“I think motorcycles were a huge step in my recovery because it forces my body and mind to work together in a calm and synchronized way.” – The Girl Behind the Camera: @MotoPhotoGirl
The moment I read this statement, I knew the world needed to know the story of The Girl Behind the Camera. Maya Fox has survived substance challenges, a traumatic brain injury, a fractured cervical spine, but talking to her, all you can see is love, service, and a passion for motorcycles.
The Girl Behind the Camera: Motorcycle Beginnings
Maya was 41 when she signed up for an MSF class to see if she would like to ride her own bike. Before that,she says “Charlie and I fell in love riding two up on his 2013 Triumph Tiger 800xc.” She had grown up riding horses and racing road bicycles in triathlons; being on a motorcycle magnified this experience. She knew before the lunch break that motorcycles were for her, but she didn’t have her own bike. Before she passed her class, at the top of the class I might add, Maya practiced tirelessly on borrowed bikes. Once she passed, Charlie gave her the ultimate gift of love: The Tiger 800xc they’d fallen in love on. These countless hours had paid off; she needed a significant amount of practice and fortitude to make this dream a reality. She was overcoming a significant trauma: a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) she had sustained years earlier.
In 2003, Maya was driving to work when her “life came to a screeching halt.” A distracted driver on her cell phone had not noticed traffic slowing. This driver cut across three lanes of traffic and slammed on her brakes, causing Maya’s Acura Integra to go under this driver’s SUV. Maya was cut out of her car by the fire department and taken to the hospital. The injuries were numerous: fractured cervical spine, broken tailbone, shattered hand, leg injury, and perhaps most significantly – Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). She remembers none of the accident, and spent time after it not recognizing her family or friends.
When this accident occured, Maya was really at the top of her game. She was in the process of channeling her addictive personality that had previously led down an unhealthy path into a much healthier obsession: Triathlons. She’d run her first marathon in 1998, and realized she could channel all of her energy into challenging her body to extremes. The highs of doing well at these events were incredible; the lows sometimes drove her back toward substances, but she continually pulled herself back toward this passion. When her accident occured, she was working full time in construction as an assistant project manager and training 30 hours a week toward her triathlons, she was focused, healthy and determined.
Her recovery from this was a challenge. She could not remember her childhood or her friends. She would get lost frequently; she recalls a time when she was finally able to get out of bed and walk independently, and she was lost for 13 hours trying to come back from a store that was a block away from her home, unable to remember her address or phone number. It took a three county APB and some kind police officers to return her to her home.
While her physical recovery was a challenge, the TBI continued to present the biggest heartache. Her brain recovery was on its own timeline, and she did not understand what she didn’t remember or why she had no emotional connection to her own history. She couldn’t understand or interpret words or sentences at times, disconnecting her from those that were trying to support her. She felt disconnected from her body completely. And, riding in a car was a nightmare. She would hyperventilate just getting into a car, and if the driver touched the breaks, she would brace for impact instinctively. She did not resume driving for 6 more years. She could feel herself giving up.
Her doctors told her she would be disabled for the rest of her life, but Maya wanted to work, to run, to have children. She wanted a life. Even though her body and brain were on a healing trajectory, she sunk emotionally into depression and despair. There were glimmers where she saw herself, and focused on not giving up, but she felt her spirit was dormant, and substances helped her feel numb. It was a plea from her brother that reminded her of what she wanted to do and who about her unyielding determination. He pleaded “please, stop killing yourself”, and she heard him. Together, they went to a sober support meeting, and when she stopped numbing herself, her desire to thrive was re-awakened. She was ready to fight for her life.
Embracing the road of recovery from substances helped Maya start to find acceptance for the life she has, “instead of the life I lost.” She entered sobriety in 2007, and became pregnant with her daughter. “That was reason enough to get my sh*t together.” It is common with TBI to struggle with decision abilities for people and life, and while she found herself trying to work on her recovery, she had also become engaged to a man who was physically and emotionally abusing her. She began the separation process, and amidst a nasty court case with her ex, she relapsed. She knew that was not her best life, so she again entered recovery, and shares that her new clean date is Sept 28, 2010. “Every day, I am grateful for another opportunity to live a better life.”
