A yellow post-it note in my bathroom reads, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” reminding me that even the longest and most lofty goals must begin somewhere. My fitness journey, however, began with a single jump. I was a young bright-eyed 17-year-old, ready to take on the world when it all began. Soccer was my life, and my eyes were on the prize – that glorified college scholarship.
It was March 31, 2010, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was supposed to be the perfect day, time spent on the white, sandy beaches in the morning and my afternoon wholly consumed with an intense soccer practice, perfect for me at least. Little did I know that this perfect day would lead to me replacing activities I loved so much with learning how to walk, squat and lunge again.
I had planned to seize each and every opportunity that week training mentally and physically for Nationals in the coming days. Monday was supposed to be a day at the beach followed by an agonizingly long conditioning session. The set up was the same: the goal stood at the end of the field, much like a goalkeeper stands apart from her team during a game. This was my home away from home – the cropped Bermuda grass, the chalked boundaries, the promise of competition. This was my sanctuary, my escape, and the place where I could find inner peace. However, on that last day in March, my perfectly planned day took a sudden detour; the place I called home became the place I resented most.
I can see myself in slow motion, jumping over the high hurdle, a bad landing, an ear-crushing pop, immense pain running down the length of my left leg. I was on the ground, in utter disbelief. One little snap and the three worst letters in female athletics – “A-C-L” – made my carefully calculated life a hellish nightmare.
Deep down inside, I knew that it was probably a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), but for six weeks I refused to let anybody tell me otherwise – I kept holding onto the broken dream that my return to the game that I loved so much would be sooner rather than later.
A little less than two months later, I found myself lying on the operating room table, nervously waiting for surgery. I had never planned for this – what athlete does? The moment I went under, life became more than just the x’s and o’s drawn on a white board. I began the new road back to recovery on the inside and out.
At first, my dreams of playing soccer were my only consolation. I asked my physical therapists each and every day when I would be returning – their responses left me heartbroken and discouraged on the inside. Other people now planned my life, and it tore me apart. No longer was I the creator of my calendar. My knee had a timeline of it’s own.
I found each day was a struggle, yet somehow a gift at the same time. When I first began to walk without crutches, I learned to appreciate the simple use of my legs. I admired those who had the ability to run as I watched eagerly from the sidelines. I learned the significance of camaraderie. I became a better teammate. It did not matter if we lost the game or if I lost a scholarship, because life became bigger than just soccer. I began to expand my horizons and explore the outlets available to me. I picked up a camera and fell in love with photography. I qualified to become a student athletic trainer, so I could help other injured athletes rehabilitate. I became spontaneous. I lived by the Latin phrase Carpe diem- meaning “seize the day”.
A planner hopes for the best and plans for the worst. I was hoping that my plans for the future wouldn’t change; I wasn’t planning on tearing my knee. Even though my journey to becoming the best athlete I can be is far from over, I have come to realize that this injury was a blessing in disguise, a single step in my journey. I persevere, I move forward, I succeed each and every day.