The stories we tell ourselves
On the 9th of June I had surgery on my knee to repair a torn lateral meniscus and to remove my screw from the previous surgery. A few weeks prior to surgery, I asked the surgeon if he would repair my acl, to which he said, “No, because your knee doesn’t feel that unstable.” After surgery the surgeon informed me that I actually had a “fully intact acl.” Wait, what? How? I quickly prodded the surgeon…so…what does that mean? Does that mean it was never torn? Or has it just magically healed? The surgeon said, “It’s likely it was partially torn, and it has since then completely healed.”
So many thoughts. So many questions. I was adamant I had completely ruptured my acl. I heard the “pop”. I knew what that pop meant. I had four different professionals all confirm what I thought I knew. I had an MRI that confirmed a complete rupture. So how could it be that it wasn’t completely torn? How do you explain that “pop”? What would have happened if I had a reconstruction back in September? What would they have found? More importantly though, why do I even care?
Our past is a funny thing. We attach ourselves and our identities to the stories we tell both ourselves and others. Back in September I wrote heartbreaking posts about the confronting reality that I had torn my acl again, for the third time. I wrote about my difficulty accepting this reality, about the difficulty accepting that my dream as a professional player was that much more unattainable. But then I wrote about defying the odds. I wrote about playing without an acl. I wrote about hope. About challenging the status quo. I thought I was accomplishing something rare, something I was told wouldn’t be possible. And now, what if all of that was a lie? What if, none of that happened? What if my acl was never ruptured? What if everything that I’ve been telling myself for the past 9 months was based on something, on a fact, that was never a fact but a misdiagnosis? Does this make me a fraud for what I’ve written and spoken about? Does this make what I thought I achieved, less remarkable? Does it even matter?
And the answer, I believe, is no. What I wrote about was written from the knowledge I had. Knowledge I had absolutely no reason to question nor distrust. My reactions and subsequent posts were based on the emotions I experienced. They were real. Raw. And heartbreaking. Why then, do I care about this new information? Why does it have to change anything? And why am I not ecstatic that I have an acl? Because of the attachment to my story. I had internalised this adversity as being who I was. I was someone who had torn their acl three times. But now, who am I? Am I someone who has torn their acl three times or only twice? And again I question, does it even matter?
Our past doesn’t define who we are. Nor does what has happened in our lives. Sure, our past might influence the direction in which we take, but we are not defined by those events. What defines us is who we are today and how we choose to live our lives. We’re defined by the values that guide us. By the friends that surround us. By the way we treat others. Not by the story we tell.
I used to think that the most important thing when getting to know someone was getting to know everything about them. Getting to know their past. Their pain. Their trauma. And I remember being challenged in Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and by a dear mentor of mine who stated that our past does not define who we are. There is often no need to talk about it other than to feed the pain body, to feed our ego. For years I struggled with this concept. My entire philosophy was based on this idea of getting to know where someone came from. Because I believed that that was the best way to understand who they were. But I was wrong. Their past isn’t who they are. Nor is their pain. Has it influenced them? Undoubtedly so. But it isn’t them. They are more than their past, than their pain, than their story. I now find I have no need to delve into the depths of someone’s history to learn who they are, instead, I can gauge who they are by the way in which they conduct themselves. By the way they speak to others. Their priorities. Their interests. Their values. And by who they choose to surround themselves with.
Although our adversities often shape our perspective and the path we are now on, they are not the essence of our identity. Prior to my trip to Hamilton Island earlier in the year, I found that I had an incessant need to share my story with others. To share my pain. My heartbreak. It’s as though I was seeking attention, validation, sympathy – I wanted people to know why I was the way I was. But I realise now, that information is irrelevant. Instead of focusing on my past, on my origin story, I focus instead on the future. On what I can create. On who I want to become. On the influence I want to have. Is all of that influenced by my past? Absolutely. But it’s not the core of who I am.
What happened in September was a blessing. I needed that to happen to relinquish the attachment I had to achieving my dream. A dream that was never going to truly fulfil the depths of my desires, but rather, only feed my ego. Without thinking I tore my acl again, perhaps I would still be filled with anger and bitterness about being overlooked. Perhaps I would still be clinging on to a slither of hope. Perhaps I would still be defining myself by my past and by my pain.
But September 6th did happen. And because it did, it has allowed me to get to the place I’m at today. A place of freedom. A place of peace. And a place of vision. Instead of clenching onto my origin story, my mind has now shifted and expanded to the infinite nature of the future. A future in which my past has influenced, but it does not control. A future in which I am proactively creating. A future in which I am me, without explanation. So remember, you are more than the stories you tell yourself. You are more than what has happened to you. You are the person evolving within. You are you. A you that is an infinitely complex being far beyond the realms of conventional definitions.