My first day of school started in beyond excruciating, pain. All day it felt like I had a blunt, iron-rod piercing my chest and spine. However, I spent my nine-hour day on campus smiling, attending all my classes and generally taking care of business as usual. That night I spent hours trying to catch my breath and fall asleep. Around 5 a.m., I sprang out of bed to puke up some of the foulest, swamp water looking, bile I had ever seen. Determined to make it to day two (or the first day of Tuesday, Thursday classes) I threw myself into a steamy bath and tried mentally psyching myself up for class at 11. After countless futile attempts to alleviate the pain, at 10:30 I threw in the towel; fading in and out of consciousness I had a friend take me to the emergency room. I listened all day, to nurses and doctors asking why I’d waited so long to get checked out, as they poked me with needles and performed numerous tests. Later, diagnosed with “unspecified abdominal pain and vomiting” I thought what a waste of two school days that pain had caused. I had to wonder, how often do we ignore mental and physical pain in order to reach our goals?
In 1972, Muhammad Ali fought Ken Norton and suffered a broken jaw from a killer hook. Despite his better judgment, Ali decided to keep fighting. The 12-round bout was decided by split decision in favor of Norton, costing Ali the heavyweight title belt and giving him his second loss ever.
First game of the 1988 World Series, Kirk Gibson sat in the clubhouse getting treatment on his sprained hamstring and knee. It was assumed he would not be playing since he wasn’t even on the bench. But come the 9th inning, the Dodgers were down 4-3 with two outs and Dennis Eckersley on the mound. So the injured Gibson was called to pinch-hit. After two gross looking swings and misses, on a 3-2 count, Gibson hits a walk off home run to end the game. His hobble around the bases has become probably the most replayed baseball clip ever. Amazingly, he was so hurt that this was his only time at bat for the entire World Series.
During the 1996 Olympics, the gymnastics gold medal was up in the air for the US and Russia. On her first vault, Kerri Strug landed awkwardly on her ankle, suffering a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage. Struggling to attempt her second try, Strug surprisingly stuck the final vault, guaranteeing the US gold. Then was carried off by her creepy mustachioed coach.
Everyone knew Tiger was hurting during the 2008 US Open. The pain wiped across his face with every stroke. It was painful to watch and probably more painful to actually experience. But he came back to force a sudden death playoff with Rocco Mediate after sinking a now legendary 12-foot birdie putt. He went for par on the sudden-death hole and won his 14th major. Two days later, it was revealed that Woods had a torn ACL and two stress fractures in his tibia and was going to miss the rest of the year after knee surgery. A torn ACL knocks the average NFL player out of the game immediately. Woods won a goddamn major championship with those injuries. (The number of sanchas Woods played-through-the-pain with we’ll probably never know.)
Determination can be a powerful anesthesia, however sometimes it’s ok to admit when it’s too much. When it comes to an education, the important thing is surviving for another season.