My dream had always been to play basketball in college. But during my junior year of high school, I got a severe concussion. In the months that followed, I went through concussion therapy, different drugs and steroids, and seven different doctors. By August 21, 2015, I was progressing well in therapy—so well that I was going to be cleared that day. I was in the car with my sister on my way to my very last appointment. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to play basketball again for my senior season, and then in college.
But then I heard my seatbelt lock as I was flung forward, followed by utter blackness. I woke up in the hospital, alone, with no memory of who or where I was. I was diagnosed with another severe concussion and told I would have to restart recovery. It wasn’t until later that I learned what had happened. I had been in a 5-car crash. The person who hit us had been texting and driving.
After the initial shock wore off, I began to feel the pain of yet another concussion. I experienced migraines and balance issues, and I slept for 14 hours a day for weeks. I couldn’t use screens or bright lights, drive, or leave the house. I felt defeated, and I grew very angry and bitter. Why me? I couldn’t go to school, see my friends, go to dances; I couldn’t be a normal high school kid. And I was distraught over the fact that I would never be able to play basketball again. I hated the person who had chosen to text and drive, who had cost me so much.
But I eventually came to the realization that I couldn’t live my life in anger anymore. This wasn’t an epiphany I had on a sunny day; it was a gradual journey, and there were plenty of times when I swore I couldn’t do it. But I didn’t like the person I had become. I knew I had to come to terms with the accident and stop letting it define me. I needed closure. So one day, after trying to talk myself out of it for over an hour, I called the person who caused the accident. After a long, awkward conversation, I told them I forgave them. I could tell a weight was lifted off their chest, and the feeling was mutual. I was able to free myself from the negative emotions surrounding the accident and start living my life again.
Over the next 7 months, I was cleared from concussion therapy, finished my senior year of high school on time and began to feel like my old self again. Most importantly, I discovered my love of the nursing profession. In the 2 years I had spent in and out of a children’s hospital during my recovery, I was taken care of by some incredible nurses. I found a new purpose: I knew nursing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Forgiveness gave me a part of myself back when I thought I would never be whole again. It allowed me to move on. That’s why I believe in forgiveness.
Molly Clifford is a junior at Penn State majoring in nursing.