It’s something everyone faces in some capacity. Some adversity may challenge you, some may break you, and others may ignite a fire within you that completely changes who you are as a person. Often, you get one or two of those feelings as you evolve in your struggle. For me personally, I found that through adversity I experienced all three. In early October I suffered a season-ending injury, which resulted in me needing reconstructive shoulder surgery. Until this surgery, I had never missed a single hockey game due to injury.
Mentally, having hockey taken away from me unexpectedly was heartbreaking. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to handle it. As an athlete your sport gives you a sense of who you are. It helps you create an identity, and in the worst of times it gives you a release; a space to free yourself of any emotions that trouble you. For me, this is what I struggled with most. Without hockey, I lost the ability to clear my head from everything that was weighing on me. As I progressed in my recovery from my surgery, I found myself sad, lonely, and slowly losing my passion for the sport I love. I didn’t have that drive I expected to have when I showed up to the rink to do my rehab. Maybe it was because my rehab included lifting my arm merely an inch at a time, or maybe it was because I was discouraged at the rate I was progressing.
I guess I’ll never know, but what I did know was that in order to find my happiness and passion again I had to make changes. I explained to my parents that I felt like I was losing myself. My dad raised me the best he could. He did everything in his power to make me the happiest kid I could be. I explained to him that my surroundings were hurting me worse than my surgery did. I wasn’t myself. I had people say, “I haven’t seen you smile in weeks.” For anyone that knows me, I usually always have a smile on my face. Through this journey I found a sense of help in writing. I wrote down all of my emotions, good and bad, happy or sad. It was a release of stress, anxiety and sadness that I used to be able to release in hockey. So here I am writing to you today.
It’s okay to make changes in your life. Sometimes they might be scary and you fear doing it. I had a teammate share this quote with me, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something good will come of it. “ That quote empowered me to endure the hardest patch of time I had endured in my short nineteen years of life. It’s easy to get lost in the world we live in today, lost within your daily life, but it’s even easier to get lost inside yourself. As I dwelled on the situation I was in, the things that had happened to me, and the goals I was no longer able to achieve, I lost sight of the big picture. I was allowing my adversity to break me. I was letting the things I couldn’t control dictate who I was and how I was acting. That wasn’t who I wanted to be, nor did I want it to define me.
It took all the courage in the world to make the next decision I made: I decided to leave Clarkson University at the end of my first semester of my sophomore year. It’s hard to admit to yourself that you’re unhappy. It’s even harder to admit to your three coaches, 20 teammates, and other staff members that you have to make this decision for yourself. These weeks were the hardest of my life. I struggled with letting people down, being looked at as a quitter, I felt weak. But one day I wrote this: “Is it really quitting if you’re losing yourself in the process?” It struck me that my mind could make such a powerful statement without me fully understanding it in the moment, but looking back, I don’t look at myself as a quitter. I look at myself as someone who overcame adversity and learned that sometimes you have to put yourself first and realize that making a change may be the best decision you’ve ever made.
Fortunately, I was granted a medical red shirt year for my sophomore season, meaning I would have three more years to play whereever I ended up. Clarkson gave me many lifelong skills I will carry me with forever, as well as some amazing memories. But it wasn’t the honor of being crowned a National Champion that I left feeling most grateful for. I was most grateful for learning how to struggle and how to overcome the unimaginable situations life throws at you.
Fast forward three months. I’m almost cleared to participate in contact practices, and am the happiest I’ve been in so long. I’ve found a new home at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh and, most importantly, I’ve found myself again. I’m so fortunate for the struggles I’ve endured and the adversities I’ve overcome because it’s made me who I am today. I am a more level-headed, understanding, resilient and strong individual.
When faced with adversity, my advice to anyone who reads this is to face it head on. Be emotional, be vulnerable, and be sad. It’ll only teach you valuable lessons. But also be bold, brave, and strong, because the only way to overcome your adversity is to the find the courage to realize that the situation will not define who you are. I appreciate anyone who reads this, as it’s the raw truth about how I felt and the highs and lows of my journey. I’m not one to applaud myself for anything, but I do applaud myself for this. I would not have been able to make it through the times I struggled without the help of my family and my dearest friends who gave me some of the best advice that got me through the hard days. It’s to all of you that I owe my dearest and deepest thanks to.