This essay was written by one of our teens who is affected by ectodermal dysplasia as his personal statement for his college essay.
Down and back across the field, we’d run, ceaselessly, until we neared complete collapse. I remember peering down the line of my fellow teammates, watching them pace with their heads down, fixed on the chaotic bands of hot air floating above the distant grass. After these drills, while most players sat in the locker room complaining of their drenched, itchy shorts and their acrid scent, I would sit silently, contemplating the things I would give to endure such discomfort.
As a freshman, I was smaller and less experienced than most of my other varsity teammates, and if that weren’t enough, they could also sweat — and I do not. No matter how hot or uncomfortable I become, my body never produces even a drop of the wet relief most other athletes depend on.
Lacking the natural ability to regulate my internal temperature — especially on days exceeding 80 degrees — had posed its own set of challenges for me throughout my earlier life. While I was younger, I spent most of my time indoors because I did not want to overheat, and often felt alienated from joining ‘pick-up’ games at school because I knew I would be little use once I began to feel warm. Needless to say, these challenges became a real concern for my coaches and parents as I picked up lacrosse in middle school.
Because I had already fallen in love with the strategic nuances and fast-paced physicality of the game, and could not be convinced by anyone to “give up” or “find another activity” (no matter how many times I heard those exact phrases), I’ve had to continually problem-solve in order to be able to continue playing the sport.
Depending on the temperature of any given day, I will wet my shirt and socks at strategic parts of practice as well as ensure I have water that I can access quickly in between drills. I tend to wet items of clothing that cover my chest, feet, and sleeve-area in the beginning because those tend to overheat the quickest. In 40-minute intervals, I will dampen my gloves and arm pads to ensure I continually keep those areas cool. Despite such preparations, I still have to consistently deal with a much higher-than-average internal body temperature, but dealing with this discomfort pushes the limits of my capabilities.
I quickly found that my increased heat tolerance, on colder days, allowed me to stay in games and drills much longer than any other player on the team, making me a very valuable player for the team. I also adopted a unique mentality in which when faced with what I think is my absolute limit, I will recite the phrase “one-more,” a cliché slogan from some Gatorade commercial, and then push through the next step. I had so much success with this mentality on the field, I began applying it to all facets of my life turning “one more step” into “one more calculus problem to complete, bike ride to endure, or service event to plan.”
Reminiscing back on my three previous seasons of playing varsity lacrosse, I can still vividly feel the smoldering sensation that engulfed my body every time I set foot on that field. This discomfort would never fully subside and truthfully, if it did, I would not be as determined of a person as I am today. I never imagined I would recite these words: but I am forever grateful for this physical impediment and all the pain it has brought me.
Being different has allowed me to grow in ways that most others cannot, through overcoming challenges that most people cannot even fathom. And while one more step on a hot day may seem inconsequential to most, to me it represents my inner drive and determination, a special part of me that will never burn out, no matter how hot it gets.