Ever since the fourth grade, cross country has been my absolute favorite thing on earth. I eat, sleep and breathe running; there is nothing that I love more. Running is my escape, my saving grace and my rock. However, when cross country started at the beginning of my freshman year of high school, my teammates turned on me. The same girls who had been my very best friends began to bully me and suddenly my escape became my prison. For four long, painful years, I went to practice every day and endured their toxic behavior. More often than not, the days ended with me going home in tears. I reached out to my coaches, my athletic director, my principal and any faculty member who would listen. I confronted my teammates multiple times but despite my efforts nothing got better, it only got worse.

The bullying followed me everywhere; to class, lunch and even home through social media. I had no escape, but I refused to give in and quit running so I suffered on. I grew tired, frustrated and even angry at times as the years passed by. By the time I was a junior it was difficult to convince myself to keep going to practice. Most of the time I had to train by myself because my so-called "teammates" refused to run with me. After junior year ended, I looked into switching schools but unfortunately, that was not an option for me. By the time I was a senior, those bullies had turned something I loved more than life into something I could no longer stand. I hated running, yet I still refused to give in. Quitting meant giving them exactly what they wanted and I would never give them the satisfaction of my defeat.

As my senior track season began, the bullying reached its height and I could not possibly take any more. Just as I reached my breaking point, I got injured. After a series of doctors' appointments, I found out that I had a stress fracture in my tibia, meaning that I would never be able to compete in high school again. I should have been devastated, but instead I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. My season-ending injury meant that I would never have to go back to practice with those bullies again. It’s a shame that broken bones hurt less than the way my own teammates treated me. My stress fracture saved me from months of emotional abuse and because of that I was able to rediscover my love for running. After taking over three months off to heal, I have started training again and I am now an NCAA athlete. I will be running both cross country and track for my varsity college team this fall and I could not be happier. If I had not been injured at the end of my senior year, I would not have joined my college team and I would have missed out on that incredible opportunity. Because of my stress fracture, I am now living out my childhood dream of being a collegiate athlete. 

No matter how much time we spend planning out the rest of our lives, some things are simply out of our control. Sometimes things go awry, and when they do it is best to leave it up to fate rather than panicking because it wasn’t part of the plan. Adversity is simply a bump in the road, a minor change to your plans. Those changes often lead to better things, so embrace them with open arms and make adjustments as you go. You never know when something seemingly horrible will turn out to be something wonderful in disguise. 

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