Throughout my life, dance was everything to me. It was therapy, it was my self-expression. I couldn’t picture myself without it.
Mental Health and physical health coexist. I have learned about these two important pillars of life very closely throughout my battle with injuries. Throughout seven surgeries and a chronic illness diagnosis, I fought for dance. I wasn’t ready to let go because I didn’t know who I would be without it.
But my eighth surgery, a meniscus transplant, would be the one that changed it all.
I knew holding onto this hope of dancing at the same level wasn’t going to be realistic. I was devastated. Who would I be without dance? My world felt like it was crumbling down.
After I allowed myself to feel the range of emotions (even wallowing in some self-pity), the dynamic changed. What if this is just a redirection? Just a small piece of a bigger picture.
I realized that “bouncing back” or being resilient doesn’t necessarily mean coming back to your sport at the same level, it means coming back to the sport you love with a new perspective and appreciation. No matter how much you believe things are over, your sport is still there, and there are so many possibilities to continue this love of the sport and channel this energy into something positive.
For me, it was channeling the emotions of watching my teammates participate in preseason when I was stuck on crutches and turning it into a “modified preseason”. Pretending my physical therapy exercises were just another part of preseason, and appreciating every single part of the journey. Even my physical therapist picked up on this change of dynamic. After my range of motion doubled, we took the time to celebrate the win and commemorate it as a big step in my journey.
At this point in my recovery, I can’t help but be thankful for this experience. It has made me appreciate the small things in life. Without this experience, I would not have found some of my closest friends. I also would not have met some of the biggest cheerleaders in my life, standing on the sidelines and celebrating with me through the wins and offering me a shoulder to cry on when things get tough. Without this experience, I would not have found my future career path in medicine. Things may feel like they are crashing down, but sometimes that just means it's time for things to be rebuilt and renovated, into an even more stunning chapter.
My biggest realization throughout all of this has been the redefinition of bouncing back, resilience, and grit. Resilience doesn’t mean fighting through pain and pretending it isn’t there, it is listening to your body and taking the courage to rest. Grit doesn’t mean trying to prove your strength to those around you, it means knowing your own strength, even when you are at your weakest.
Many people talk about the trials and tribulations of being an injured athlete, but it is hard to understand until you face the situation yourself. That is why I share my story, the ups and the downs. I know how devastating it is. But for every loss, there is even more room for new beautiful experiences in life. Maybe this isn’t the end. Maybe this is a redirection into some new, beautiful chapter of life.