The date March 10th did not use to mean anything to me; except for maybe that it was a 40 day countdown until my birthday. But that all changed on March 10th, 2013 when a huge life changing event and decision took place.
Exactly one year ago today I joined my my friends on the soccer field, like I had been doing since I was 5 years old. I did not realize that the game on that Sunday morning would be my last. A horrendous 4-1 loss that didn’t make it to the final whistle was how I finished my soccer playing days.
Every game I played since I was 5, every practice, and every scrimmage, there was only one goal which was to win. Even when we were losing 4-1 in the final minutes of the game; I sacrificed the rest of my playing days to avoid the 5th goal from going in.
While preventing the other team from scoring the 5th goal (in a play that has never ending slow motion replays in my mind), I completely shattered my ankle. Dislocated ankle, tore all of the ligaments and tendons, and fractured the tibia bone in the leg. “Your foot is only hanging on to the leg by pure skin” were the word from the nurse that treated me in the Emergency Room.
While laying on the soccer pitch in tremendous & indescribable amounts of physical pain; an equally painful decision was taken by me; I would never play soccer again. Many, including my coach figured that was a “heat of the moment decision” due to the physical pain that I was experiencing.
But 365 days later that decision still stands, as painful as it might be. It is one of the most difficult things to do, to let go of something you love so much. Like I said before, I have been playing this game since I was 5 years old, and now it is just gone out of my life.
Traded the Field for the Press Box
It is surprising to see everything that has happened in the last calendar year since that life changing injury. While I had started to take my first baby steps in the world of journalism around that time; I was still working at a dead-end fast-food restaurant part time in order to pay my bills. Two days before the accident I had gotten into big argument/fight with my boss and felt I could be fired at any moment.
The months that followed the injury were some of the toughest months in my life. Being stuck in a bed or couch for months at a time just about finished breaking what was left of me. There was nothing to do except to swim in my own thoughts. I don’t think there is a worse feeling in the world than to feel completely helpless or useless; if there is I do not care to find out how that feels.
I also felt I had lost the little bit I had gained in the journalism journey, I had spent the last two years writing articles in personal blogs (this one) and sharing them on Twitter. This had finally opened some doors and I was starting to receive opportunities to not only attend events as a credential member of the media; but also getting paid for my writing. All of this I felt slipping away as I laid in bed for the next several months. I kept writing a few articles as much as I could with the mild depression that started to sink in.
The feeling of desperation took over and I started to push myself to push my limits. While my entire right leg (Up to the knee) was still in a cast and I had to use crutches to hop around; I decided to get in my car a go somewhere. I had to teach myself to drive with my left foot while my right leg rested across the passenger seat.
Next, on a whim I decided to take off to Mexico City for the weekend to watch my favorite soccer team Club America play a playoff match. That weekend turned into three weeks as I watched America win out the playoffs and be crowned league champions. All of this while still having to rely on crutches to move around.
When I returned from my trip, I pushed myself to start taking steps on the surgical boot. About a week later I pushed myself to take a few steps without the crutches. I was still wearing the boot, but I was finally able to walk with my hands free for the first time in months.
I might have been a little too eager and pushed myself to do things a little too early as I am still not 100% recouperated,
In the following two - three months I began to receive bigger and better assignments from the job I had started just before my accident that pushed me to do more and more walking and standing. I also received another job opportunity. I was hired by another media outlet and now I work both of those jobs and absolutely love them.
For the first time in my life I am able to make make a living doing something I love. To the point to where I do more work just for the pure enjoyment on my time off.
In one year I have gone from flipping burgers, to writer, to JOURNALIST. But reaching the “journalist” title was by no means me reaching an end line; it was me reaching the start line. Each new achievement brings with it a new goal to work towards.
Yes, I gave up something I love like playing soccer. The decision was a painful one, and I do miss suiting up and competing for the win. But it is one of those tough decision that I have no regrets making. I don’t think I am mentally prepared or equipped to deal with another serious injury (there have been other injuries besides this one). I must also now protect that journalistic career that I have build.
If a broken down and semi-depressed me can accomplish so much in 365 days; can you imagine what a fully healthy, and dedicated Jonny Rico can accomplish?