“Why?” A puzzled look quickly came over my mom’s face after hearing my plea to transfer schools going into senior year. This was an anticipated question yet my mind was blank. I frantically searched for any answer that sounded convincing enough: “Um, I just don’t feel at home here.” Her maternal gaze shot right through to the truth, and my lying skills were left feeling pathetically inadequate.
My life has always centered on remaining active, as evidenced by competing on elite soccer teams since kindergarten. Ironically enough, I always despised running. I considered it pointless and boring and I loathed that aspect of any sport. But when confronted with challenges off the field, my first instinct was always to run.
As I began high school, an undeniable burden strengthened with each passing day. I subconsciously created a game to compete with my two older sisters, both juniors at my school. While their presence was beneficial at times, it came with an unshakable pressure that served as a constant reminder of where I fell short. In response, I tried on countless masks, desperately trying find myself. Before I knew it, I was lost. As months went by, someone recognized and seized upon my weakness and vulnerability. October 3rd, 2014 marked the start of my battle with sexual abuse.
I became increasingly wrapped in a shroud of helplessness as I constantly lived in a paranoid state, always anticipating the next encounter. I shut out my family and friends in a desperate attempt to hide my problems from them. Dying to break free from this confinement, running was where I sought comfort. This led to the exploration of nearly every escape, including trying to transfer schools. Hoping a new environment would lessen the reminders of my pain, I begged my parents to consider allowing me to transfer. These efforts were futile and my propensity for running continued to grow.
Running provided a false sense of security and shallow comfort, and it quickly became my “go to” whenever problems would arise. This process was destructive, as it forced me to bottle up past emotions and even led me to run away from home one night. Hours passed as I tried to physically outrun what seemed to be insurmountable problems. Eventually exhaustion caught up with me, but this form of exhaustion was unfamiliar. It was not the fatigue after a ninety-minute soccer game, nor the drowsiness after a rough night’s sleep. Despite this exhaustion’s unusual form, its source became clear: I had finally grown exhausted of running from my problems.
Desperate and alone, I turned to God. Almost instantly, as if enveloped by a blanket of calmness and clarity, I did an about-face and began the long journey back home. I was determined to retrace every step until I found my lost self. Opening up to my parents, severing the relationship with my abuser, and rediscovering my love for God was a difficult but life-altering journey. In my commitment to move forward, I sought more leadership roles at school, resumed attending church, and volunteered more within my community. It was along this journey that I learned maturity develops by facing and persevering through one’s problems, not trying to will them away through avoidance. Breaking my running habit by standing up to one of my seemingly insurmountable problems started a ripple effect, resulting in the return of my strong and confident demeanor. The urge to run has now been replaced with the fortitude, confidence, and resolve necessary to stand up to the countless challenges I will continue to encounter.
My life has made the needed transition into adulthood by leaving behind former insecurities while maintaining an optimistic and passionate personality. As for my running shoes, I no longer reserve a place for them in my closet, because while future struggles and challenges will forever remain unknown, it is certain that I will not need to run.
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