I came to the US to chase the dream of a college education and playing soccer at a Division I program. I was all alone in a place where I had no family or friends and I thought that this would be the hardest part. Little did I know, the hardest part was yet to come. My first season wasn't as successful as I’d hoped and I had lost a lot of confidence in myself after losing many games, but I kept pushing. Year two brought a new coach and new players who helped change the program and restored confidence in my playing ability. As my season progressed and I started playing the best I've played since I got there, it all changed in a matter of seconds.
One late tackle and my season was over…a torn ACL, lateral meniscus, and medial meniscus, which was completely torn off the bone. I didn't walk for three months. I had no clue how much this would change my life. I began feeling a roller coaster of emotions, highs and lows, the fake smiles so no one would know what was happening to me. I questioned myself every day: why me? I felt like the entire purpose of me coming to the US was now null and void. Everything I had been working for had been wiped away and no matter how hard I tried, my knee just wouldn't bend. Five months later and I could barely walk, jog or jump or even bend my knee.
A second surgery was now what I needed to fix everything and it did. It worked! But then COVID hit. I was in isolation, going to online classes, not just for a few months, but for an entire year. There was very little human interaction and socializing. This pandemic just exacerbated all the things I had previously felt. It took me this long to realize that I may actually be suffering from anxiety and depression.
A year and a half later and I thought: finally, I can be with my friends again, I can play again and everything in the world would be right where it was supposed to be. Yet again, I was wrong. Two months later at a training session, my next knee completely gave out from below me. I thought I was fine until I got those results from my MRI and there it was …another torn ACL, another surgery. Just like that my world was turned upside down.
It was at this point that I thought that I was going to quit and never play the sport I loved ever again. My mental health was at its lowest point; it was quite literally in the toilet. I could not see my way through it but all I could hear in the back of my head was my mother’s voice saying, “we got this” and quite frankly, that's the only thing that kept me going through everything I felt. She has been my rock and I'm extremely grateful for her support.
Here I am another year and a half later preparing for yet another preseason hoping that this year would be the year I could finally finish what I started on the field. As a student-athlete I know that it is sometimes the most difficult thing, late nights, early mornings, twenty-page assignments, and the high pressure and expectations to be the best player, student, and person that you can be. Yes, it's true that diamonds are made under pressure, but sometimes diamonds crack. We are not perfect and I believe that sometimes we lose sight of the things that matter. It isn't about which program brings the most money or is most successful. We as student-athletes have to support each other and look out for each other, never leaving each other to go through hardship alone. We are still human beings and should continue to be treated as such.
I am honored to share my story with others and hopefully in the long run help others through their hard times. These trials have truly made me a stronger person in the end. What I do want to share is that you as a person are bigger than any trial you may face. Take everything one day at a time and one step at a time. God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers. These battles don't define you, they just make you better and stronger. NEVER GIVE UP!