Balancing on one leg

When you’re unable to do what you normally do, you have several options. You can either sit around wishing you could do what you used to be able to do or you can adapt and fill the void with new ventures and activities to capitalize on a hidden opportunity— free time.

This fall, coming off my second knee surgery in two years, I again faced the challenge of filling newly found free time. Confined to crutches for four weeks and only able to use one leg, it certainly did take longer to do everything on one leg. However, there’s still extra time in my schedule due to my not being able to play sports, especially after ditching the crutches.

As an athlete who’s played football, ice hockey, lacrosse, baseball and golf competitively in recent years, sports have always added significant structure to my time and schedule. And while I’d rather have a perfect knee and be able to contribute to the Brunswick football team and then have a boatload of fun playing hockey in the winter, I must accept that those opportunities aren’t afforded to me right now.

Countless people have said, “You’re staying so positive. It must be so hard.” And my response is, “It’s no fun if I’m negative.” Sure, it’s a bummer to have a bad knee. But it doesn’t have to, nor should it, derail or even impact anything besides my ability to run, jump, etc. With newfound free time, I’ve been able to take on some new things.

When I got the diagnosis in August, school hadn’t yet begun, so my class schedule wasn’t set in stone. Because the surgery carried an eight-month recovery period, I opted for a more challenging course load. Now, not only do I get to study a wider range of subjects, but I also gain options for courses next year and future flexibility with classes.

In addition, I’ve further pursued an interest I first developed in the wake of my first knee surgery: electronics recycling.

While it seems random at first, electronics recycling is where my fascinations with both business and the environment seem to intersect best. I’m able to help keep both precious metals (which can be repurposed and reused) and toxic materials out of landfills. This not only helps the environment but also capitalizes on the valuable components inside electronics.

And, where others see obsolete junk destined for a landfill, I see economic opportunity and items that definitely shouldn’t go into landfills. Not all used electronics are destined for scrap and recovery. Many handheld electronics, such as cell phones, tablets, and iPods, have value to a secondary owner. Through the new website I created,, I buy used cell phones, tablets, and iPods in all conditions, so that they can be reused.

When electronics are reused, there’s neither electronic waste nor the need for the harvest of new raw materials. When I buy devices, I wipe them clean, make sure they’re in working order and then distribute them, often overseas, in markets that don’t want or need brand-new devices. Not only is this something I enjoy, it keeps me busy. So, instead of lying around wishing I could play sports, my typical day consists of doing things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.

Making the most of my temporary situation, I also appreciate even more how much I love sports. In between physical therapy and icing and heading to part of football practice once or twice a week, I’d never consider disengaging from the team and not being there for support. So I take advantage of the hidden benefit of not being able to do what I’d normally do.

Taking on new endeavors I’d never have been able to enjoy otherwise is a great way to make the most out of what many people see as an unfortunate situation. And unintentionally, there is connection between my situation and my new endeavors. I look to repurpose both newfound time and old electronics.

Who knew there is so much value in something that, to an outside eye, seems broken?

Jamie MacFarlane is a junior at Brunswick School.

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