Overcoming Obstacles and Conquering Insecurity

At age four, I was diagnosed with a chronic neurological illness called hydrocephalus, meaning that I had excess cerebrospinal fluid that caused pressure to build up in my brain.

At age four, I was diagnosed with a chronic neurological illness called hydrocephalus, meaning that I had excess cerebrospinal fluid that caused pressure to build up in my brain. When the pressure reached a certain point, I suffered from a persistent, acute headache that prevented me from thinking, speaking without difficulty, and walking normally. For many years, I was a (relatively) normal kid who did well in her classes, loved to hang out with friends, and participated in various extracurricular activities. Throughout my childhood, I was determined to not let my diagnosis affect my day to day life.

And for a while, I succeeded. Although I had intermittent procedures to repair the shunt that was keeping the fluid in control, I was always able to bounce back to my daily activities within a couple of days.

That is, until my II Form year. I came to Lawrenceville as part of the Class of 2019, but I had to have two more surgeries just a couple of weeks before the start of school. I spent the first trimester struggling to recover from surgery and I did this while going to classes and trying to adjust to the whirlwind of life at Lawrenceville. “One day at a time,” I told myself. “You are going to get better.” I took it slow, working up to going to more on-campus events, and over Turkey Term, I was even cast in the Freshman Shakespeare production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Yet my health challenged my hopes, and another surgery in January led to my extended medical leave from school. Even when I returned to school as part of the class of 2020, I hit a couple more roadblocks and underwent more operations.

The week I learned I would have to take a medical leave, I shook with racking sobs for hours on end. Even though I kept busy while I was out of school, it was still the hardest time of my life, a time when I felt excluded from “normal” teenage experiences like hanging out with friends, talking to classmates in the hallway, or even going to school.

I remember the first day of my first II Form year and the first day of my second one; the latter should have easier because I knew what to expect. However, for me, it was the opposite. As I walked from the car to the Kirby Arts Center (KAC) for registration the second time, under my breath, I was singing “Whistle a Happy Tune,” from The King And I. “Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect, and whistle a happy tune, so no one ever knows I’m afraid,” I sang. I am not afraid to admit that yes, I was afraid that day. I was scared of being rejected by my peers, scared of being labeled “stupid” for having to repeat the school year. Even after the year was over and I finally completed my II Form year, I was still scared that I would never be able to make friends or that I would never feel like part of the Class of 2020. What if I was left in the strange and empty purgatory between the Class of 2019, of which I was no longer a part, and the Class of 2020, of which I was a part of for such a short period of my life? Would I ever truly belong?

Yet despite my medical obstacles, Lawrenceville provided me with numerous opportunities to be involved and overcome my initial insecurities. One might think that my Lawrenceville experience was defined by my medical challenges. However, I would argue the opposite: my medical challenges only made me appreciate and value the Lawrenceville experience more.

When I returned, I was eager to take advantage of all the little things that I had not fully appreciated before. All of the difficult classes, sports, and extracurriculars are chances for us to discover our passions—and that’s exactly what I did. Given my medical situation, I wondered if I would actually be able to take advantage of all of the opportunities Lawrenceville offers. Yet the School pushed me to pursue all of the opportunities available. Because of seemingly minor, random experiences both inside and outside the classroom, I developed newfound passions in history and English while reaffirming my love for Language and Theatre. My teachers were especially instrumental in pushing me to pursue those new passions.

While those may seem like conflicting interests, I wanted to take part in as much as possible, perhaps in an attempt to make up for lost time. My involvement in all of those opportunities made me a more well-rounded student and allowed me to fully explore my passions. With the academic activities and support that Lawrenceville awarded me, I was able to learn more about my interests and myself, preparing me for a future outside of Lawrenceville.

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