The Struggle

My life was over. Or so I thought. I was suffocating in a small room on a paper covered bed that made a “crackling” sound every time my leg shifted nervously. I blacked out when the doctor came in with his sympathetic smile and packet that was supposed to make my living nightmare easier. I was told the curvature of my spine was now going to force me to wear a back brace…a cold chunk of plastic that would encase my abdomen and restrict every ounce of movement I had. “What do you think, Lexie?” I think I’m going to be sick. I am the warrior.
I am not one to shed tears in public but when I contemplated how the other kids at school might treat me, I broke down. I sobbed the entire appointment. And the whole ride home. And the whole trip to the mall to get new clothes (I couldn’t fit into the same jeans anymore—the hardest news for any girl).

The first few weeks I felt different, no longer comfortable in my own skin. I glimpsed at every student during class praying each sigh, snicker, or sneer wasn’t directed towards me. I cringed at the sound of the bell when I would have to face everyone in the hallway. There was always one kid that would strike me right in the stomach as he or she brushed past. I think they thought it was cool—someone’s stomach as hard as a rock—but I could still feel it. I wanted to bury my face under the brace like a turtle in its shell. I am the warrior.

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I survived. My friends didn’t care. The boys were nicer to me than they have ever been (they dove at the opportunity to carry my books or pick up a dropped pencil). Although it was difficult to eat, sleep, breathe and move, I endured those two years stronger than ever. The brace didn’t destroy my life…it formed who I was. I became the girl who didn’t care what others thought. The girl who never gave up. The warrior.
This girl who never gave up, this warrior, was once told she wasn’t going to be able to succeed. “Now Lexie, not everyone can get good grades.” These words are the only memory I have of my third grade teacher. I glared back, traumatized. I didn’t know asking for help in social studies meant I was destined for failure. I could have proved her right. And got “average” grades. And glided through school. But where’s the fun in that?

She was wrong. My questions were not an indication of failure. And “average” was not a word I could associate with. Hearing those words didn’t make me give up—it forced me to push myself forward. Since that day, I have maintained a 4.0 GPA. To say that achieving my goal was effortless would be a lie. With it came late nights, stacks of note cards, and sacrifices. But embracing struggles whether they may be physical or mental proves character. Determination is being able to take life as it is…a challenge. I am the warrior.

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