On the day of my AP biology final exam my senior year of high school, I could barely contain my anxiety. I felt butterflies twisting and turning in my stomach as I walked into the front doors of my school. As I walked down the hallway, I noticed pictures of girls with bright and glistening smiles at their graduation. I thought to myself, “If they can do it, so can I.” However, as I walked into the classroom to complete my final exam, my confidence dwindled. I sat in the very front row because looking at people taking their test in front of me is very distracting. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, I sat quietly at my desk with my mind racing. My anxiety took over and prevented me from focusing on doing my best. Instead of motivating myself and reassuring myself that I studied hard enough, I kept thinking if only I had an extra day to study, if only I took regular biology, if only I did not care about this class. Once I started fabricating “what if” scenarios, I knew I needed to take a deep breath.
When my hands stopped shaking, I took both sleeves of the sweatshirt I was wearing and wrapped them around my fingers. I started to calm down because I remembered what sweatshirt I was wearing. The words, CHA football, glistened on this sweatshirt, while the sun beamed off of them from the window. Once I looked down and saw the glowing letters on my sweatshirt, a sudden sense of peace filled my body. This sweatshirt is my source of comfort, my source of serenity, and my source of hope. When I wear this sweatshirt, I not only think but I know that my older brother, Kevin, is always watching over me.
My brother tragically drowned in the pool in my backyard during my brother and sister’s birthday party on June 8, 2012. That day, I not only lost my big brother, but I also lost my best friend, my hero, and my protector. Everytime I think about this traumatic day in my life, I think about the meaning of my brother’s life. Kevin had a brain tumor, when he was five years old. The doctors told my dad that he would not be able to walk again let alone run. By living with immense positivity, Kevin never let his disabilities prevent him from competing. As a boy with no fear, he never passed up the opportunity to try out for a team. Walking and running with a limp, never being the fastest, and never being picked first did not deter Kevin from doing what he loved. Defeating all odds, Kevin persevered through his hardships and received an athletic scholarship to play football for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, which is embodied through Kevin’s navy blue sweatshirt.
Although I have struggled the past six years, I have gained strength. I am able to use this strength to help others who have endured similar challenges. Even though these hardships in my life have caused an immense amount of pain, they have also provided me with unique perspectives. I stress less about the unimportant aspects of life, I know that feelings of despair and anger are temporary, and I am more sensitive to those who are vulnerable as a result of hardships.
Kevin’s legacy has become my motivation. I dream of becoming a pediatric psychiatrist, and Kevin’s inspiring accomplishments encourage me to focus on my goal. Becoming a doctor is a difficult career path, but the fact that my brother could transform from a boy in a wheelchair to one of the best football players on his team motivates me to view the future in an optimistic light. I want to be a pediatric psychiatrist to care for and know inspiring children like Kevin. My special connection and bond with children with disabilities has inspired me to assist my father in creating Kevin’s Foundation of Hope. The Foundation’s mission is to encourage children with disabilities to accomplish the unimaginable.
I believe in hope. I believe that you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react. I believe that God allows individuals to experience certain difficulties that they are strong enough to endure. Although I worry about one day forgetting Kevin’s voice, I have days where I put on his big sweatshirt and instantly feel as if he is hugging me. I know he is protecting me and that I will never forget him. Even though I cannot touch or see Kevin, he will always be my hero, my inspiration, and my motivation.