By Noor Ibrahim, 16
Spirit Keeper for the Healthy Mind Healthy Vibes 2021 JAIA Youth Council
I never truly understood the difference between perseverance and resilience, until a series of events that happened to me in a short period of time spiraled out of control and instilled in me these invaluable mindsets. It began in the summer of freshman year. I had been on vacation with my family in Cancun, it seemed like the absolute perfect trip. The day before we headed to the airport, we decided to have one last hurrah and head off to the resort to go snorkeling. I had never gone snorkeling before and had never really been the best swimmer, so I was already uneasy about the whole thing.
One by one, my siblings and mom began to step out of the van. I was the last to get out. As I stepped out, I lost my footing on the landing. I can still remember exactly how loud my ankle snapped. I immediately tried to get back up, but as soon as I looked down at my leg, I quickly realized my leg had been twisted. My mother’s reaction was what honestly frightened me the most. As I was lying on the floor, in a foreign country with fractures to both my left tibia and fibula, my mind was racing back and forth at the thought that an ambulance might not even be on its way. After about a half hour of shooting pain in my leg, an ambulance finally arrived. Not knowing what was going to happen or what the doctors were saying was terrifying. After about 2 hours of confusion, a doctor that spoke English finally explained to me that I needed to have immediate surgery. My mother was convinced that the surgery could wait as we were headed back to New York the next day.
Devastated, we headed back to New York where the doctors explained I would need two surgeries, and would most likely be non weight bearing on my left leg for 4 months, which meant being homeschooled to avoid any complications to my injury. Distraught, I tried to make the best of the situation. I got to spend more time with both my grandmother and cat and also got to really focus academically, that way I wouldn’t fall behind when I returned to school.
When December arrived and my final surgery was complete, I was given the okay from my doctor to return back to school. As excited as I was, the recovery process was far from over. I was still in an immense amount of pain and had many long physical therapy sessions ahead of me. When I arrived at school, one of the challenges that arose was being able to submit a research project to NYCSEF competition, something I had been looking forward to since freshman year.
My teacher explained to me that I would most likely not be able to compete, as all of my other classmates had been working on their projects since September and the deadline was in less than a month. Determined to compete and with just weeks away from the deadline, I was able to conduct my experiment, gather concise data, and complete my research paper. It was then that I realized exactly how much I had persevered and not allowed my injury to hold me back from all the things I had been looking forward to. Little did I know this would only be the beginning of a slew of challenges.
Two months later I found myself learning from home again when the pandemic hit. Schools went remote and the only somewhat comforting part of the whole situation was knowing how many other people were going through the same thing. While I was being home schooled, I still had that face to face learning experience; remote learning eliminated that completely. It was quite a difficult transition not only for me, but for my other three siblings all cramped up in a tiny apartment while relying on unstable internet. One of my biggest challenges was attempting to recreate that same structure I would have otherwise had in a classroom setting. It really was up to me to really push myself to do well and maintain my grades but also to ensure I was really absorbing the material. With the mounting fears of the coronavirus brewing and the death tolls rising, It was difficult to really to juggle it all. But still, I persevered and despite it all, I ended the academic year strong. As I exhaled, a sigh of relief, the worst was yet to come.
Shortly thereafter, my family was hit with the devastating news that my uncle had pancreatic cancer. He was only 46 years old. My mother thought it would be best for my uncle to come stay with us while undergoing treatment. This was our first experience as a family, with this evil disease. The hardest part was to see how quickly he deteriorated.
On October 31st, we had a devastating apartment fire. The fire forced us out of our home and we were ultimately displaced. The fire must have been too traumatic for my uncle because he wound up in the hospital three days later. It was a long yet short, ten day hospital stay which concluded with his funeral. His passing was by far the hardest thing that I had ever experienced. I understood that I could let this tragic event keep me down and broken, or I could decide to be resilient and come back stronger than ever.
While perseverance and resilience are commonly mistaken as being synonymous, my life experiences have taught me the subtle difference between the two. I demonstrated perseverance as I powered through my broken leg injury, home schooling, and the pandemic. That then allowed me to endure the loss of all my possessions in the fire, displacement, and my greatest loss, the passing of my uncle. I have not let my misfortunes interfere with my thriving academic success. Being resilient doesn’t mean that I am not sad about my losses, it means that I have made a conscious decision to not let my losses hold me back.