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Three Millimeters This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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At the end of my sophomore year, I thought I was on a perfect track of life. My grade point average was 4.0, I held the school record in the 800-meter run, was a two-time and two-event all-conference champion in track, was all-conference in cross-country for the second year, had earned athletic as well as academic awards, and was involved in just about every club and organization. My life revolved around my activities. But, as I defined my life by these accomplishments, I had been overlooking the obvious.

Two weeks into summer something three millimeters in diameter slammed me off my track into a granite wall, spit the obvious in my face, and changed my life. My mom had an unexpected brain aneurysm. Neurosurgeons presented every option, every risk of death, and looked me in the face to say, “You are lucky your mom is still alive.”

I will never forget the fear I had, the fear I saw in my dad’s eyes, a doctor himself, who could no longer reassure me. It was a fear I hope I never experience again, but one that taught me more than any class, organization, or race. Suddenly, I did not care about any accomplishment or stress of work or school; they seemed trivial and insignificant. I wanted my mom. For the first time in my life all I could do was pray.

In the passing of only a few hours, I finally knew what mattered. The obvious screamed at me; I needed love, hope, understanding, patience, compassion, friends, family, and God. I needed these obvious things, nothing else. Mom survived her brain surgery. I am a different person; my spirit has evolved. I have matured with what seemed the effects of years, in just weeks. My definition of self and life has changed.

I now value my life, self, friends, family, and God from a different perspective. Although I am the same patient, forgiving, creative, determined (or stubborn as my friends and family say), free-spirited, hopeful, and loving Sally I have always been, I was catalyzed and made aware of myself. I have gained compassion, patience, understanding, and love for other people. Little stresses of school, athletics, or friends do not warrant as much worry as they used to. Life is something I respect now.

I now know I do not need outstanding numbers, lists, or feats to show people who I am. My strength comes from God and me, not a list of accomplishments. My accomplishments remain and are growing; they have a natural coexistence with my characteristics. However, now they are secondary to my true and obvious self-definition.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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