Open Letter to an Ex-Athelete: How Injuries Force You to Move On

My childhood love was dance. From the time I could walk, I was doing pirouettes, cartwheels and constantly putting on dance shows with my friends and little brother. As I grew up, I enrolled in every type of dance class I could possibly fit into my schedule and became a member of a competitive dance team that traveled every weekend to dance competitions. My freshman year in high school I fell on stage and in a one single moment, everything changed. Later that year, I discovered that I had double hip impingements which had ultimately led to double labrum tears. The first two years of my high school career would be consumed with surgeries, brace fittings and physical therapy.

This whole ordeal not only affected my physical health, in the way of losing an abundance of body and muscle mass, but it also affected my mental health. I was depressed for months, which my doctors explained as relatively normal, but obviously, the facts didn’t do anything to help lift my spirits. I spent the next year watching from the sidelines as my best friends took my hard-earned spots in dances. I traveled with them to events, loaned them costumes, did their hair and makeup, and cheered them on as they competed. I was dying on the inside but smiling on the outside, and no one knew it but me. I could barely leave my house and my bed, much less do anything on my own. The worst part of all was that I couldn’t do what I loved the most in life. I worked the hardest I could for the next two years in physical therapy, doing anything I could do in order to dance again.

Two years later, I started to dance again. I had lost most of my flexibility and strength, but most of all, my confidence and the burning passion I once had for dance, due to the fact that I was holding hands with fear. I was embarrassed to have moved from the top of the totem pole at my studio to the very bottom. I was constantly terrified to do anything because I feared to injure myself again. I still wage war with my fears on a daily basis. Sometimes merely making the smallest choice can stop me dead in my tracks. I overthink every process and question every decision I make all because of one split second in my past. Life can literally change within a blink of an eye.

I think that what I am trying to learn is that moments are neither bad nor good, but that each one is bursting with potential. What we do with our moments is what shapes our lives. Losing dance was both devastating and expanding in the same breath. I don’t know why it’s the hard stuff that grows us the most. But I learned gratitude—gratitude for even the simplest things. If I could have told myself that I was going to get through the pain, maybe I wouldn’t have struggled as much as I did. If only I could have known what I know now, back then, maybe every moment wouldn’t have been so hard. But, who knows what the next moment may bring?