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Why are we who we are? The answer, I believe, lies in pain. Whether of the mind or body, painful moments veer our lives onto a separate track.

As a young child I wrote make-believe stories as a coping mechanism for the pain of loss, the pain of solitude, the pain of emotional neglect, and the pain of being cast aside as strange and an outcast that consumed my mind. I had only stories of children similar to me who proved everyone wrong and triumphed in the end as consolation. Perhaps if I worked hard enough, I thought, someone would like me. I became passionate about writing and reading, convinced that I too would one day write books that would help children overcome their pain. Unfortunately, all I ended up with were piles of notebooks filled with unfulfilled ideas and half-fleshed out characters.

The next chapter of my life involved physical pain. For several Autumn months of my sophomore year of high school, a sharp shooting pain cut through my leg with every step. Eventually I had to hold onto nearby tables and chairs to move around, shifting across rooms on my good leg. In the snow of late January I was wheeled into the operating room for a major hip surgery. I learned to maneuver a wheelchair, use crutches, and walk again that late summer. The impact of major hip surgery on my perspective of the meaning of my existence and the human experience is difficult for me to share and for others to fathom. The long white scar on the crease between my thigh and torso is only a visual and superficial reminder of the pain that changed me.

I decided that I would be there in the future for children like me as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Studying bone physiology and its relation to orthopedic disorders became my passion throughout the rest of high school, and I plan to continue studies in Cellular and Molecular Biology and English as part of my college career. Either love or loss cannot match the impact of pain on the course of my life. No separate aspect of life has completely turned my perspective on its head. Only pain has the power to completely wreck the core of one’s being and give rise to a season of rebirth.

As I write this I am seventeen years old. If I wrote about the defining moments of my life one year, two years, or ten years from now, perhaps I would ramble on about some cliche discovering the keys to the so-called gate to eternal happiness through love and loss, passion and the mundane, hard work and procrastination, or about confidence and self-doubt. Perhaps in the midst of a new life in which I triumph over all that plagued me I’d be blissfully blind to the past, forgetting to look back on the path from which I came. However, I chose pain for a reason. And my eyes are wide open.

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