This afternoon I went for a walk. I crossed the river, looked at abandoned buildings downtown, balanced along the edge of a fountain and hopped back down to the sidewalk.
This completely amazes me.
The reason is that in summer 2009 I broke my ankle in a parkour accident. (I don’t blame parkour, I blame my bad training habits.) I didn’t know it was broken at the time; neither did the doctors.
“You’ll heal up in no time,” a nurse promised me. “You’re young.”
You’re lying, I thought.
She wasn’t, not on purpose, but she was wrong. Her cheerful reassurance was no match for the ominous black bruises circling my leg. My ankle was bigger than a grapefruit, so big the stretching of the skin itself was painful.
The doctors didn’t see the break on the X-ray, and told me my ankle was merely sprained. Within days they told me to walk on it.
The broken ankle collapsed into pieces.
Gambling with Doctors
“Have you ever done this particular operation before?” I asked the surgeon.
“Yes, once,” he said.
“Did it work?”
“No. It failed under weight and shattered again.” He looked away. “Yours might be different.”
My other option was to have the man fuse my ankle permanently. It would never move normally again, but it would stop hurting and bear my weight.
Not good enough. I chose to have him attempt to rebuild it.
Now, 20 months after the original injury, I still have pain, stiffness and limited mobility. It is a constant struggle to train the ankle, to get back to my original level of performance. I keep working at it.
The Sweetest Thing
I’ve written before about how walking through the countryside helped me understand my purpose in life. For someone who intends to walk across two continents, the idea of losing the use of a leg was completely horrifying.
This is the part where I’m supposed to give a heartwarming moral. “I prayed every day and I totally recovered!” No, not here.
I did learn many things from my injury, but the truth is most of them are not heartwarming.
I learned that being injured is emotional. The body throws a lot of hormones around to manage pain and it left me both exhausted, and emotionally tipsy. Plus I learned that having everyone open doors for you gets old fast.
However, I also learned something very important about myself.
Even if I could never walk right again, that was not going to stop me.
I don’t say that lightly. The idea that I would never again wield a sword terrified me. The possibility of no more climbing or running or vaulting brought me to my very lowest. I did not just throw it off and laugh.
But as I hobbled along the country roads and thought about my dream, I knew that I would go as long as I was able to move. Because to me, walking outdoors is the sweetest thing.
I believe that this kind of dedication and certainty is how you know you’ve found your purpose.
Have You Found Yours?
People often think that their life purpose should be obvious, or that when they find it they’ll know it.
The truth is many people discover their life purpose and think of it first as a hobby, an obligation, or a distant dream. There are many ways to stumble upon it and not realize how important it is to you.
But if you are willing to keep at something even when it means tremendous sacrifice, you’ve found something special. Something essential to the core of your being.
So what is it?
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