Breaking the Ice

Break a leg.

It’s the last thing my best friend said to me before I left California. We sat on the steps in front of my old school during lunch on her third day of 11th grade, indulging in nostalgia. I stood up to go, and we hugged, still laughing and smiling. I got in my car, and as I drove away, she shouted the phrase after me.

Break a leg.

Three weeks later, I did. It was my second day of Instructional Ice Skating, and I was good. I got cocky, tried to turn with speed—and felt my leg snap. For a brief moment, I remained on my feet; my leg was broken, but I had yet to fall. I tried to pull the leg back under me but couldn’t and hit the ice.

Ten days earlier, I had arrived on campus as a new student. I’d been thoroughly warned about the workload Upper year entailed, the consequences of plagiarism and drug use and the quick spread of sickness on campus. I’d been cautioned about culture shock, homesickness and heavy snowfall.

No one had prepared me for this.

For what seemed like an eternity, I lay on the ice with my leg bent out beside me, waiting for the trainer to come. The rest of the skaters were ushered off the ice.

My elementary school gym teacher told us we’d know broken bones by the tears they elicited, but I didn’t cry. I just waited, eyes trained on the ceiling, listening to the people around me come to terms with the reality of my situation.

They took me to Isham on the back of a golf cart, while a friend I’d made only days earlier rode shotgun. Lying on the radiology table, I thought, “Of course this would happen to me.” I laughed.

To be a new student with a broken leg means constantly choosing between comfort and the numerous opportunities boarding school offers.

Since my accident on September 10, I have made three trips to Whole Foods, gone to two football games, watched a fire show and learned how to salsa. Comfort, sadly, has more often than not been left out of the equation.

I’ve never been one to miss out on things and that hasn’t changed, even if my ability to participate has. Making friends is much more difficult while sitting comfortably in my dorm, as is eating three semi-healthy meals and getting some semblance of exercise and fresh air. Not to mention getting to club meetings and conference periods.

Elevators are often in strange and inconvenient places, and some buildings, such as Bulfinch and, sadly, my dorm, don’t have them at all. (Appreciate your ability to climb stairs for once; you’d be shocked how many flights of them you have to climb daily in order to function as an Andover student.) It’s either suck it up and join in the action or miss out and become a (delightfully pain-free) loner.

Injured kids are everywhere. The majority of the football players in my German class are kaput. A new Lower in my dorm hurt her ankle playing soccer. A girl in my math class has adopted a pair of crutches.

Passing each other on the path between classes or meeting in front of one of the many elevators our injuries require us to use, we say hello and grimace in empathy.

My cast is coming off, and I will be dancing and jogging between classes in a matter of weeks. But I will not forget this first month at Andover. I have learned, if nothing else, to appreciate my legs like never before.

Annika Neklason is a new Upper from Santa Cruz, CA.