Keep the Faith

Everyone has a story right now, and in no way do I believe I am entitled for anyone to listen to mine. I am not sure why I am starting this, but I am going to tell a story about my senior year in high school.

I know there’s other people like me- the people who take all the hard classes, volunteer as much as they can- not to check it off the list, but because we enjoy it-, participate in every extra curricular activity, and have something they are extremely passionate about. For me, it’s running. I could run forever and never get tired of it. I have never been particularly good, and I have run into many bumps along the road, but recently I have been fighting for every second.

There is a lot more to this story. From the outside I am an average runner who unfortunately did not get into my dream school. I am someone who looks perfect on paper, but something went wrong because statistically I should be exactly where I want to be- where I have worked my ass off for the last 18 years to get to. Shall I start from the beginning?

Years ago I set my eyes on the United States Air Force Academy. I truly believe God talked to me one day during church. He told me that it was my job to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Ever since then, I’ve been determined to join the Air Force and fight for others and my country. This is what I have built my life, my goals, and my dreams upon. From that point I worked even harder. (I did push ups every night so I would pass the physical test I would have to take in a few years). I visited the Academy Summer 2018 with my grandpa, a retired Air Force pilot, and my mom. I’ll never forget standing in the Academy’s FamCamp under the Colorado stars, surrounded by the smell of the pines, and of course, the beautiful Academy, feeling more at peace than I ever had in my life. I still curse this day because I can’t understand why that feeling would betray me. The next Summer I attended the Summer Seminar. I was already in love with the Academy, but this trip made it even more clear that this was my future home. I hate myself for believing so much in something that I had no guarantee of- for having faith.

With all of this said, I have eczema on the palms of my hands. It had never affected me in a serious way. If it hurt, I kept fighting. If it bled, I put a bandaid on (sometimes), and I moved on. This was tested when I played basketball. I played year round from 7th until 11th grade. Some games I had to wrap my hands so blood would not get on the ball. I see now how ignorant I was of the seriousness of my condition. My condition has improved so much since then, but the doctor records can’t be erased. It is hard for me to believe that I cannot serve my country because I have dry skin on my hands. Fuck that.

I was eager to apply so as soon as the application opened, I was working on it. Although, I did have a busy Summer. I had XC practice three times a week, along with running everyday. I worked and on Fridays I volunteered at the hospital. You could say that I like to keep myself busy. Yet, I continued working on the application. Not only did I have to apply to USAFA, I had to apply for a nomination. I applied to both my senators and my congressman.

My senior year of high school began. I signed up for 5 AP classes and one honors class. Why not challenge myself? Why not get as much college credit as possible? (Unfortunately, I negatively can answer these questions now). I had to balance a lot, but I had done this my entire life. I had XC practice everyday after school. As a captain, I had a few responsibilities that probably took longer than they should have. I had a lot of pressure from my dad over the season to perform well. I had no good races the entire season. This was heartbreaking. I quit basketball to focus on something I was doing awful in. BC Calculus was absolutely kicking my butt. I had a C average, and I have been an all A’s student since I was born. Not to mention, I was falling in love with the most amazing human to ever walk the earth.

Through all this, I began getting responses from the senators and congressmen. Luckily, I got an interview with all three! I was beyond nervous for these interviews, and practiced quite a bit. I prayed a lot going into them. Slowly, the results reached me. I got a nomination from all three sources. I am fairly confident this doesn’t happen often, and it only made me confident in my future. I guess I believe that God could not possibly send me all these signs, and make me successful, and then take it from me?

The application had a physical test that I asked my track coach to administer. I trained so much for this because I knew the better I did, the more impressive it would look on my application. After XC practice I would come home and do pull-ups, sit-ups, and push-ups. I did countless reps. My goal was to max out push-ups and sit-ups, and be above average in every other category. The only category I was average on was the basketball throw (I cut myself some slack on thsi one). I remember how in every interview they made a point of congratulating me on the fitness test. It felt good to hear that they had noticed my hard work.

Now, this is going to sound silly, but I also remember the worst day of my life. Since then, it has spiraled down and down, and it feels like even God has been struggling to carry me on (and sometimes I have felt completely abandoned). I knew I would not be medically qualified, so I sent in a waiver request and some extra papers. In hindsight, I have no idea why I thought that this would be enough, but ignorance is bliss. I was walking into school and I checked my email. I had gotten one from the Academy regarding my medical status. I was so excited and nervous, but I have always been an optimist, and I figured God was fighting this for me. Together, I was confident my waiver got accepted. In first period I was able to open the letter. You could probably guess what it said. My waiver had been denied, but not only that, the letter made it seem like there was no chance of going on, or trying again. I cried through my entire test in second period; my teacher and best friend were a little concerned. I checked myself out after that and crie the entire way home.
So I had a setback. An academy cadet would keep trying (and maybe they would have cried less?) That’s what I did. I called the number in the letter and asked every question I could about how I could fix this. Ultimately, it was not my decision whether this would be fixed, it was God and the government who was in control. Unfortunately, the latter is rather untrustworthy. I knew from that phone call I had no hope. My lifelong dream went down the drain. My mom cooked A LOT. My best friend prayed and prayed. My boyfriend held me forever as I cried, and he still does (I keep praying I’ll get over this soon). Something so close to me had died. A dream I had had longer than any of my friends- a dream I had worked so hard to accomplish.
So that phone call did not go as planned. I kept trying. I called everyone I knew and everyone they knew that I thought could help. I went to more doctors and tried to prove that I was fine. I got multiple doctor recommendations that I am perfectly capable of serving. I went to appointments, and I waited. The lady on the other end of the phone was so tired of me and my hopeless calls. This process took months, but there was nothing left I could do. I remember one night when I asked so many saints to pray for me. I stayed up for hours praying. Somehow, I still believed it would work out. I had my grandparents, family, and small group all praying for some miracle. I held onto this hope.

