The Path to Purpose by Nikita

Nikita's entry into Varsity Tutor's February 2024 scholarship contest

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The Path to Purpose by Nikita - February 2024 Scholarship Essay

“It’ll be three months until you heal. All you can do is wait.” My heart was racing and my stomach dropped. I couldn’t think about the next three months because all I could think about was the rest of my life. What was my future going to look like now that I could no longer follow my intended path?

Throughout my life, my goals shifted multiple times, but by the age of fifteen, I knew what path I wanted to take. Each day as I laced up my spikes, I felt eager to step on the track and improve. The combination of the rush I felt as I glided through the air, the serene breeze that brushed past me as I ran, and the competition that always ignited a fire in me all intensified my love for track. Through this love, I became increasingly more certain of the path I wanted to take: becoming a college sprinter. While I was already a good runner, I knew that reaching the heights I desired would take a tremendous amount of work. All my years of running had built up to one point, and I was ready to devote my senior year to achieving everything I ever wanted. However, one day every aspiration I had was suddenly shot down.

The air was crisp, my legs were warm, and the workout was simple; it was a routine day and I was ready to push myself towards my goal. Little did I know that what was about to occur would be anything but routine. It was the last part of my workout: as I burst out of the blocks I felt explosive, firing on all cylinders, gliding through the air, and running as if I had springs in the bottoms of my feet, until suddenly, I felt a jolt in my leg. It felt as if someone had stabbed a knife charged with electricity into my leg–a sudden shock of extreme pain, spreading throughout every muscle. I thought I would be fine, that I would walk it off just like every minor injury I had before, but sadly, this was not the case. I tried to run again, hopelessly, as the only thing I was met with was increasingly more pain. I didn’t know the magnitude of this injury, but what I was aware of was that this was serious and unlike anything I had dealt with before.
Going into the doctor’s office, I knew I would be met with bad news. A joint I had never heard of, set in the center of my pelvis, was majorly inflamed and therefore completely hindered my ability to run. Every yank or tug on this joint caused by running was met with excruciating pain. When they told me the only thing that could be done was to give me time, I felt as if an anvil of despair had been placed upon my chest. I felt hopeless, as if everything I had worked for up to this point had been thrown out the window, shattering the dream I worked so hard to achieve. My path had taken a drastic turn, and I was fearful of the uncertainty of where it may lead. There was nothing I could do in the moment except physical therapy.

As I began physical therapy, I was distraught. A piece of me that was so prevalent in my life had been abruptly taken away and it was killing me inside. I had no idea what else to do. I had always planned to run in college, but outside of that, I had no idea where to go after. As I progressed in my recovery, the therapists I interacted with were extremely supportive, compassionate, and helpful throughout the entire journey. The way they approached their care helped get me out of a dark hole that I would not have been able to escape myself. They didn’t treat me like just another patient, but instead like a friend and were there for me every step of the way. With time, I progressed physically and each little step slowly helped me pick up the mental pieces that were scattered after my injury. The way that they were able to help me, not only physically, but also mentally truly amazed me, and what I wanted more than anything was to be able to do this for others. This experience opened my eyes to a future outside of track and offered a plan that was more grand than the one I had in mind. Although I didn’t see the vision at first, I slowly began to realize that my time in physical therapy was much deeper than just my recovery. In a way, I believe it was my destiny as well.

Looking back, I'm tremendously grateful that this injury led to the realization that my original plan was not necessarily the best path. Everything that stemmed from this injury provided experiences in my life to steer me in the right direction for the future. In the moment, it was one of the most difficult experiences in my life, however, now that I can reflect on it, I realize that I gained an invaluable life lesson from it. Instead of aspiring to be a runner, I’m devoted to furthering my education as a Biology major to become a physical therapist, determined to be a positive impact in others' lives.

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