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Athlete at Heart

Sam Axness  // SEP. 06, 2020

3 min read
3 min read

Sam Axness  // SEP. 06, 2020

Over the past 7 months, I’ve been living with a torn labrum and a partially torn rotator cuff in my dominant shoulder. Although it hasn’t caused me much physical pain or discomfort, the overall instability of my shoulder has proved to be a significant mental stressor while participating in the activities that bring me the purest joy. The thought of surgical operation has flooded my mind with anxiety for months as it has been continually delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s strain on healthcare resources. However, this has proven to cut both ways.
As I reflected on my time during quarantine in reference to my journal entry, Stranded in Aspen, being stuck in a tiny mountain town throughout a global pandemic allowed me to ward off the insanity of cabin fever because I pushed myself to be more active than I’ve ever been before. Although the thought of my unstable shoulder loomed in the back of my mind, it forced me to carry a stronger sense of poise and attentiveness on each adventure. The delay in my surgery offered me the opportunity to take a deeper dive into the world of backcountry snowboarding as I spent countless hours studying topographic maps, planning potential routes of travel, and visualizing myself carving down a perfectly imperfect snowy slope. In a few short months, I focused on an array of adventures that superseded the experiences many people have throughout an entire decade. In short, the time spent has been an invaluable snapshot from my life that will never fade from memory.
On the other hand, the world has been involuntarily strapped to a wild roller coaster as the severity of COVID-19 virus continues to alter the lives of many. The ski resorts (my work place) are shut down with no opening date in sight, the interview for a marketing job I anticipated stepping into was put on hold, all while managing a damaged shoulder which I couldn’t make any plans to fix. My mind spun in circles, week after week. Access to the mountains was my escape to it all, where I felt in control by focusing all my attention on the objective of the day. Yet the biggest fear I held was still the idea of surgery to come in the unknown future. To some, surgery can mean relief from an ongoing complication. Unfortunately, that’s not my view as a month after I dislocated my shoulder, I felt that I was back to normal strength and stability to move forward. I felt completely fine, yet that feeling was devilishly contrasted by my doctor’s assertions of my damaged ligaments and tendons in my shoulder. The thought of a 5 month recovery and being unable to participate and challenge myself through my adventurous hobbies, mortified me. These hobbies are much more than that to me, they are the building blocks of my identity. That which I do, becomes that which I am. They are the cornerstones to my life, my sense of self, my source of achievement, my ability to escape, and my tool to grasp the deepest of thoughts within my mind. That is what I’m afraid to lose. Although it will only be temporary, it means more to me than life itself, because it is my life.
As I sit here typing this the night before my surgery, I can only look toward the future with hope & optimism as no other feelings serve my purpose. I see opportunity within the scope of my recovery. Time for reflection. Time for refocusing. Time for exploration amongst other facets of life. Time to reignite a fiery inferno within my soul. I will come back stronger than ever before, because I’ve become an athlete at heart.