The Girl Behind the Camera’s Motorcycle Journey
Maya practiced for months before taking the MSF course. “At first, I was nervous about riding a giant motorized gas filled beast, because I am still the clumsiest person I know. I had a feeling, though, that this was why I should, that there was something I would take away because motorcycles require balance and focus and I needed to work on that.” Maya’s drills included all the basics that we have all done, but in addition, her partner Charlie would throw empty water bottles at her to decrease her flinch response.
She’s seen improvements in her coordination off the bike as well. “I used to trip a lot when running trails, it wasn’t uncommon for me to come home from a trail run bloody or with skin missing from my hands from bracing for my fall. I haven’t fallen since I started riding. Riding is my meditation, it’s such a powerful exercise in mindfulness: riding forces you to use all four limbs at the same time and be 100% in the moment right here right now. If not, you are putting your life at risk. I have a tremendous respect for the power of these beasts, I understand their danger and there-in lies the thrill. Riding woke me up. I felt alive again for the first time in a long time. Riding has helped me get back in my body again and feel connected to my limbs. I find myself at peace and the chatter in my head is quiet. It makes me realize, much like completing an ironman did, that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was.”
The Girl Behind the Camera, on Fear
“I feel strongly in facing the thing that scares you and doing it, we might find that fear is just a made up story in our heads. I try not to invite trouble thoughts, it’s not healthy for my recovery mindset. I respect the risks, I acknowledge the risks and I consciously choose to ride a motorcycle because the addition it gives to my daily life is so great. I am meticulous about my helmet, I have two and rotate them. I choose to ALWAYS ride within my limits, even if it means waiting at the trailhead for the boys to go ahead. I take my risks very seriously, that being said I also don’t let it stop me from riding. I may not be doing hill climbs any time soon but I will definitely go off-road to explore dirt roads within my riding abilities. Fear is dangerous on a motorcycle, it takes one’s focus away from the task at hand and puts them into the fantasy world of what if’s. I avoid that kind of thinking and if I find myself there, I pull over and get my head back in the game. I could choose to live in fear every day I might get a second concussion or I could choose to enjoy every day as though I’ve been given a second chance. I choose to live each day like it’s a gift, because it is.”
The birth of @Motophotogirl
Not only does Maya ride motorcycles, she is thrilled that she has been able to establish a career in the industry of Motorcycles. Not only is she determined, but she deeply believes in service and passion. In addition to motorcycles, Maya is passionate about photography. The passion for photography ramped up at the same time as her passion for motorcycles; photography was a memory aid and allows her to communicate non-verbally. This was a huge way to connect with people while recovering, and once she started riding motorcycles, she knew her passions needed to join. She told her partner “I am going to find a way to ride motorcycles, take photos, and get paid for it.” This may have sounded far fetched, as she was working in the small restaurant as a district manager and general manager for years. This work provided a living, but did not feed her soul.
She started hanging out at Marin Speed Shop taking photos after work. It wasn’t long before she was noticed, and asked to take over their social media. It was just a little extra money as her physical recovery from the accident was not yet complete and she needed to have surgery that year. Her work was so good, they asked her to take on additional social media work; by March of 2020, she was working five jobs. The pandemic opened the door for her to make the leap from the restaurant world into the motorcycle world, and she’d already built her own safety net. She is now a digital media manager, and has fulfilled her dream – she gets paid to ride motorcycles and photograph them. Of course, this is just one aspect of her job, but she enthusiastically throws herself into all the parts of her job, to help the success of the business.
The Story Doesn’t End There
We get one life. We cannot control what happens to us, but we have 100% control over what we do with those events. Interviewing @motophotogirl has reminded me that the people behind the camera, who are lifting up others, often have the most inspirational stories to share, and it’s important to ask. I’m so glad to know Maya Fox better; she’s no longer just the girl behind the camera, she’s a fellow motorcycle rider, a friend, and an inspiration.
Love Maya’s story? Find her on Instagram!
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