The journey to discovering oneself does not always come easy. From a young age, I had a strong sense of who I was to become, but a tragic incident forced me to redefine myself. Now, as a high school senior, having demonstrated my ability to conquer one of life’s greatest challenges, the boulder that stood before me is far behind.
Growing up, I lived and breathed figure skating. There was nothing in this world that filled my heart with such joy. I sacrificed everything in the attempt to become the next Olympic medalist, spending twenty-four hours a week at the rink, all year long, practicing my skills. During the school year, my nights consisted of staying at the rink after hours to brush up on my technique, and cramming in homework until midnight. Having no social life or interests beyond skating, my devotion earned me first place medals in nearly every competition, and ultimately, my shot at making the Olympic trials.
Unfortunately, at my final show, my blade got caught in a rut, causing me to fall and fracture four vertebrae. After several x-ray and MRI scans, the spine specialist made clear the disheartening reality that returning to my sport, or any impact sport for that matter, was permanently out of the question. My aura of happiness turned into a state of melancholy. The pain in my spine was agonizing, and even the most basic daily tasks became difficult.
My life was a huge puzzle and I was the missing piece. With my passion being taken away, I had little sense of who I was. After eight months of mental and emotional suffering, something had to change. After all, I had not even tried a single new activity, but rather wasted my days sitting around in misery. Summoning my limited strength, I pushed to rediscover myself, the same way I exerted myself to becoming an Olympian during tough practice sessions.
I began the process by putting my energy into local community service projects. By volunteering as a swim instructor and summer reading assistant for children, I grasped an idea of who I wanted to become. After a few months, I devoted time to develop my talents in the arts. The ability to express my emotions through pieces of music and different characters gave me the freedom to let go of my past and start over. From countless hours of practicing an Italian opera song and performing solos at local events, I stepped out of my comfort zone and reestablished confidence. I was not merely surviving, but truly living.
Sometimes, simply trying to push huge boulders out of one’s path does not work. When this happens, one must either stay stuck behind them forever, or try to climb over. My injury was an enormous boulder that failed to prevent me from reaching success. It not only demonstrated my ability to work hard in difficult situations, but led me to become the motivated and optimistic person I am today.