Alverno alumna

Standing at the Crossroads

You’re standing at one of the biggest crossroads of your life. Which direction do you take? As you ponder the right decision, your mind wanders back to the path that brought you here.

You’ve been traveling the same road for many years. You’ve experienced challenges, trials, growth, friends and maybe even an enemy. Without this particular road, you wouldn’t have experienced the necessary struggles that have ultimately led you to this crossroad. What do you do?

When I was a student at Alverno (2002-06), I experienced this very situation. At the age of 21, I miraculously survived a motorcycle accident. I sustained a traumatic brain injury along with two skull fractures, a severe concussion, hearing loss in one ear, a perforated eardrum, torn rotator cuff, many gashes and bruises and an unexpected lifetime of post-traumatic stress.

I spent five short days in the hospital before they sent me home. For the first two weeks I required assistance walking, showering, getting to the bathroom and getting into bed. The experience was enough to humble anyone.

During the short recovery period, I was quickly approaching one of my summer courses, which also happened to be my most challenging subject…geometry. Family members and friends encouraged me to take a year off of school and recover completely. Some suggested that I power through the pain and finish my bachelor’s degree as planned. I was only one year away from graduating. At the time, I did not have a full grasp on the extent of my injuries or mental health. But there I was, standing at a crossroad for a major life decision. Defer, or continue on?

Part of my personality has always been to carry on. I made a commitment to myself and my future — quitting or waiting wasn’t an option for me (although I do understand this is not always feasible or the right choice in all situations).

Four weeks after sustaining life-changing injuries, I was back in the classroom. By the grace of God, and to my own surprise, I was able to pass the geometry class, keeping me on the road to graduation. If I had dropped the class, then I’d never truly know what I was capable of overcoming.

Truthfully, my last year at Alverno is quite hazy, but I’m beyond thankful that I completed my degree. I’m forever grateful for the staff, instructors and classmates who worked with me through this difficult time and supported me in the midst of that crossroad, allowing growth and perseverance to flourish in my life.

How do we overcome obstacles and make a decision at an important crossroad? The answer can be simple: follow your heart and instincts, because they will never steer you wrong.

Remember, the more difficult road may actually lead you through an experience that provides valuable life lessons and an opportunity for personal growth. Never forget how much you’ve already overcome to get to this point.

Mara Pylypiv is a 2006 graduate of Alverno College. This essay appears in the spring/summer 2019 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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