Hey everyone! I’m Alexei Volkov. I’m a Psychology major and Philosophy minor who’s about to pick up a double minor in communication. I’m kind of a third year, but am a second year credits wise (it’s complicated). I want to be a motivational speaker rather th an a psychologist. I’ve always been on the fence about being a psychologist and I think I’ve found my answer after all I’ve gone through over the last few years. I love playing sports and reading books (I have reread the 6th Harry Potter book 7 times. My favorite author is James Patterson). I really enjoy cooking and I’m quite good if I do say so myself. I love dogs and will pet any and all dogs I see on campus… this is starting to feel like Tinder. Anyways, this is the short story of how I got to where I am today.
So, where to start, where to start… I guess I’ll start off by saying I grew up playing a lot of sports and was kind of an athletic nerd in the sense that I also enjoy reading and learning as much as possible. Golf was the first sport I learned to play and actually got really good at and would shoot just above par. Basketball was next (I got to the point where I could shoot a three pointer with my left hand and I’m right handed, for all you doubters who don’t think that’s really hard), then I played soccer, and I enjoyed it. Yet, I never got serious with it. It was something I just played with my friends. I picked up swimming and I can do just about every stroke, but I’m not great, or even okay, compared to real competitors of swimming. I played lacrosse in middle school for a year before my knees decided that it was too much for me. I played football from second grade until the summer before my junior year.
That’s when I finally was told by my doctors that I couldn’t play football anymore after receiving my third concussion in a year. That last concussion knocked me out for a few minutes and I suffered some pretty bad short term memory problems that didn’t get back to normal till spring of my freshman year in college at Miami University of Ohio. Football was everything until I found running by joining the cross country team my junior year.
My first year wasn’t that great. This was partially because I was coming in from football and never really ran much in the first place except for conditioning. Also, I weighed 170 pounds. That kind of slowed me down. But, as the year went along, and as the races passed, I noticed something. I noticed I enjoyed running because it was a competition with yourself and I am competitive perfectionist who loves that ideology. I always think I can do better and give more than what I’m giving. Doing cross country helped build that mindset; it built my confidence; and it helped build my character and my own values. You might be thinking, “that’s crazy, it’s only running”, but I say it’s not because when you go from a 38 minute 5k your junior year to a 19 minute 5k by the end of your senior year, that shows something has changed. I lettered my senior year, and when I say lettered I didn’t actually run on varsity, but I got the most improved award and I think that helped me in getting my letter. I ran a half marathon the day after a race my senior year and finished in 1:48.
Jumping from my senior year of high school, to my freshman year in college, I found out I actually love running because, again, I can always do better and that is why I was training for a full marathon. I was down to 8 min for 20 miles and wanted to qualify for Boston. Running for me is a way to escape and have time to myself. It’s just me, my music, and the pavement below me. There’s nothing better to that feeling of a runners high your last three miles after already running 17, nothing.
I may seem to be putting random thought’s/bragging about how athletic I am, and you may be asking, “why is he doing that?”. It’s because I wanted to explain how sports and being active is how I’ve always lived and actually have a knee disorder because I was too active as a kid. And because I lost all that two weeks before my freshman year was over at Miami.
Because I don’t know how to better explain what sadness I felt when I cried over the fact that I may never play basketball again while sitting in my wheelchair.
April 26, 2015, I got into a very bad car accident. Luckily, no one was with me and no other cars were involved, but I should have died that night and I believe the reason why I didn’t is because I’m not done here. Remember how I said I wanted to be a motivational speaker? I think that’s what I truly want to do and that’s what will fill me with the most enjoyment and satisfaction.
I was in a coma for two and half weeks that was so serious that the doctors told my family and everyone else it would last 6 to 8 months, if I ever woke up. I suffered a stroke, broke my neck, ribs, clavicle, and elbow. I had to have trach care which is why I have that scar on my neck. I only regained my short term memory a few weeks before I was discharged here at Dodd Hall to another institute called Mentis which specializes in TBI. Every day was a brand new day with all new people (think of 50 first dates). I had to be in speech therapy, OT, and PT for more than a year. Speech was the first discharge, then OT, and then I finally got discharged from PT about four months ago.
