"There are many ways to be free. One of them is to transcend reality by imagination, as I try to do. And whenever I fall, I rise and try try try"
-The Diary of Anais Nin, by Anais Nin
"Genu Valgum or the knock-knees" The doctor's words resonated in the clinic as I, an 11 year old, was trying to figure out the pronunciation of the word. ga-nyu waal-gam? geehnu wellgum? My father, however, looked rather worried. The icing on the cake was that I had flat-foot as well - a condition that obstructs most leg movements including sprinting, swimming and even dancing. This provided excellent explanation for my funny dance steps. However, my restriction on sport was something of a shocker as I had recently started swimming in an attempt to overcome my hydrophobia and h and had been a fervent tennis player. The doctor, while telling us that surgery was unnecessary, blatantly stated that I would never be able to play any sport properly.
My treatment began the very next week; I had to wear huge boots with custom insoles to school. Hoping for a miracle, the custom insoles were made for my sport shoes as well. In addition, my parents hired a physio-therapist. In school I was pelted with questions about the shoes, only to become the laughing stock. "Troll", muttered people as I passed by. I had become the social outcast, the boy who was avoided. The pain of wearing those shoes was so excruciating that I had to remove them every 10 minutes. Soon negative thoughts pervaded my brain "You have knock-knees and flatfoot, you can't win eitherways". The thought that I couldn't play had created a mental block.
After a frustrating few months I decided to forget about the deformity completely. I focused all my attention on practicing for the upcoming swimming and tennis tournaments. I removed the correction-insole from my sports shoes, without my parent's knowledge. I tried to grasp the art of compartmentalising, and made a conscious effort not to think about my visit to the doctor. Initially, I did stumble a lot, but considered it a problem with the tennis court surface, assuring myself that sprinting would be less problematic. I didn't improve in a day, a week, or even a month. It took a lot of time, deep breathing, and self-motivation. As I broke the barriers that I had mentally created, I could finally play, and play well.
In the ASISC State level athletic meet, I was competing against my competitor for the gold in back stroke, having a good lead over the others. With just 15 metres from the finish, my feet and hands started to give in, to the thought. Scared, I tried to flapper through the last few metres only to see the competitor pace by. In the back of my mind, neurons fired across synapses and signals triggered, forgetting everything else. It was just me, my competitor and the shiny little gold medal that reflected in the sunlight. I plunged harder and reached the finish. I had won. I had won not only the gold in the swimming meet but also against the thought that became my biggest deformity.
I remember my doctor telling me, without hesitation, that I would never be able to play a sport again and yet today I am a state level swimmer and a nationally ranked tennis player. All I needed was to believe. Even if I stumble today, i rise up and try try try.