Stumbling on the Road to Success

By John Bernstein on June 16, 2013
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When reflecting on my second year in college, it becomes clear that I haven’t recently made any notable life decisions. I still enjoy studying neurological disorders and how to treat and cure them while, on the side, continue to improve and have high hopes as a long-distance runner.

Plans derailed

My drive and methods to go about achieving them, however, were put to the test early in the fall semester and, though these challenges had negative impacts on my success in the short-term, out of these struggles emerged a more competent and focused student and athlete. My path then, while its destination has not changed, has been subjected to a metaphorical bushwhacking. From sophomore year, I have derived a renewed commitment to the things that give my life meaning.

I invested a tremendous amount into this past fall semester. I committed to easily the most challenging academic semester I could have concocted Ð one jam-packed with an overload of complex courses centered around the biological basis for neural functioning Ð and pounded out the kind of weekly mileage over the summer that would set me up for great things when the cross-country season arrived. Ideally, these efforts would propel me to the next level both academically and athletically.

Sense of failure

The results, however, were anything but what I wanted. I contracted mono in early October that, as anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to suffer the illness knows, does a number on you both physically and mentally. Mono put a damper on the momentum I’d carried throughout the early cross season Ð reducing me to hobbling pale-faced across the finish line at the state championships Ð while rendering me bed-ridden for a week and with an inability to focus in class thereafter. I went home over winter break with a sense of failure. When asked, I had to tell friends and family that I hadn’t done as well in school as I knew I was capable of and tell old high school teammates that I hadn’t run as fast as I knew I should have.

And yet I didn’t wallow in self-pity. I still loved studying the brain and racing long distances, and refused to believe my lackluster performance was the result of a shortage of skill or talent. Instead, I planned a course schedule that would continue to challenge me, taking even more credits while refusing to elect easy-A courses that would bolster my temporarily debilitated GPA. When I was well enough, I hit the trails running again, steadily building my mileage back up through the cold and snow in anticipation of the approaching indoor track season.

Starting over

It’s only February, yet already I have fared much better than in the fall. My marks in the classroom and, at times, on the track are my collegiate bests and I continue to strive for better. As I learned from the fall, it’s possible I’ll contract whooping cough tomorrow, I could suffer a stress fracture from overworking my legs in a workout and be out of an outdoor track season. But, after my experience with mono, I know that no matter what happens, I will always get back up as soon as I can, hitting the books and running trails harder than ever Ð eyes always steady on the path ahead.


About the Author

John Bernstein

John Bernstein

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