small town girl. blond. scary movie fanatic. soccer player. while these things did contribute to the making of the girl I am today, I have found that it is the difficulties we have endured that really become the things that define you. specifically for me it was the past four years - conveniently my entire collegiate career. and it has been this four year journey that has given me the strength I so naturally depend on today to get me through anything and everything.
since I could physically kick a soccer ball, soccer became more than a sport I put my heart and soul into - it was my identity. my ability to run and dribble a soccer ball faster than any defender I was up against was the essence to my being. I was an athlete before I was anything else, and I couldn't imagine the day I wouldn't be.
in 2016, I had gotten into the school of my dreams and was recruited to play on their women’s soccer team. most importantly I was given another chance to play with my eldest sister who was a junior and captain of the women’s soccer team at the time. it couldn’t have felt more like home.
this all changed around the summer before I would be leaving for preseason. I had developed a breathing condition that would only flare up when I would exert myself (running, sprinting, or playing soccer). convenient. I spent that summer working out three times a day in hopes that this breathing condition was just a symptom of being out of shape. it wasn't.
for four years this breathing problem persisted, my inability to practice or play for more than fifteen minutes at a time before a sudden breathlessness came on not only impacted my playing time but my confidence. I was no longer the star soccer player I used to be back in high school. I was no longer a contributor, an impact player, and never a starter. my identity in that moment was unknown. the girl I had always been was suddenly nowhere to be found and I couldn’t help but feel alone in such a competitive environment.
from new york to colorado, doctor after doctor my diagnosis ranged from asthma to acid reflux to vocal cord dysfunction. I can count on two hands the number of laryngoscopies I had to go through all to result in an incorrect diagnosis and treatment. whether it was different breathing techniques or new medications I found myself once again hunched over on the field gasping for air.
senior year I had a new role - captain. I found myself questioning my potential yet again. I was expected to lead and set the example for the rest of my team when I had a minor impact on the actual playing field. I found it to be one of the most challenging things I have ever had to do: to be strong for those around you while you too are silently fighting your own battle. I put all of my effort and passion into the rest of my teammates focusing on their well-being and their emotional states to make sure our team was in the best shape possible. we ended up winning the ivy league championship and playing texas tech in the first round of the ncaa.
but that wasn’t my biggest accomplishment that year. I realized this whole experience had left me with a gift - a gift of strength that has allowed me to see and feel fear with the utmost positive attitude. I have never felt more empowered. it is this strength that will carry me to my fullest potential. I never became the college soccer star I thought I was going to be - I wasn’t scouted in reports, I wasn’t awarded any accolades, and I certainly had no chance in the ncaa collegiate draft. instead, I was given something more valuable - more lasting - an awareness that I have the strength to persist even in the darkest of times - a strength that will never leave me, and a knowing that there is nothing in this world that will ever take me down again. through losing my identity I was forced to recreate myself again, and this time with a strength that will never waiver.