Second Thoughts and Second Chances

September 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

I knew it had ended my season as soon as I heard the snap. I didn’t know whether to cry out in pain, or cry because I knew the ramifications. Tearing my ACL, in November of my senior year, meant I could kiss my soccer scholarship to Notre Dame goodbye. College soccer coaches are unapologetic, a major part of what makes them good at what they do, and to them, preseason injury often means automatic scholarship removal. But hey, it’s a harsh world, and I knew what I was risking after 12 years of competitive sports. I had seen it happen to others, heard from others that it was an ever-present possibility…. but like all athletes, I just never thought it would happen to me.

Thus began the long and winding road that led me to Vanderbilt.

I wish I could say that I have never thought about an alternate history to my life, but sometimes still, when I am feeling particularly introspective, I quietly ask myself, what if I had not gotten injured? Sometimes still, when I am walking to class, I wonder, what would I be doing right now if I were at a different university?

For one, there would be no free time, no involvement in student organizations, no diverse friend group, and certainly no honors seminars called Science Fiction. Instead of spending my weekends exploring Nashville or spending time with my friends, I would have been on a bus going to and from every collegiate soccer park in the country. I would have worn a badge of honor as one of few from my hometown in Kansas to play a Division I sport. I would have had a national championship under my belt after the 2010 season. My priorities would have done a 180-degree turnabout, and I am hesitant to admit that academics would unfortunately have not at the top of the pyramid. I would not have felt the pain of losing something that was such a large part of my life, the need to redefine myself as student rather than student-athlete, or the joy of getting accepted into universities I had previously thought I was not capable of getting into. I would not have learned what it was like to move across the country without knowing a single person and somehow manage to find success.  There are, of course, both positives and negatives to such an alternate life, but most importantly, I would not have been the same person that I am today.

Perhaps it is my experience senior year that makes me so wary of time travel. Although at the time I wanted to erase that day and start over, I know now that I received a gift masked in the form of an unfortunate prognosis. I believe that we are defined by how we respond to the circumstances that we are presented. Call it what you want, but if such a thing exists, that day in November was fate.

We have read many stories in the last few weeks about the butterfly effect, about how one small event can have catastrophic proportions. The truth is that I know all too well that one incident can change your life. It would be easy to explain how bitter and angry I am that such an opportunity stolen was from me. I definitely went through some stages of those emotions. It was much harder, however, to see the bigger picture. That was something I could have learned only at Vanderbilt. As cliché as it is (and as cliché as it is to point out my cliché but say it anyways) considering my alternate history only increases my conviction in the path that I am on, and to think that I could have ended up anywhere else is unfathomable. Vanderbilt is my home, and I am proud to say that I am a stronger person because of it.



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