“I am not my leg brace”

When I walk into a room with people I don’t know and I’m wearing shorts or a skirt, people will first look at my face, then glance at my leg, then look at my face again, and then stare at my leg. When I was much younger I used to be oblivious to the stares. I would be more concentrated on where we were going or on keeping up with my dad who takes very big strides. Once I hit high school I began noticing the stares I would get. At first I would ignore them and be annoyed internally, but now I stare back. If someone has the audacity to stare at me for a prolonged period of time, I’m going to try to make them equally as uncomfortable. I have almost perfected mimicking the pitying smile that will be plastered on an observer’s face when we make eye contact. I’ve grown to love the questions I am asked and the shock that people try to hide when I tell them it’s a permanent thing, I can feel it, it doesn’t hurt. No, it’s not a sports injury, No, I’ve never even played a sport, No, it will not get better.

But my leg is not a negative part of my life. I think having a paralyzed ankle has shaped many parts of my personality. I’m a very accepting person, although whether that can be solely attributed to my paralyzed ankle is up for debate. An argument can be made that after being asked so many intruding questions yourself you hesitate to ask the same questions of others. Instead of trying to make a person fit into the box of what a person should do or be able to do, why not try making the box fit the person? I hate it when people assume that I won’t be able to do something. Having a disability automatically puts you at a disadvantage, and you constantly have to prove that you can keep up. 20 mile bike ride- done it. Summer camp counselor at a very physically demanding camp – worked there for three summers. Hauling lumber to build sets for musicals – one of my favorite things to do for the past seven years. I am constantly assuring people that I can do anything anyone else my age and size can do but at a slightly slower pace. Everyone has something that makes them different from everyone else, and I’m no different.