The Uncommon App: When Just Existing Isn’t Enough

Graphic by Isabella Xie

By Sierra Weintraub

Newton South High School Class of 2015

I should probably be dead.

After all, I’m short one carotid artery and a pituitary gland, so I’m basically a walking medical wonder. Diagnosed with panhypopituitarism as a baby, I manage my condition successfully with medications. Luckily, my single carotid artery weaves through the empty pituitary space to supply blood to both sides of my brain. Do I let the hole in my head hold me back from what I love to do? Never. I’m always first in line to do the things anxious mothers tell their children not to do- like jumping off a bridge.

I clip into my safety equipment and slowly inch my toes over the edge of the 265-foot jump. I feel the bungee cord’s weight itching to pull me off the bridge. Although terrified of splattering my brains on the rocks of the rushing river below, I’m not about to back down. Shaking on the inside, I take a deep breath. “Three! Two! One.” I jump.

My scream freezes in my throat as I plummet toward the rainforest, leaving my organs on the bridge. Just as I feel certain my life is over, the cord tightens. I bounce away from my seemingly imminent death. After two minutes as a human yo-yo, my heart finally slows. I laugh at how crazy it is that I just jumped off a bridge. I laugh at how amazing it feels to be alive. And then, I jump again.

I refuse to be limited by my unusual medical condition. The feeling of freedom and adventure is the best part of living. When I engage in heart-pounding pursuits, I’m not thinking about my neuroanatomy; I’m experiencing the exhilaration of these moments that make me feel the most alive. The thrill of adventure lures me to seek daring new challenges; to take advantage of all life has to offer. My favorite T-shirt sums up my mantra: “If it doesn’t need a waiver, it’s not worth doing.” But I don’t rip caution into a million pieces and watch it dance in the breeze. I check my safety harnesses before I jump into my next challenge.

Cold metal rungs send a chill through my fingers. The ladder clatters as I climb upward, the people on the ground shrinking. Familiar faces greet me at the top asking, “What trick are you catching today?” I glance nervously at the catcher swinging on the trapeze bar across from me, and reply, “Layout.” I bend my knees, shout “Lista,” and hear my cue to fly: “HUP!”

Adrenaline courses through my veins as my feet leave the board. Wind rips fiercely through my clothes; my legs kick upward to gain momentum, then forcefully whip back; my toes lift to the gauze-wrapped bar. I hear “BREAK!” Time. Slows. Down. My legs sweep backward. I drive them up to the cloudless sky. I release the bar. My body rotates slowly. The catcher comes into view. His arms extend toward mine. We connect. Time resumes as we swing together. I surrender my grip and float down to the coarse net. Even after 10 years, the joy of flying trapeze never gets old.

For me, being alive is a miracle, but merely existing isn’t enough. There must be a reason I’m alive. I sense the answers everywhere: hanging in the air; twisting through space; waiting in unexplored corners of the globe. I feel compelled to reach beyond the next rush of adrenaline, to make every moment count, to have a lasting impact – not just on medical science, on a personal level as well.

As I prepare to jump off the next bridge, step off the next platform, and fly into the next phase of my life, the hole in my head will be filled with new adventures. I look forward to discovering the thrills, opportunities, and challenges swinging toward me on the catcher’s bar. I’m ready. “Lista! Three, two, one, HUP!”