Tension is growing at the table. The opponent is staring me dead in the eyes, his glare creeping into my soul. I keep a straight face, making sure not to give away my strategy. Valuable cards have been lost, but I wield confidence in the hand before me. Should I check? Fold? Forfeit? The odds are unfavorable, and victory is looking bleak.
When I was five-years old, the five of hearts was dealt. I had a stable family, with two parents who loved me. However, in the middle of a spring night, the game turned the tables on my dad.
He was having spasms and his head was throbbing; his cards were beginning to bleed. Then, a piece of his carotid artery broke off, preventing blood or oxygen from getting to his brain.
And my heart was broken.
As a result of this event, he is now paralyzed on the entire left side of his body-- and has permanent brain damage. I do not remember the person my dad was before his stroke, but I have been told he was a good man and an even better father. Today, he still tries his best, but my father has his own hand to play, his own game to win. Losing that five of hearts still beleaguers me to this day.
My opponent chuckles, believing he has the upper hand.
Jumping forward to when I was fifteen at a basketball game in the Bronx, the king of clubs was dealt. Sweat was rolling down my chin, and my body was pumping adrenaline through my veins while I ruled the court.
As a six foot four, two hundred and twenty pound center, I commanded my team to an unexpected lead over our opponent. My coach yelled, “Keep playing hard!”, but his words were futile.
I leaped up to block a shot, but reached too far, and came crashing down like Macbeth after his defeat at Dunsinane. The king of clubs had been ousted, and I lay on the hardwood like a royal fool.
After being rushed to the hospital, doctors discovered I have osteochondritis-dissecans, a disease which made a piece of my knee break off. With two surgeries, my knee was repaired, but I had to use crutches for six months.
I was never the same player again.
My opponent finally usurped me. I had lost the five of hearts and king of clubs, and I was ready to forfeit.
But, then I realized I cannot change the cards that were dealt, just how I played the hand.
Previously, I would go all in with my chips for basketball. I believed basketball would be my future, and having stellar grades was unnecessary. After my king of clubs was lost, I focused my strategy on academia. The game accordingly turned in my favor. Adjusting my strategy created a better future for me.
Most importantly, changing how I played my cards allowed me to enjoy playing the game of life. No longer did I stand stagnant at the intimidating glare of my opponent. I had regained confidence with my new-found passion. I did not need to check, fold, or forfeit.
The game is forever in my hands.
I can never give up in the game of life. I thought my opponent was the world, until I found all along it was me.
My blindness to reality was my greatest weakness, but I can now see I was my own enemy, my opponent. Once my naiveté was recognized, my cards wielded limitless potential.
The game of life is mine to win. I prevailed against all odds, and I have the capability to adapt to and maximize any cards that are dealt.
I graciously await my next deal.