The Price Paid for Passion

The Price Paid for Passion
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Just over a year ago, I tore my ACL playing basketball. The moment was instantaneous. The recovery was not, but it was punctuated with milestones that transformed time from an obstacle, to a partner in my progression. So I've come to cherish the experience, which endowed me with a lot of life lessons, an increased appreciation for perspective, and what amounted to a tremendous sense of purpose and fulfillment.

After a lot of hard work, I returned to basketball and I felt complete again. This reunion spoke to the permanent significance of basketball in my life: The reintegration felt surprisingly seamless, immediately routine, and nondescript in a way that was unexpected but meaningful. It was like reuniting with a person you adore -- you anticipate the reunion, but you're such kindred spirits that when it happens it melts into normalcy almost before the impact of the moment can hit.

Either way, I was elated. I treated myself to new customized shoes and filled my days with as much basketball as possible. I truly can't do justice to the happiness that this re-immersion in basketball gave me; simply put, it's the unique fulfillment that comes with pursuing passion.

The reunion was short-lived, though. Just over a month of playing, and -- nearly to the date of the original injury -- I came down from a rebound in a game, and in that split second felt a small pop in my knee, and a much more significant pang of fear. To my heartbreak, the MRI revealed yet another complete ACL tear, this time in my other knee. Surgery was on the horizon again; as was basketball -- a distance far more upsetting than the proximity of the operation.

Hearing those words was crushing; they affirmed that something I had worked so hard to reintegrate in my life was slipping through my fingers yet again. But I knew that recovery is not assisted by tears or torment -- the opposite, in fact. It was positivity and perspective that propelled me through the months of rehab the first go around, and I knew I'd need them again. I told myself I would take one night to wallow, and then I would shift into motivation.

But something interesting happened. My sadness dissipated much faster than I'd expected. Here was a challenge before me, and in that, an opportunity to learn and grow.

And this opportunity has already started teaching me. I'm realizing, when challenges arise, it's crucial to resist the tempting but ultimately destructive allure of "if only," "what if," and "why me." This occurred to me as I initially felt myself sliding down that slippery path. You know how it goes: replay the moment in your head a million times, agonize over it, imagine every possible way in which it might have been avoided. All this, only to accomplish nothing but your own disheartening.

This year, the time period from injury to MRI to surgery was consolidated to less than four weeks; last year, it spanned over four months. This difference highlighted for me two crucial factors in overcoming a challenge: facing the truth of a situation in its entirety, and immediately establishing momentum toward improving it.

Dwelling in the unknown, while seemingly a comfort at first because it entertains the possibility of a better scenario, really just ends up having a crippling effect. Doubt and ambiguity result in an uninspired stagnation.

Truth, on the other hand, provides clarity. Better to take the reins of an unideal reality, than to become consumed by a more pleasant fantasy. Last year I spent months thinking maybe my injury was minor; those months were agonizing and debilitating, and never allowed me to move forward. Meanwhile, this time, the immediate MRI diagnosis was upsetting, but then I went to the gym and scheduled surgery -- I was able to gain momentum immediately.

I know that some of my positivity is a product of an internal, deliberate cultivation that eventually becomes habit. But a large part also stems from an external source: The people in my life. As I informed close friends, family, coworkers, and teammates of the news, I was blown away by the incredibly genuine love and support I received. Everyone's support was unique to who they were, and that filled me with an immense gratitude -- a gratitude that leaves no room for sadness, self-pity, or a narrowed view of my life. I am left with the simultaneously grounding and uplifting awareness of what a privilege it is to be faced with a setback that you can overcome.

The fact is, everything meaningful comes with a risk. If you open your heart, you risk heartbreak. If you love someone, you risk the pain of loss. And if you are passionate about something, you risk the nagging throb that comes when you are unable to do it. But I maintain that these risks are all worth it -- that they are, ultimately, at the very center of life's purpose. I remind myself of this in the moments where I'm frustrated by my circumstance. I have a passion, and in the thick of the most painful moments, I know that the price of that passion is still a privilege -- and a price I'm both willing and honored to pay.

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