The summer before I entered the seventh grade, I had an accident that left me forever changed; I fell, severely injuring my shoulder. For three years following the incident, I struggled every day at swim practice with the intense pain the injury was causing me, but I never gave up hope. Physically I was weak, but I had enough mental strength to push through my physical barriers day after day. Just when I thought my situation couldn’t get any worse, it did. On October 17th, 2007, my doctors informed me that I needed to have shoulder surgery if I wanted to continue my swimming career. My rotator cuff may have been torn, but I never let that tear me down. Because of my experiences, I believe in the concept of mind over matter; if you put your mind to something, anything can be achieved.
The doctors told me that recovery could take up to a year and would be extremely painful. My friends said it would be impossible, that I would never fully recover. Even my coaches said this journey would be the hardest thing I would ever choose to do in my life. Despite all the negativity surrounding me, I looked toward the positives in the situation and braced myself for what would be the longest year of my life. The surgery came and went without so much as a glitch. During the week I spent in bed recovering, I found myself thinking a lot about every negative statement said to me. I made a list and vowed to accomplish everything they said I couldn’t do, and I vowed to do it in record time. Their words were just fuel to the fire that I already had burning beneath me.
It has now been almost a year since the doctors diagnosed the problem. Looking back I am realizing how many times my mental strength has pushed me to accomplish more than even I imagined I would be able to do. In January I decided I had been out of the water long enough, so I got back into the pool and started kicking. Watching all my friends swimming instilled a feeling inside of me that was a cross between jealousy and hope that, one day, I would be able to swim again. For three months all I did was kick. Then on March 25th, 2008, I took one stroke, which led to two, which led to a whole twenty-five yards. By the end of May, I was swimming more than half the yardage at my practices and awing people whenever I told them my story. I remember my doctor asking me how I was managing such a speedy recovery. I told him it was the faith I had in myself and the goals I had set long before I even thought about getting back into the pool that kept me from giving up time and time again.
To any outsider that decides to take a peek into my life, my journey may look like a piece of cake. Anyone that really knows me knows how hard I worked to get where I am now and how much I struggled along the way. This past summer there were mornings when I could barely pull myself out of bed to make it to practice on time. Days would pass where I was sure that I was going nowhere. Half the time I felt as if I was taking giant leaps in the wrong direction. There were times at practice when I found myself doubting my ability to obtain my goals. Everyone else seemed to have this new profound faith in me, and I could no longer find that faith in myself. This summer I learned a much better lesson than I could ever learn in any classroom at school. When I thought about the goals I needed to meet months down the road, I put too much pressure on myself. I found that when I set my mind on smaller goals for myself to accomplish in a day or a week, that I could meet them with relative ease. The more goals I met, the more I wanted to meet, and the harder I trained.
In less than a month, I will compete in my first swim meet since June of 2007. Anxious does not even begin to cover how I feel any time my coach mentions those words. Everything I have learned will be put to the test. Doubts about my strength and what I have accomplished slip into my mind on a regular basis, but I push them away before any damage is done. I know that when I set my mind to something, I can accomplish more than I ever dreamed; I have proven that to myself over and over again. I may be nervous, but I know I can do this; I have faith in myself. I know I am capable of anything I want to achieve, as I have set my mind on showing everyone how far I have come in a year, and I will succeed. I believe in myself. I believe that I can do anything I set my mind to. I believe in mind over matter.
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