By Allie

“I guess we should get her a helmet for the pool,” my dad said to break the silence that permeated his rusty old maroon station wagon. With me bundled up in the back seat, my parents and I were on our way home from a consultation with yet another doctor. Two hours earlier we had sat in a doctor’s office as he told them that I would not be a “normal” child and that I would never be able to go to the beach, read, and certainly never play sports. I like to think that I have acquired my parents’ indomitable attitude towards adversity. I have been discouraged, made fun of, stared at, and ignored because I have albinism. I have been looked at as if I were a circus act; I have been the subject of endless criticism, and I have been told “you can’t” countless times. Though I am never the first to admit it and always the last to show it, these reactions have affected me tremendously.

When I was six years old, the educational specialist at school said that I should be put in a special-ed class. She told my parents that I was a distraction to other students and that I would benefit from the special attention that I would get in this class. In first grade, I was unaware that I was different from any of the other children. The first day the teacher pulled me out of class to go to the separate class was terrible.

"Hi honey! How was school today?” my mom asked when she picked me up.

Mommy, it is not fun in that new class. They said I would learn better, but I want to learn what everyone else is! Pleeeease, I want to go back with my friends,” I begged. Recognizing that there was nothing wrong with my intellect and that I would be better off in a normal classroom setting, my mother pulled me out of the new class the next day. I was right; I was fully capable of doing what the other kids were.

Although innumerable doctors have said that lacrosse was the last sport I should be playing, I have played for fifteen years. Because my father was an All-American, I have had a lacrosse stick in my hand since I was able to run around. When I was fourteen, our lacrosse team went to a tournament in Maryland . As my team took the field, a group of rowdy older boys sat on the sidelines. I took my starting position as center midfielder, and I heard the comments of the boys. 

Ha, ha! This should be funny! I bet she can’t even see the ball!” This presented a new situation. While I was used to being stared at and whispered about, I had never before been outwardly made fun of in front of my friends. Stunned and almost speechless, my friends did their best to reassure me that they were just “stupid boys.” While I appreciated their efforts, I also realized that I was the only one who could do anything about this injustice. Filled with resentment, I looked over at the boys and knew that I would have to prove that I was more than I seemed. That game, I scored three goals and had two assists and two interceptions. By the end of the game I had silenced my critics.

I am thankful that I have not let other people’s opinions define me. Instead, I have learned to use skepticism as motivation. Through this, I have also learned that potential is not something that can be diagnosed by doctors or predicted by observers. It is not a quality that can simply be assigned to an individual. Potential is an intrinsic characteristic that is defined by attitude, strength and perseverance. My physical limitations do not define my potential; they only enhance the qualities I need to achieve it.