NEUBECKER: Changing goals with each passing graduation

My swollen knee itched inside the brace on my leg as our high school principal addressed my classmates and me for the last time.

As I hunted for a comfortable position in which to rest my injured leg, I questioned my decision to sport the 3-inch wedges I had bought before I knew the brace would be part of my graduation wardrobe.

“Sarah Neubecker.”

Mr. Antioho’s voice shot a pang of excitement and then pain through my whole self as I snapped out of my positioning woes and limped toward the stage.

One week prior to the graduation ceremony, I had torn a ligament in my left knee during my soccer team’s first district tournament game that season.

When coaches carried me off the field that day, it ended 10 long years of competing in a game that I loved.

From playing AYSO soccer as a fifth-grader to competing at the high school level, I practiced foot skills in my garage in the winter and went to the field during the summer to improve my shot.

As a captain of the varsity team, two-year leading scorer and all-conference athlete, I was often asked about future plans with the sport.

Would I play soccer after high school? Of course I would, I thought. I couldn’t imagine life without the thrill of scoring goals regularly.

I would definitely play on a college club team and I might even try out for an official college team.

When I tore my ACL that day, I also ripped a hole in my future plans.

Doctors told me I couldn’t play soccer for at least a year after surgery, long after college tryouts would be over.

So as I struggled up the steps of the stage that day and held my high school diploma in my hands, the future held more questions than answers.

Over the course of the next three months, I went through surgery, an allergic reaction to medication, hours of sitting on my couch with a stretching machine strapped to my leg and nearly missed my graduation open house.

While the Reed City High School soccer team went on to make it to the district final game where they lost in a heart-stopping shootout and my teammates moved on to summer beach days and road trips, a voice of reason broke through the depression and discontent with a message of truth.

“You know, this can only hurt you if you let it.”

My mother’s words were so profound, yet obvious.

I had let the position I was in affect how I felt and how I saw life.

From that point on, I fought to find the positive in the situation and not let circumstances control me.

I began my freshman year at Central Michigan University in the fall, walking with only an occasional limp after six weeks of physical therapy.

I signed my journalism major in the second month of college and joined a public service group. I starting working at the school paper, got involved with a church community and even became a soccer referee.

A disappointment I thought would surely ruin my world, didn’t hinder me at all from having a great life after high school.

Three and a half years later I sat comfortably in a chair as the president of CMU addressed my college classmates and I for the last time.

I wore flat shoes and no leg brace. I had no job or plans of where to live or what to do with my degree. I was entering a depressing job market with 50 percent odds of securing employment within a year.

But I knew that no matter what plans of mine failed or what disappointments came my way, circumstances could not hurt me unless I let them.

Two months later I became a staff writer for the Herald Review, where I traded a jersey and cleats for business casual, and a deadline is my new goal.