Failure is not a climax of a cadet’s career at the Academy, it’s an everyday experience. I personally know that I have failed in almost every pillar of excellence the Academy has challenged me. From Calculus to rowing to keeping up a shoe shine, it is impossible to keep on top of everything and do it all well.
Recently I have been confronting my biggest failure yet; what a surgeon has described as shoulders only repairable by surgery. I had my dominant shoulder reconstructed in February followed by a painful six weeks wearing an immobilizer sling, and then an additional five months in physical therapy rehabilitating. Not only did this surgery temporarily take away my independence in simple tasks, like tying shoes or putting my hair up, but it forced me to learn to write left handed and doubled the time it took me to do anything. Worst parts of the experience included taking the boards indoctrination exam five days after surgery, attempting to square my meals in the wardroom without being able to talk or ask for help, and literally being trapped inside a t-shirt if my shoulder froze up in the middle of changing. To say the least, I was ecstatic to have almost all of my range of motion back and start building up my strength in August. I took on the responsibility of class vice president along with being a member of the color guard, a cox on the men’s crew team, and all of my other club involvement in the excitement to be physically fit for full once again.
The recovery from this failure has been short lived however, as I will be likely having my second reconstruction on the opposite shoulder soon. Sure, it will not be as difficult to write with a sling on the other arm or to eat dinner now that I can look around in the wardroom, but the mental hurdle of being broken yet again is something entirely different.
I knew coming into the Academy I would face tough situations, though I never expected to have the body of an elderly man before the age of twenty. Facing this everyday failure is part of it all though and in the end I know I will be a stronger officer, mentally and physically, because of overcoming these challenges.
More about Sarah.