Written by: Faizal Khamisa // @faizkham
Triangles are the strongest shape, because any force is evenly spread through all 3 sides. I’ll never forget learning that in grade 5, at least now I won’t.
I don’t remember much from my early days in school. I’m 28 years old, have lived what feels like the equivalent of 2 lives, and quite frankly never found stuff from the early days very relatable. I promise though, keep studying calculus. I learned more when faced with this battle, than I ever did in my years of school. Having to look adversity in the eye, and say ‘I’m going to kick your ass’ gave me more courage than any A+ could've.
The fact that my memories of grades 1-9 elude me so easily makes the following connection unbelievably random, but for me fortuitous. In November of 2014, at the age of 26, I had my entire right hip replaced with a titanium chrome rod. I’ve heard all your airport jokes; they’re hilarious. This was the latest in 10 years of medical turmoil that started with a cancer diagnosis at the age of 16, and is far from over even today. Before the hip replacement, I had been operated on 6 times. Once on each hip, once on my left shoulder, twice on my chest, and once around my neck. I had managed to bounce back from each of those, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. Overcoming cancer gave me the belief I can do anything. It’s the single motivator in my decision to leave a business and psychology degree behind, and purse sports broadcasting. It’s the best decision I made, and made the following decision all the harder to make. By the time the replacement surgery came along, I was starting to get established in my career, and building a reputation on TV. The last thing I wanted was to have to take 4 months off, away from the television. Out of sight, out of mind I thought.
So that’s what made the first night, post-op, very difficult. The idea of learning how to walk again, for a third time now was agonizing, straining and anxiety-inducing. I had worked so, so hard to get over the first ailments, I finally started to think life was unfair. Until I got an email from a jewelry site. It was Black Friday, and companies began sending their promotion emails, while I was awake, loaded on morphine at 3 in the morning. I scanned some sites, saw nothing appealing until I found a necklace with a triangle pendant. I somehow flashed back to grade 5, when Ms. Pereira said “if you want to build something, start by laying down triangles because they’re the strongest shape to build on.”
I needed to build, because I was growing in more ways than one. What started nearly 10 years earlier as a physical recovery evolved into a mental one. I say that was much tougher than the physical. My triangle served as a reminder every single day that I am in fact strong enough to fight this fight, too.
I needed that email. I needed that memory. And I certainly needed that necklace. 2 years later, as rusty as it’s gotten, I continue to wear it daily. It’s MY reminder that despite the replacement, despite the decade plus of medical hell, my base is still strong. I’m my own triangle, and whatever burdens, obstacles and challenges fall upon me, I have a strong enough metaphorical base to help me overcome it. I can’t tell you how important connecting to that object has been for me. Sometimes we need something visual, and physical to help remind us how mentally strong we are. It’s impossible to ignore your past, but it becomes easier to mold your future if you remember how much you’ve overcome, and just how far you’ve come.
More than anything it’s ok to remind yourself daily how strong you need to be to get through it. Admittedly there are days I don’t feel that strong, both physically and mentally, but each day I can wake up, look at the triangle, put it around my neck and tell myself I’m strong enough to get through it. The confidence in knowing you'll be ok, gives you enough belief that you can talk to others about your struggles. Their support, coupled with your belief in yourself makes you feel invincible.
"The replacement of fear by hope is probably the single most powerful trampoline of progress." - Aga Khan
A triangle transfers force when excess weight’s applied on it. If you’re feeling like the weight of the world is bringing you down, find your triangle. Try transferring your negative thoughts, into positive reinforcements. Just try, and go.