I Experienced An Athlete's Worst Nightmare, But It Changed My Life For The Better

Courtesy of Taylor Goodwill
Welcome to the inaugural class of '29. We've selected 29 graduating college seniors, entering the "real" world in 2018, to write about the state of their lives. What are their hopes, dreams, fears, stressors, failures, and successes as they leave school behind? We will be releasing new entries on a daily basis. If you would like yours to be considered, please email classof29@refinery29.com.
“I’m sorry, there’s not much else we can do.” These are some of the worst words an athlete can hear. I would know — I was on the receiving end of them. The month before I left for my senior year of college, I was given an ultimatum: deal with an extreme amount of pain for another year or stop playing lacrosse. That news was hard to swallow. My whole identity was lacrosse. I started playing in third grade. My car is covered with stickers from my college, travel and high school lacrosse teams. I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I wasn’t able to play anymore, but more importantly, I felt like I lost an entire part of myself. I knew at that moment that my final semesters of college were going to be completely different than my other years. But what I didn’t know was that this bombshell would change my life in a positive way and give me confidence about my future adult life.
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Just a year before, when I was a junior, I had experienced another identity crisis of sorts. I came to college certain I would become an oncologist. There was nothing I wanted more than to help people, and treating cancer patients seemed like the right way to do that. So I declared my Biology major within the first few months of freshman year. But by my junior year, I was plagued by discontent. I started working more closely with my cell biology professor and realized that not only hated research, I loathed research. I panicked. “Taylor, you are an idiot. You just went through 2 years of college FOR NOTHING,” I’d tell myself. “You are going to graduate with a useless degree and thousands of dollars in debt.” These negative thoughts swirled around in my head for weeks. But then something extraordinary happened: I got hurt.
Illustrated by Paola DeLucca
I was diagnosed with chronic compartment syndrome in my shins. If you don’t know what that is, just imagine your muscle wanting to explode every time you exercise. Over winter break during my junior year, I started physical therapy. I was skeptical of this treatment because I thought nothing could be done for my injury. But after a few weeks, I began to notice that my pain was alleviated. I was in shock; how could seemingly trivial exercises and stretches stop my pain? Despite the amazing treatment I received, it was too late for me. My injury had progressed too far for me to keep playing without the pain. But my curiosity about my regimen grew every time I had an appointment. That’s when the lightbulb went off: as a PT, I would be able to help people without being in a lab.
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At first, I was nervous that I lacked the knowledge and skills for a career in physical therapy. I wasn’t a health science major. Would PT schools even consider my application? But when I stepped foot into my first day of my internship at my physical therapist’s office, I knew that this career was where I was meant to be. Physical therapy wasn’t enough to help my injury, but there are others out there who I can help before it’s too late. My decision to stop playing lacrosse was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, yet it sent me down a path that I never would’ve found on my own. And the hardships that I faced within the past year have fueled my determination to be successful as a physical therapist. I learned more about myself this year than I had in my other three years in college. I am strong and capable enough to pursue my dreams, despite my setbacks. What’s more, the team-like atmosphere of a PT office reminds me of the comradery of my lacrosse career. I never left a team, I joined a new one.
My coach once told me that the bumpiest roads lead to the most beautiful destinations and I think this mantra is truer than ever before. No matter how many obstacles are thrown at you, hard work and intuition will get you down that bumpy road. And trust me, that destination will be the most beautiful thing you will ever see.
Taylor Goodwill graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. Next up, she will be taking more classes in order to apply to physical therapy school in the fall.
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