Writing: ‘I Am This, Yet So Much More’ by Isabel Lopez

This piece placed first for Middle School Writing submissions in the 2024 Ánimo Voices WRITING, ART, & SPOKEN WORD COMPETITION 2024, which invited students to respond to an open prompt. The competition is an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing, spoken word, and art.

I Am This, Yet So Much More

Every now and then, I get asked who I am.

I would answer, but I was never fully satisfied with my response.

Who am I? I knew part of who I was, but only because people would tell me repeatedly.

I am the daughter of two loving Mexican parents who immigrated from Queretaro to the
United States over 17 years ago. My parents are always telling me that I have to be important.

“Yo creo en ti. Tú puedes ser lo que tu quieras.”

They believe that I can, so I try to make myself believe that too. I don’t want to disappoint
them.

I am the younger sister to Josue, and the older sister to Adriana.

I am Catholic, one of the many who celebrate Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, All Saints’ Day,
and so much more.

I am a violinist, a writer, and a student. I am what gives me joy.

“But, is that all I am?” I used to ask myself.

Back then, never did I think I could be one more thing. All my life it was just waiting for its
chance to emerge: I am a RUNNER.

I was in seventh grade. The first semester had only just begun when I first heard about
Students Run LA. I didn’t care, simply waving the thought away.

It was after school when my friend Betsy asked, “Can you come with me to Mr. Lo’s room?”
I thought for a moment. “Yeah, let's go,” I responded. I had some time on my hands.

17
We arrived at his classroom where he was standing at the door dismissing students as they
left the class. Betsy asked for “the papers.” Mr. Lo went inside the class and came back to the
door with the pile. He talked for what seemed like forever. Mr. Lo explained all the
paperwork Betsy was supposed to fill in so she could run. IT WAS A LOT!

“Are you going to join, Isabel?” Mr. Lo asked.

I thought I wasn’t, but at the same time, it drew my attention like a cat chasing a rat. A
mystery I wanted to uncover, a light within reach.

He gave me the papers too, but I was still hesitant because I didn’t want to wake up early, I
didn't want to give up my afterschool time, and I didn’t want to have to shower more often.

I stashed the pile away in a folder filled with other stray papers. That was that, or so I
thought.

That same day though, SRLA came to haunt me. I was eating a warm bowl of pozole with my
mom and dad. My brother came in through the door. He got his food and ate with us too.

“Ma, Pa, quiero correr en SRLA.”

That is how it all began.

“Ya fui ala clinica para que llenen tus papeles,” my mom told me one Tuesday afternoon
when I got home from school.

I had almost turned in all the paperwork. All that was missing was my sports physical.

“¿¡Pero que crees que me dijeron?!”

THUMP!

“La enfermera me dijo que no puedes correr.”

My heart shattered. I can’t believe they said I couldn’t run! I didn’t really want to run, but I
wanted to at least try.

“¿Por que?” I asked, trying to hold back my shaky voice.

“No pues resulta que solo dijo eso porque hace mucho calor.”

 

18
We both sighed with relief. It wasn’t because of the way I was born. The doctor just thought
it was too hot outside.

I was born different. Or at least not the way I was supposed to be.

I was born with one leg longer than the other and both hips dislocated. My mom first realized
this when I began walking. She knew something wasn’t right.

My surgeries began at the age of three after my mom found Dr. Anthony Scaduto at the
Orthopedic Institute not far from home. In the time span of two years, I had five surgeries. I
remember going to transitional kindergarten with a wheelchair. I felt empty not being able
to walk. I was sitting in a chair with wheels while everyone else was in the playground by the
slide, in the monkey bars, in their tricycles, running. Moving freely. I wondered if they ever
realized how fortunate they were.

Then, I started walking again. But I was never fully “cured.”

By November, the final roster was officially posted, and I was officially on Animo Jefferson’s
SRLA team.

I ran, I ran, and I RAN. Feeling like I never had before. I knew I was different and that I had
to push myself more than others to demonstrate that I, too, can run. I knew I was different
and that might hold me back. But that was also what motivated me. Knowing that if I just
kept running, I could do something that I never thought I would.

Time went by just like that - adding one mile to my distance every week.

But it was never that easy. I would hear teammates complain about how sore they were or
that they were injured, and I would sometimes say those things too. But I tried to shut myself
up whenever I found myself complaining.

Every Saturday, as the runs got longer, my legs felt as if they had reached their limit. They
couldn’t sustain my body as I walked up the stairs after each of those long runs. Doing
suicides, sprints where I raced my teammates, during an indoor practice was worse though.
Whenever I went against someone faster than me, my eyes would tear up because I felt that I
would never be better. No matter how much I tried. That was my condition.

So why did I keep running if it hurt? Because I am resilient. Because I am passionate.

 

19
I remember vividly feeling the goosebumps flow all over my body when reaching the LA
Marathon finish line. Thousands of thoughts rushed back to me: How in every race the end
seemed unreachable as if I was back in bed with my cast. How every Saturday I debated
whether to go to practice or not. Like when one of my most loved relatives suggested I should
quit.

Strangers cheering, the time ticking, the music beating, the runners sprinting, while I pushed
my legs to the impossible. Younger me would have never thought I was capable. Even as I
write this, I am still in awe, filling my keyboard with tears.

I’m glad I can stand, I'm grateful I can walk, I’m thankful I can run.

Thank you, Betsy, for asking me to go with you to room 114 because without that I would
have never been a runner.

I am me. No one else but me, and only me.

There is still more to discover about my identity. I realize that my past limitations don’t
define me. Even when others doubt me, I now believe I am capable of achieving great things.
I am the one who decides who I AM.

Thumbnail of Isabel Lopez

 

 

Isabel Lopez

8th Grade, Ánimo Jefferson 

Guiding Teacher: Elsi Mendez-Lara