By Powell Fansler (’14)
Choices. That’s what we have in life. There is always more than one choice, whether that be to study or not to study, to focus on the last sprint or to simply run it, or to save your younger brother from drowning or run and get someone else. I chose to save my brother and I did it with roller skates on, holding him above my head and skating up the deep end trying to get him above water. He lived and I won’t ever take back that choice. But there have been harder choices to make in my life, a lot harder. The choices that force you to grow up, that show you how hard the game of life can be. In the sixth grade I chose to wake up at 5:00 AM every day to help my parents, who were always gone working, make the lunches for us kids. In the seventh grade when I was granted my first cell phone I made sure to let my parents know how each of my siblings were going to get home and when; I knew where everybody was and how to get them home if I needed to. My parents were busy working and I decided to help lessen their worry.
In high school I made the choice to take baseball somewhere that I couldn’t go or afford—college. As a freshmen in high school I trained every day and continued to make choices that would get me to my goal, to play professionally or in college. I was presented with the one of the hardest choice in my life during the summer going into my junior year of high school. In one second my life would change forever. At my first and last baseball showcase I landed in a full squat from a broad jump, and with all the force in my body concentrating in my knees tore my meniscus. Upon finding out that I needed surgery five days before the actual surgery, I had to make a decision. Was this injury going to break my dreams of playing at the next level? Was this surgery going to take away my talent? I chose to take the challenge, to not let this surgery influence my ability to make it to the next level and not take away my talent. In six months I came back and was in the best condition of my life and it was time to pitch in the first pre-season game.
Throwing the first three innings my knee felt great and I was on top of the world. My first at-bat resulted in a walk. I slid into first base after a pick-off feet-first which is the opposite of what a baseball player is taught to do, but sometimes one reacts in an unanticipated way. After standing up I realized my right leg didn’t straighten—no pain, no “pop”, no discomfort, just couldn’t straighten my leg. The result of my slide brought upon the second hardest choice in my life. I find out I need surgery on my meniscus once again three days before the surgery. Can I recover from a second surgery well enough to make it to the next level? How long will I be out again? I missed my entire junior year of baseball but I chose, once again, to not let surgery stop me from getting to the next level.
Summer going into my senior year of high school I had one of the greatest games in my life. It was six months after surgery and I threw a no-hitter. That was the day that made my dream come true and only three weeks later I was going to Santa Clara University. I thought all my problems were solved and finally had no more arduous choices to make; I was wrong. Freshmen year at SCU I bulged a disk in my lower back and after the season had my third knee surgery and an elbow surgery. At this point in my life I am faced with another decision and I can’t tell you how hard it is to make the right choice. I grit my teeth and make the only decision I have made, I decide to continue to play and not let these surgeries affect me. I could no longer job, run, jump, or perform any kind of agility but I made the choice that I was going to keep playing.
After my junior year of college I had finally worn through my knee. Going up stairs was a nightmare, riding a bike was gunshots to my knee, even walking was an act that made me clench my teeth. How many times did I need to have surgery and how many times was I going to have to make the hardest choices in my life over and over again? These questions entered my thoughts after so many challenges. During the summer going into my senior year of college at SCU I had the biggest surgery of my life—meniscal implant and cartilage replacement. The odds are not in my favor after undergoing a surgery this substantial. It was time to make a choice that took all of me to make. Do I play? Can I play? How is my knee going to be in 10 years? Am I going to be able to play catch and be active with my kids like my Paps was able to do with me? I am not someone who gives up but the choice to play or not play seemed to overwhelm me. But I know one thing, if I don’t try then I have given up. So I take the challenge, once again learning how to walk, how to balance, jump, squat, and inevitably run.
Some are going to wonder why I am telling this story and I have an answer for them. Life is a game of choices and you can accomplish anything as long as you are willing to make the right choice. It takes the fight that each person has within him/herself, the knowing that he/she can accomplish anything, and the openness to failure. In all the obstacles throughout my life I have failed but I didn’t let it stop me from getting up and continuing to walk the long and hard road of recovery and accomplishment. Everybody can achieve what they want to, can become who they want to, and can learn any subject if they are willing to make the choice to do so. One’s character is truly unmasked when they are faced with such adversity that it takes all they have in their veins to overcome it, and the beauty of life is that everybody has the opportunity to overcome adversity. Everybody has the opportunity to become as great as they want to be. So what’s the answer? Why am I telling this story? I am telling this story to anybody who has been faced with an obstacle that seems too large, to anybody who wants to know if it can be done, to anybody who has thought that it would be better to stop and do something different. It is not too great, it can be done, and do not stop because one day you will be challenged again and if you have pushed through the doubt before, then the next choice seems almost routine. The choice is yes, I can do this, I will do this, and it’s going to be great. Life is a game of choices, what choice will you make?
— POWELL FANSLER (’14)