XC season had ended, and I had my eyes open for track. I planned on running the 800. My dad is an amazing coach and he trained my best friend and I during the indoor season. I had never worked so hard for something in my life (and I used to stay in the gym hours after practice). I wanted to run so badly in college. I had some big goals, and if my USAFA goals failed, at least I could run. I ran 5 indoor meets unattached. It was wild. I had never thrown up so much for something in my life. The workouts we did hurt and they were paying off. I felt 10x stronger than I did over the XC season. It was a fun adventure. The stress hit when school track started, and our school coaches ahd to get involved. We stayed doing our own workouts as long as possible. It was hard because they knew how hard we were working and they knew our PRs, but not once did they say “good job” or “congrats.” Our head coach saw us running our butts off everyday, and he still yelled at us. Later in the season he called me a “half-timer.” I had one coach tell me that I would never run in college unless I ran XC, because colleges take any female XC runners. This entire time I was the fastest 800 runner and hurdler on the team. I shouldn’t let their words and actions bother me so much. I had my times to speak for themselves. So my best friend and I kept working towards our goals.

On February 28th, I was notified that I was not admitted into the academy. I was not surprised, but I was heartbroken all over again. The tears came again. Some days it hits harder than others and I can’t get out of bed or go to school. How could it be that my dry hands are holding me back from my dream? How could I excel so much in every category that I had control over, and fail so hard in the easiest one? I still don’t understand. But I have to think of other colleges. In the end, USAFA was my only chance to go to an “expensive” college or to go out of state. Unless I got the Type 1 AFROTC scholarship. Getting the lowest scholarship hit hard too. It was hard to accept that my best-my high test scores, my extracurriculars, my grades- were not enough. I received a Type 7 scholarship, which I am very grateful for. Throughout my life I only strive for the best, so I was humbled big time. The day before the scholarship results came out I told my best friend that the worst thing that could happen was that I got the lowest scholarship. I tricked myself into believing that 3 nominations correlated into a big scholarship. However, I soon learned that that was not the worst thing. At this point, I can’t even be awarded the Type 7 scholarship because of my medical condition (that makes it sounds serious, LOL). No ROTC scholarship? Fine, I’ll find a new way. I still have running.

I let myself daydream (when I wasn’t studying or running) about this. Maybe I would have a signing party like my friends. Maybe my hard work would pay off in some way. I felt like with almost everything that had been taken, I could ask for at least a chance with running.

I am so passionate about it that part of me still believes if I do not have the opportunity to sign with a school, I can walk on. There were two D2 schools I was talking to. However, they were out of state and way too expensive even with scholarships. So I keep working. I have dropped 11 seconds since December. 9 to go. Truly, I have never worked so hard in my life. When I broke 2:30 I was in the wrong heat. I was more than 50 meter in front of everyone. All I want is the chance to race girls who run sub 2:25. I was so excited to finally have a PR that would seed me closer to them. I wouldn’t have to imagine my competition. It would really be there. I would be fighting real runners. That race I came in 4th place from the 2nd heat. Next time I was planning on running right next to the top girls. Now “a next time” is questionable.

Now, I understand Corona has impacted the entire world. I pray for those who have it. I am just going to explain how it affected me. Track season is paused. For some reason I am allowing myself to have hope we will be back by the Region meet. We have already missed two Varsity meets, one of them being county. For some reason I am still working out. I am terrified I won’t have a chance to run another race, but I am still working my ass off- 200s, 500s, 300s (up hills?), RUNNING. I have changed my entire life to revolve it around my health and my workouts. I have given up a lot to focus on this. Now, that opportunity is falling through my fist despite it being clenched so tightly. What if I ran my last track meet without knowing it?
The virus has also hit my schooling pretty hard. At first, I was worried about learning all the material before AP exams (remember how I took 5 AP classes specifically for college credit). Fortunately, the college board has changed requirements, but I fear the repercussions of this. I fear that all the work I have put in the past two semesters would not have been worth it. I couldn’t even count the nights I stayed up past 2 am to study for these classes, and the nights I stayed up crying and praying that I would make it through the next night. It has been a rough year, and right now, it almost seems like everything- all of my hard work- means nothing.

Sure, I have learned a lot about determination, but that’s in my blood. I guess I have become so much stronger- but that doesn’t pay for college. My faith has been tested, and I think this is where I fall short. I have been so angry at God, but I keep praying and calling to him.I have gone to so many people for help. God gave me the people I needed to keep moving. I am so grateful for that. But I have so many questions. I am restless, and haven’t touched His overwhelming peace in forever. My future used to be so clear, but now the fog is thicker than ever. I have no idea what the end of my senior year will look like. It feels like all I have learned is that I try way too hard. If I had tried half as much, I truly believe I would be in the exact same place I am today. I think I would still be attending GT, not participating in AFROTC through a scholarship, and not running on their track team. I guess I still believe if I get the chance to run again this season, that possibility is still alive.

I hate letting dreams die, but medical records do not die. So who knows if God even still calls me to be in the Air Force. What do you guys think about the Navy?
I guess I wrote this to tell someone that she/he is not alone. There are some of us who cry ourselves to sleep because we are so stressed and overwhelmed, whose worlds have been turned upside down, who have lost control, but we have to stay strong for some reason that is incomprehensible to us- something beyond our knowledge. When we wake up, it is time to keep going. It is time to put a new face on and fight for whatever you have left.