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MIT student blogger Afeefah K. '21

The Summer Before College by Afeefah K. '21

(what not to do)

Disney Channel paints a perfect image of exactly what it’s supposed to look like. Instagram feeds filled with beating rays of sunshine. Swimming pools and ice cream sundaes.  Long road trips to new places. Countless visits to the local diner to savor every last bite of your favorite meal. Polaroids scattered in a half-packed bed room. Late evenings spent in the serenity of the people you’ve grown up with, the people you’ve learned to call home.

There’s this subtle (or maybe not that subtle) pressure to make the most out of that last summer before college. To explore. Make Memories. Prepare. After all this is a really special time. A time that momentarily suspends you between the days that were and the days that are to come.

I’m here to tell you that as long as you don’t trip and dislocate your knee cap just a few weeks into break, you, my friend, are going to be just fine. And even if you do trip and dislocate your knee cap, well, chances are you’ll still be fine:

“It’s been about two weeks since I’ve busted my knee. That means a few different things. One, I’ve spent the past fourteen days traveling back in time to the blissful years of childhood care. Two, I’ve been spoilt by 24/7 room service. Three, my sedentary lifestyle has resulted in about a five-pound weight gain. And four, I can finally kind of sort of walk (more like stumble) my way around. Yay for knee dislocations!

To give you a little context, I’ve always secretly taken a lot of pride in not damaging myself. When people shared stories of broken toes and bicycle catastrophes, I thanked God for my overall wellness. I’m a person of numbers and statistics. And a lifelong injury-free streak, was well oddly comforting to me. When I was about four years old, my family and I got into a car accident in India. As we were driving between two cities, we were cruising between two lorries (Indian trucks). And within a split second and one brake pressed and one not, we were caught between the two boulders of metal. All I remember is seeing everyone stumble out of the car as I spit a mouthful of blood, my eyes closing on me. The only other memory I have is holding my grandpa’s best friend’s hand as we made it through the hospital. My mother was getting her broken arm casted up. My grandma was getting her forehead stitched. My grandpa was in surgery. My uncle was in physical therapy. I had survived. Untouched.

Now it’s impossible for someone to experience something like that and not believe that they were somehow impenetrable. That they were protected from pain and damage. Maybe that’s why I was the monkey that I was, 360ing on monkey bars and cartwheeling off of sofas. But more or less, I had this confidence in my own wellness. And although my monkeying around remains a sweet memory of my elementary years, I subconsciously continued to have this faith in my wellbeing.

Of course all of that personal illusion went down the drain when I casually tripped over a curb in an Albertsons parking lot and dislocated my knee. For the first time, I wasn’t whole. Something had gone wrong inside of me. And I could feel it. It hurt. Like bone against concrete. There went that stupid streak of mine. I wasn’t impenetrable. Life was just as unexpected to me as it was to others. And man was that a heartbreaking realization.

I was incredibly lucky to have my aunt with me at the time. Her instincts kicked in and she reduced my dislocation. My mother rushed me to the ER and two weeks later, I’m in a simple knee brace, stumbling my way around. All is well.

Now, it’s really easy to misconstrue this whole thing as me just being overly dramatic (as I usually am). But this has been a blogpost that I’ve been going back to back on publishing.  But I think it’s needed. I need to reminder myself of how delicate our perceptions are. How anything can happen at anytime. (side note: I spent two hours ice skating before ironically falling on concrete) And there just isn’t anyway to foresee it. A knee dislocation is a very drawn out example of that. But as we build lives for ourselves, it becomes important that we all keep the bigger picture in mind. That we remain humble about ourselves and others. That we realize that we too are subject to the actions of time. Because life has it’s own plans. And we’re simply riding along.”

-Me, three summers ago

a survivor of a dislocated knee cap smiling through the tears

Looking back at this, the takeaway remains the same. As you make your way through all that life has to offer, things become increasingly unexpected. The six weeks I spent on bedrest before heading off to college forced me to spend a lot of forced time with not just myself, but the moments I found myself in. And while my summer took quite the turn with crutches and frequent visits to physical therapy, there was a lot that I got out of that summer. Things I wouldn’t trade for anything. I had no choice but to slow things down and take things as they were. And it gave me a new found appreciation for the people and experiences in my life.

To my to-be college freshman, wherever this summer may take you, remember to exist in the present and soak in all that each and every single moment has to offer. Consider yourself warned: avoid parking lots, they punch hard.