allowing in more abundance and wouldn’t you know it — opportunities seemed to fall from the sky. It was incredible. For so long, I had been so closed. So scared and in such a dark place that I couldn’t see all the possibilities right in front of me. With my massive shift in perspective and attitude, my whole world changed.
And it didn’t only change for me, but it changed my family. It has been such a blessing for my marriage. I was empowered again — I was the woman that Rodger fell in love with again. I was strong, confident in my own skin and purpose. I didn’t need to nag and bug him — I knew who I was, and I wasn’t just a wife anymore. So I felt secure in giving him the space he needed. And wouldn’t you know — with that space, everything changed. Instead of hovering over him, micromanaging everything for what I guess was fear of losing him or us — with a bit of space, we grew closer. He began to see me in a new role, now as a more integral part of our union rather than another dependent.
My mindset shift was everything. As soon as I began to value myself, others began to value me. As soon as I opened myself up to new possibilities, they presented themselves. As soon as I stopped fearing the worst for my marriage, it blossomed practically before my eyes. I weathered the storm and came out the other side a stronger, better Asia. An inspired, passionate, compassionate woman who is joyful. Who loves being an active, engaged mom. Who is crazy about her man. Who is excited to live life to its fullest. And I am so grateful.
This is the most vulnerable I’ve ever been in such a public way, but I feel it’s an important story to share. We all see the shiny, glamorous life presented in the public eye, and no one shows you this stripped-down, dark side of things.
Your story, your life may look different than mine does. You may have different passions and different struggles, but we’re all human and we’re all just trying to figure out this one life we have to live. So today, here is your friendly reminder, ladies – whoever it is you are at your core, whoever you want to be, no matter how much you love your husband, wife, kids, family, friends or anything else – be true to yourself. Don’t shrink yourself.