Pain

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With the wind in my face, my half-zipped jacket flying behind me, I feel alive. I’m barreling down a powdery hill at a hundred miles per hour on my snowboard, carving turns, jumping over shrubs, alone in the woods on the back of the mountain, thinking I must be invincible. I look up and see that the thin trail turns sharply to the left. I think about slowing down, but I can’t give up the speed. So I turn my face towards the wind and smile. The next thing I know I’m on my back, having slid thirty feet across ice that might as well have been concrete. I can’t help but let a chuckle escape from my lips, and soon I am laughing to myself. However, I can’t move a muscle in my right leg. Still, I’m alive, so I keep on smiling and shaking my head with astonishment at my stupidity. My friends soon catch up and ask, “Are you OK?” Smiling through the paralyzing pain, I say, “I’m fine.” An hour later I’m lying facedown strapped to an icy metal gurney in the back of a helicopter on my way to the nearest hospital, though it turns out it’s not too serious. Lying shirtless on the cold, wet gurney, the sound of the helicopter battering my eardrums, one thought goes through my head: “This is going to make a great story.”I am sharing this story because it reveals a lot about my personality. Having given a great deal of thought to why I react to pain in such a seemingly irrational way, I have realized that my laughter is more than just a bizarre character trait – it is a manifestation of the way that I approach life. I pride myself in being a generally determined and levelheaded person. I feel that in most difficult situations I have the strength of mind and the self-discipline to persevere, to find the opportunity hidden in the problem (e.g., my first helicopter ride). The fact that I often laugh when in physical pain reflects how I always try to make the best of every situation. My response to my friends’ question stems from this same optimism. Saying that I am fine helps me keep perspective. From broken wrists to dislocated shoulders, to stitches on my forehead, to snowboarding injuries like this one, I am always able to muster up the strength to say, “I’m OK.” It’s not that I just say that I’m OK, though; I mean it. Deep down, I am confident that I will be able to overcome any pain or hardship that I have to face, that I will get through it by remaining positive. I try to apply this way of thinking to more than just pain. One good example is my experience during last year’s Track season. I had set specific personal goals that I was unable to meet because of a shoulder injury. Instead of getting discouraged, I used my injury as an opportunity to focus more on helping my teammates achieve their goals. Running alongside the track helping to inspire the rest of my team proved to be even more gratifying than if I had been able to run my own events well. And at the last meet of the year, when my Track coach walked over to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and asked me if I would be the team captain next year, it meant even more to me than if I had been able to perform well in my races.Over the past four years, I have had a few serious sports injuries, and I can sincerely say that I reacted to each one with laughter. However, it’s not that I consciously laugh at pain to make a statement about my life philosophy. Simply, I have reflected on this strange character trait and realized that my reaction to pain mimics the way I live my life – with optimism, self-reliance, and a smile. And if along the path, life places a stumbling block in front of me and I trip and fall, I know that I will be able to continue laughing.

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