Everything DOES Happen for a Reason

Zachary - Flagstaff, Arizona
Entered on April 11, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: purpose, setbacks
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

It’s one of those throw-away phrases meant to make the receiver feel better after a bit of bad news: everything happens for a reason. In my case this is quite true. One of the worst parts of my life has brought me to the place I am today, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. That is why I believe everything does happen for a reason.

When I was about four years old, I was wrestling with my big brother. I jumped off a Lazy Boy at my brother, emulating a professional wrestler coming off the turnbuckle. I missed, and instead spiral-fractured one of my femurs. I was in a half-body cast for weeks and traction for months.

I have few memories of this time: my parents hiding Easter eggs around the hospital room so I could point them out, and a sharp pain in my lower back (it turns out a piece of a toy had fallen down my cast, digging into my lower back). It’s one of the three scars I have from the experience; the other two are where a traction pin ran through my leg. I finally healed. I remember being able to run again, but it was off. I was told young bones tend to grow as they heal. My right leg was an inch longer than my left.

It took until my teenage years for this problem to arise. I started having lower back and hip problems thanks to the unevenness. The best way to understand how it feels is to walk around with one shoe off; now imagine doing that every day for years. I was a great athlete until I was 16. I became injury-prone thanks to uneven wear. My sport of choice, basketball, became a problem: I would land awkwardly and I couldn’t get the mechanics of a good jumpshot nailed down. I went from being on the fast track to collegiate sports to someone who couldn’t play five days a week without getting hurt.

Thanks to the death of those plans, I entered college unsure of what to do. I went through four majors in three years; I was on and off academic probation. My health problems only got worse. In my early twenties, I could no longer walk a mile without back pain.

Life came back together when I was 22. I listened to my parents’ advice, and began studying to become a sports broadcaster in an attempt to bring sports back into my life. I went from academic probation to the Dean’s List. About 18 months later, I finally decided to have the major operation that would remove that inch of overgrowth from my femur.

I moved back home for the surgery. I spent my time healing and relearning how to walk. I went back to school using a cane to help me walk around campus. This would impact my life way more than I ever thought. I was looking for a person to share gas with to a Dave Matthews Band concert. I found someone on Facebook who was seeking a ride to the show. This girl was studying to be a physical therapist.

I met up with this girl prior to the concert so we could both make sure neither of us was a knife-wielding serial killer. We hit it off instantly. After the concert, we started dating. We were engaged about 18 months later. We finished our undergraduate degrees 9 months later, and were married a few months after that.

I had another leg surgery just prior to the wedding. They had to remove the hardware from the initial surgery. I didn’t so much walk at graduation; I hobbled, once again using my cane. As my wife and I were planning the wedding, I was doing all I could to ensure that I would walk and not hobble down the aisle. I had healed enough that I didn’t need the cane at the wedding. Weeks after the wedding, we both started our graduate degrees: my wife studying for a doctorate in physical therapy and me continuing my studies of communication.

It’s two years later, and I am now confronted with uncertainty. In a few weeks, my graduate assistantship will be done and I will be unemployed at one of the worst possible times in recent history. My wife has a year left of school, so I need to find a job to support us until then.

A degree in communication, even a Master’s degree, means at best remedial employment. The market is dead, especially in my field of interest, radio. The era of major conglomerate ownership of stations and syndicated programming means there are even fewer jobs in radio than other fields that are recoiling from the economic downturn.

Even though I am standing on the precipice of very tough times, I am not scared. Thanks to my belief that everything happens for a reason, I know that I will make it through this. After all, I the love of my life after years of pain, so I’m sure I can get something out of a few months of hard times.