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Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea
It was late August of 2004, at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York. I sat on my dad's shoulders as the sun scorched my skin, causing beads of sweat to stream down my face. The Stadium was silent as all 23,771 fans watched the last point of the U.S Open finals match between Roger Federer and Laten Hewitt. The sound of the ball smashing against racquet strings echoed throughout the stadium. The fans heads turned back and forth in sync, eyes hypnotized by the ball. Anticipation filled every person as the seconds passed by. Finally, Federer hit the winning shot, falling to his knees with joy. This was the day I fell in love with tennis.
Tennis is ingrained in my blood. Every generation of the Orellana family has played tennis dating back to the 1930's. The walls of my grandfather's house are lined with antique rackets, pictures, medals, and trophies which serve as a constant reminder of the shared passion that ties my family together.
My dad could not wait to share this passion with the new generation of the Orellana family, his children. He began coaching me before I even got the chance to learn the alphabet. His dream was for me to one day play college tennis, just as he and the majority of his family had once done. With this goal in mind, we trained all the time. My dad and I practiced for years, and the older I got the more realistic this goal became, which pushed me to train harder. I spent up to four hours every day at practice, forcing myself to become faster, think smarter, and hit harder. This soon became an ongoing, never ending cycle of constantly having to improve my game. The idea of always having to be better was mentally draining, and it forced me to ask myself a very important question: Was tennis something that I actually enjoy doing? This was a question that I pondered over for months. I knew that I had dedicated a substantial amount of my time as well as great effort into being the best player that I could possibly be. But, deep down I knew that I was not playing because it was my dream. Instead, I was playing because it was my dad's dream.
At the age of sixteen I had come to the realization that becoming a college tennis player was not what I truly wanted. I could not continue to play tennis knowing it made me unhappy. My biggest fear was telling my dad. Tennis was something that we bonded over, like a piece of string that tied us together. I was afraid that my decision would disappoint him, but I knew that choosing to no longer play was a decision that I had to make for myself.
Telling my dad this decision was a milestone in my life, it was the first monumental decision I had ever made. My dad's eyes flooded with disappointment the moment that I uttered the words that he feared he would one day hear. He attempted to convince me that I was too young to know what I wanted and I was letting my dreams slip through my fingers. But my mind was made up. I had made my final decision. I would no longer play tennis. I believe that this was the day that I grew up, like I jumped over an imaginary line from being a child to an adult. I realized that I had the ability to take control of my future by making my own decisions and in the process I might disappoint others, but I can never disappoint myself. Part of of growing up and becoming an adult is prioritizing yourself, which in turn means disappointing others because you are no longer putting their needs in front of your own.