No Pain, No Gain

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

First, it was my leg. I was three years old, running around the grassy backyard in my sparkly purple leotard, quietly catching glances of my neighbors flying up and down from across the lawn. With a misguided confidence, I determined that I, too, should climb on the trampoline with the older kids: Mistake #1. The summer heat made my hair stick to my face and, wiping it aside, I took my first jump: Mistake #2. My feet met the hot, elastic surface with my knees bent and – snap. At age three, my oh so promising gymnastics career was over.

Next, it was my hip. I had put the days of my neon green leg cast behind me and was focused on much bigger and better things: sixth grade soccer. It was an autumn morning game with crunchy leaves rustling against the pavement of the parking lot and a calm breeze murmuring in my ears. Second half. Up by one. Playing right attack, I took one powerful umph to the ball and – pop – proceeded to tear tendons in my right hip. My season was over.

A couple of years later, it was my nose. Between rehab from my hip and tendonitis in both of my knees, I decided to take a break from soccer and focus on basketball. It was a valid decision – I polished off three consecutive seasons without injuring myself: an impressive feat for someone with my blend of competitiveness and clumsiness. Unfortunately, my streak came to an end on a winter night in the gym. My team was scrimmaging when the chill from outside permeated through the windows, escalating the passionate game of girls versus boys with a tangible intensity. Unexpectedly, I was aggressively knocked from behind by a boy in my eighth grade science class and – crack – forced into a less-than stylish nose brace that I sported for several succeeding weeks. The era of painless playing was over.

Sophomore year, it was my head. And my eyes. And my ears. And everywhere, really, because body aches are common symptoms of a concussion. The sky was painted with wispy clouds that spring afternoon – ideal weather for a varsity lacrosse game. Cradling the ball up the right side of the field, I was knocked once again – from the front, this time, and – thump. Blackness. That game (along with my social life for about a month) was over.

Recovery is a mentality: from fluorescent casts to electric stimulation in physical therapy to hours of sleep and rest, it’s a process. Through recovery, however, I have discovered new passions and have reshaped the ones that I already possessed; today, I will sit at my piano and play Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata repeatedly, my fingers melting into the heavy chords and daintily fluttering over the scale passages with the satisfying knowledge that even I can’t hurt myself doing it. Yet in every game or practice, I will still play ambitiously because the adrenaline of intense competition surpasses the safety of playing scared. From the time I was hobbling around in my lime green cast to this past April when I had ACL reconstruction surgery, there have been bumps and bruises… and fractures and tears and sprains… that have tested my perseverance and discipline. There will, inevitably, be more to come, but I now know how to tenaciously handle the treatable mistakes that escaped me at age three. Nothing is ever really over until I decide that it is.

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