But, I never lost my personality, thoughts, character or my values. I always question why I got to survive and make the great recovery I’ve made so far even though I’m still making progress. It may be survivor’s guilt, but I believe everything happens for reason and someday I’ll see that reason clearly.
I don’t think I could have ever made the progress I have if I lost my personality. I’m a very positive person, hope is what carries me and you’ve probably heard my “catchphrase” of “hope for the best, but accept the worst”. I believe if you can truly accept the worst, whatever may come isn’t as bad as what you can imagine and, at the same time, you can hope for whatever you have your heart set on.
My values and personality lead me to being self-motivated, self-disciplined, and to hate being doubted or told I can’t do something. No one is going do the work for you; you’re the one in control of yourself.
Laying in that hospital bed, no one had to tell me they doubted me. The looks on their faces when they considered if I could ever get back to where I was at, told me enough that they had doubts. It was about more than proving to people I could get back; I was trying to prove to myself that I could get back and that my values and beliefs were strong enough to carry me through this.
I kept this hope and mindset all throughout re-learning to walk again, which was the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Like, I’m so jealous of babies because they just learn on their own and have no past memory of walking. I had memories and I had to stay optimistic. That’s all I could do. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Through the pain, disappointments, sadness, happiness, ups, and downs that led me to not be in a wheelchair anymore, I began to make even more progress towards recovery. I didn’t have to wear a gait belt on anymore. I didn’t have to have anyone walk beside me just in case I fell. No, I was going to succeed in getting back to 110% by myself.
The first time I tried to run again, I had horrible form but it was incredibly awesome. I had the biggest dumbest looking smile I could manage after I crossed my drive way after running my loop through my cul-de-sac. From that moment I just looked forward to the future because if I can run, I can shoot a basketball again, I can go back to college, I can throw, I can catch. I can live life the way I used to.
That’s why I didn’t get stuck in my losses. Because that’s all it was, lost. It wasn’t taken and I could find/regain not only my athletic abilities, but my day to day abilities like my memory, my knowledge, and get back to my academics. I can get back to life and back to helping others with whatever that may mean. Life has hurdles, challenges, struggles, walls, but that doesn’t mean it should stop you from living your life as happily as possible. I enjoy running immensely and nothing is going to stop me from getting back to the distance I was doing or the pace. I know it’ll just take time, hard work, dedication and perseverance.
I’m going to finish with these few thoughts that really helped me in my progress and still help me today.
- Live life as happily as possible, but not at the expense of others
- Don’t ever give up, keep striving, keep pushing, and stay hungry
- Nothing is definite, so whatever your feeling now, it will pass
- There’s always positive’s somewhere it’s just a matter of you wanting to look for them.
- I may not be able to do something now, but I’ll never be able to do it if I just give up
- Whatever happened yesterday, whatever happened a week ago, a month, a year, it’s all in the past and all you can do from it; is learn from it.
Last thing is a quote:
“Your life is determined not so much by what life brings to you by as the attitude you bring to life; not so much as by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happened.”-Khalil Gibran
If you’ve made it this far, I have a statement I’m making right now. I’m signing up for the Columbus Nationwide half and will try to run it this fall of 2017. I know this is going to be hard and may be too soon and this and that. But, you know what, I’ve overcome a lot and I’m only 22. I can, and I will, run the half not because I’m trying to prove anything, but because this is my life. I can always try harder, do better, do more. What’s life if you don’t try to develop yourself, change yourself, learn about your limits and then crush those limits? What is life if that life is filled with regrets and thoughts of I should have or could have?
It’s better to fail than to wonder what if. Do what you can, with what you have, and never be satisfied.