The Columbia coach called me the other night and it is official, I’ve committed to Columbia! Since I have a reserved spot in admissions, I can submit my application as soon as possible. I’m trying to get it in this weekend but since I thought I still had a couple more weeks to complete the common app, it’s crunch time now! I will have already submitted my application by Monday, so I decided I’ll post my essay on here.
It feels the same every time- voices fading, eyes floating inside my head, heavy legs, a dull awareness that I am no longer conscious. Then I cascade to a dark place-a nothingness where time passes and I feel relief from the panic I experienced moments before. When I wake, dull sensations of sound and sensation come flooding over me and I start to cry. Eventually, familiar faces will register and I realize what has happened. Yet again-I’ve passed out. And while this whole process is distressing to everyone else, I have become used to it.
I come from a long line of fainters. My sisters faint, my dad faints, and his dad before him fainted. I recognize there is a genetic predisposition for it; it is categorized as vasovagal response but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept or deal with. Added to the inconvenience and danger of it, I always faint in public and with flare. Mid race, competing hard, next thing I know I’m waking up to track officials staring down at me. Physics class, hit my tailbone wrong when I sit in my seat, and come to, with my head is in my classmates lap beside me. I’ve fainted in Central Park, the doctor’s office, the YMCA lobby-and while it makes for a funny story, after the fact, I have been the cause of serious stress and worry to my family and strangers alike.
This summer while reading a book on distance running, I learned about Kathy Ormsby, a would be famous college runner who left the most important race of her life, ran down a street and jumped off a bridge. Everyone said she tried to kill herself, that the pressure to perform had taken its toll and she couldn’t face not winning what should have been her victory. But I recognized, and the author gave her dignity, to identify what had really happened-she had a panic attack and lost control of her mind and body. She wasn’t spoiled or a primadonna and nobody put pressure on her. And when I faint, I’m not a weakling or intentionally checking out so I can avoid the situation at hand. Fainting is a physiological response and not something someone can control per se.
I have gained more than I’ve lost by being a fainter. I’ve learned to recognize the limits of the human body-of my body-and that while we are mostly perfect, everyone has imperfections that require adaptations, coping, and acceptance. I’ve learned to trust others-placing my life in their hands when I’m unconscious. I’ve learned humility-that I can at one moment be at my all time high and the very next, laying in the mud, jerking like I’m having a seizure. Most importantly, I’ve taken small steps toward accepting that I don’t have total control-over my life, my body, my fate-and despite that, I will always try my hardest, prepare for the best and the worst, and have hope for myself.