When I started my junior year of high school, I was never more excited to play a season of football.
I was finally an upperclassman and was going to be a varsity starter on a team full of my friends. Life was good.
…for a few days.
In my first week of practice, I took a hit to my left knee. It wasn’t a big hit, but when I got up, I felt wobbly and limped to the sidelines. I drove home with gritted teeth, fearing that the pain in my knee was more than a sprain.
The next day I got an x-ray and a diagnosis: fully torn MCL (ligament that holds your knee together). It would take about two months to recover, which means I would miss almost all of the season.
I was crushed.
In a moment, all of the excitement I had for the season was replaced by misery, self-pity, and bitterness:
"After all the work I put in, this is what I get?"
"How is this fair?"
For a few days, I let my self-pity consume me. It did nothing to make me happier and, if anything, made me feel worse.
So, I realized that I had a choice to make: wallow about the fact that I couldn’t play football and continue to make myself miserable OR accept my situation and focus on what I could do.
Fortunately, my 16-year old brain was developed enough to chose the latter.
Sure, I was on crutches, but I was perfectly healthy from my waist up and there was plenty to work on there. So that’s what I focused on.
Everyday at 3pm when all my friends went to practice, I crutched my way to the gym and did every exercise I could think of that wasn’t weight-bearing: presses, curls, raises, you name it. Any movement I could do while laying or sitting, I did.
I kept to this routine and, instead of withering away on my crutches, I put on so much muscle that my mom asked my older brother to talk to me about whether I was taking steroids.
I wasn’t, mom. I was just 17 years old, lifting weights like it was my job, and eating stacks of peanut butter and ham sandwiches (yes, I actually ate that).
By the time I was ready to play for the last few weeks of the season, I was the strongest I had ever been.
When you get knocked down, it’s all too easy to let self-pity and bitterness consume you. Resist it. Resist it with everything you got. It will never make you feel better and will only compound your pain.
Instead, put your energy towards what you can improve and where you can make progress. No matter the situation, there is always something you can do. Always.
As Teddy Roosevelt said: do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.