Liberation: a term unique to each individual. Where and when you find it is a feat in its own. For Penn State junior Nick Kernicky, that moment occurred on June 4, 2017. It was the moment when everything went wrong — when Kernicky launched his dirt bike off a large motocross jump and freely sailed through the air.
At the young age of 2 years old, Kernicky received his first dirt bike from his dad as an Easter gift. Just a mere two years later, he was off to the races. For the past 19 years, Kernicky has been traveling the East Coast with his dad, racing his dirt bike and working toward obtaining his professional license to transition into racing professionally.
June 4, 2017 was the day his racing dreams came to a halt. Immediately after going off the motocross jump, while mid-air Kernicky realized something had gone wrong with his bike; the engine cut out, causing the back tire to lock up and quit spinning, causing the front of the bike to nose dive. Thirty feet up in the air, Kernicky had no choice but to jump off of his bike.
“When I came crashing down, I went to get back up and I had nothing,” says Kernicky.
Soon, the moment became flooded with panic and terror. But soon an overarching ambiance came over Kernicky. “I’m not in control of this at all,” Kernicky repeated over and over to himself.
He was immediately life-flighted to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa. With a broken collar bone, punctured lung, broken right hand, broken vertebrates C-3, C-5 and C-6 in his neck and various ligament injuries down his back, Kernicky spent the next three months in a full body neck brace, immobilized in a hospital bed. Kernicky thought to himself, “I can keep a good mindset to think positive, and maybe things will turn around, but ultimately if I freak out every second of every day and nothing changes, I’m just ruining the part of me that still works.”
After seeing three neurologists, each had the same conclusion: broken vertebrates are nothing to mess around with, especially a C-3, which has a lot to do with breathing and motor functions.
“They all said I’m kind of the special case. They said for me to not even be dead or a vegetable, they’ve never seen it before and they’ve never seen a quick turn around like me,” says Kernicky.
Kernicky has had eight motocross related surgeries in the past, but this one ended his racing career for good. Uncertainty accompanied Kernicky on his road to recovery.
Coming back to campus this past fall was no easy feat for him.
“Going back to integrating with everyone was weird. I hadn’t been walking or doing anything for three months and then just to come back here … it was a fresh start but it was a different transition,” says Kernicky.
He discovered and furthered his appreciation for DJ’ing and music production during recovery.
“It was a blessing to me what happened. Discovering something new,” says Kernicky.
Since then, he and his roommate have created their own DJ production company called Tredm (pronounced “treedom”). The logic behind the name? Freedom is the sum of nature and music. The Buddhist endless knot was the inspiration for their logo, in which they then configured into an endless knot tree. Tredm has gained a large following on social media, as Kernicky and his roommate continue to strategically spread their brand.
What he’s learned? If you get a second chance at something, don’t waste it.
“There’s something good in every situation, even a bad situation if you just flip your mindset — it’s all mindset. Life’s all mindset,” says Kernicky.
After living through his accident and the adversity that followed, Kernicky appreciates life on a whole new level. Tasks like walking down the stairs or throwing away a piece of trash bring the brightest smile to his face.
“I learned how precious life is. Just moving and living, I get sincere enjoyment from it. Something so small could drastically change your life and end it as you know it completely forever. Every day you wake up, it’s a brand new day. That’s all you have — you just have now,” he says.
With racing in his past, yet forever in his heart, and music as a part of his present and future, Kernicky found his “liberation through sound” … a slogan for his music production company coined by Kernicky himself.
For him, life is a canvas. Music … his muse. Sometimes you have to stop thinking and be the soundwave … just feel.
“You have to take a step back and philosophically think about life. Once you figure out the ideals you want to stick with, stop thinking and just do it. Program yourself for the person you want to be and then live that way,” says Kernicky.
These days, Kernicky juggles the tasks of going to physical therapy while managing school and accelerating his career as a DJ. His appreciation for life, knowledge and music help him to better complete the puzzle when walking around and taking in the world around us.
Nick Kernicky is a miracle. He gets it … he understands what it’s like to almost have everything taken away from you — to be stripped of a life of beauty and what it’s like to be given a second chance. This was his opportunity to pour beauty into this world with art. Consider the opportunity seized because with Nick Kernicky’s attitude and determination, you can be sure to see his name, along with Tredm, in flashing lights.