CRACK! That’s where everything started, or ended. It was the first time my life came to a halt. I remember it explicitly. It was on a Saturday, November 19, 2015. I was with the members from the school’s alumni ambassadors. I had served for a year and a half as a member and it was the last day and meeting of our term.
“Let’s arm wrestle.” said one of my friends in the middle of the break.
“No, I’m good. I don’t really want to today.” I said.
“Why are you always chickening out?” he teased.
And there we sat, facing each other from the table, our arms diagonal to our bodies and bent in a 90 degree angle. People were watching, I had nothing to prove but the fact that I was stronger. Well, at least that was what I thought. We began, telling each other that we will have a fair and square play and no cheating was allowed, no strength should be applied prior to the start of the match. For a moment, our arms looked as if we
had not started at all. We were still, just a little shaky from the equal force being applied to our arms. Slowly, my arm started to fail strength, and very slowly, very slightly, began to tilt towards the table. But no, that wasn’t enough to defeat me. Arm wrestling does not mean much. The only expense I would be paying was my pride. “I will overturn the match and bring myself to a triumphant victory,” I thought to myself as I applied an explosive amount of force into my arm. CRACK!
Everyone looked around, startled looks on their faces. I was confused. We had to stop the match to see what had broken the climax. Was the table broken? Did we break the chair? I would have hoped that we had broken something, or at least, that I would have broken something. A sudden jolt of nervousness overtook my body. Something was not right. Now, all eyes were on me, they confirmed that something was terribly, and horribly, wrong. I looked down to what seemed like my arm. It was dangling, against my will. I tried to command it to extend, but pain, started screaming. Within seconds, my mouth went completely dry, my hair wet from the nervous sweat that broke out. The ambulance was on its way.
When the doctor examined my arm with an X-ray, he only shook his head. I asked him if it was serious, and he asked back if it hurt a lot and that if it did, the situation is and was, bad.
Holding onto my folded arm, I peered into the computer screen the doctor was typing on: Distal Humerus Fracture. Okay, well, I did not research for the word “humerus” in the dictionary because I knew it through pain, and it surely did not sound as humorous as it was spelled. Humerus, by the way, is the long bone of the arm from the elbow up to the shoulder. Anyhow, surgery was in need. Anesthesia, plates and screws, all-in one package. Without a single doubt, it was the biggest surgery of my life.
I guess it is only fair to explain here why this surgery was such a big deal to me and why this surgery in particular meant a halt to my life. In the first place, out of all the people who attended the meeting on the day of this incident, I was the one being challenged in the arm wrestling match. There was a reason to this: I was the icon of strength and of an exceptional physical stature. For three years, I had dedicated my life to fitness. Iron after
iron, food after food, to build and gain muscles. The gym was my home, playground, school, passion, and life itself. But a fracture in my arm, or as they call it, humerus, meant healing. No gym. It would usually take at least one year for a fracture in the humerus to heal, but one can never be so sure. My goals of entering a body building competition in the following months, applying as an underwear model, came to a stop.
To go through the surgery and to be hospitalized for a few weeks, I had to stop school mid-term. Great. Stop school, stop gym, stop life. All because of arm-wrestling.
To cut a long story short, the surgery went successfully. Everything happened in a blink, but they say it took more than three hours to operate. I was put to sleep and awoke to a completed surgery. My body was shivering from the low temperature of the operation room and my mother was crying alongside me trying to wake me to consciousness from all the drugs. I looked down on my arm, the biggest cast I had ever seen in my life. It went
from my shoulder all the way down to my wrist. I wasn't even allowed to fold it—stiff as a tree.
After a few hours, I was in bed, doing nothing. Just in bed. I received a call from one of my friends who tried to comfort me, asking if the surgery went successfully. I told him I was fine and that the surgery was successful. The conversation was comforting just until the end when he said, “I feel bad for you man, and you can’t even go to the gym anymore.” A poke, a needle through my heart, and tears came rolling down. What moved me to tears was not the pain in my arm, but my passion for gym. What I loved and love doing, what I dreamed of and what I dream of doing every day was put to a stop, involuntarily. To congratulate my friend for reminding me of the obvious, I hung up on him.
From here, I entered a stage of seclusion. My world had changed overnight. All the liquor I passed on through the years to go to the gym instead, all the nights I spent reading and watching videos on how to improve my performance in training, were useless. I would miss my Leg Mondays, Chest Tuesdays, sets after sets, and reps after reps. Everything seemed pointless, I felt tired. Not a single person was able to support me and my emotions, not even my gym partner. I was truly wounded and scarred mentally, spiritually, and physically.
The following months had been the hardest time of my life. I took off my cast after a month, had 43 staples removed from my skin and went into rehabilitation for weeks and weeks. My arm gradually started to heal and my emotions got better along with it. And like magic, time had mercy on me. I felt better.
It has been a year since the incident. The sad news is, I still have the plates and screws inside my arm, on the humerus. Whether I am to live with them forever, or going to have them removed is still an ongoing matter. But my arm is much better and I am able to engage in ordinary activities, unlike before. The thing about the gym is that it has taught me so much more than just building muscles. There are bad days in the gym. There are days where my performance is below my expectation and where strength would fail me. But overcoming these hard times is what truly makes us stronger, and what really makes the muscles grow. Calloused hands might not seem pretty, but they bring unto us a greater trophy. During the time of my recovery, I have been much more focused on other parts of my life. I have been able to spend much more time with my family, schoolwork, and other hobbies just like how I would train my weaker muscles to grow stronger in the gym. Perhaps I have skipped the gym for this whole period not on my will, but for my recovery’s sake. But training has never stopped. Hard times are often there to make us stronger beings. As the famous saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” It is true, I am a stronger being than yesterday and the person I was a year ago, perhaps not physically. And this is how I feel: Just another bad day in the gym for me to overcome, just another opportunity for me to grow.
위홍재 (영어영문학과) .
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