From time to time someone tells me I’m inspiring.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Being told I’m inspiring is really nice to hear, particularly in the context of my writing, where I feel like I lay everything out for all to see. Often, though, the compliment comes in the context of ‘you bike, ski, climb, practice yoga, surf, train hard… You don’t let it stop you!’ And yeah, it’s nice to hear in this context too. But always, in the back of my mind, I feel like a bit of a fraud.
The thing is – I’m not particularly good at anything athletic. I’m about as far from ‘a natural’ as you can get. It also never occurs to me that it, being my artificial leg, is something that should stop me. I engage in active pursuits because I want to, because they’re fun, and rewarding, and enriching, and challenging. Whenever I am trying something new, the thought that ‘this is something that I can’t do, or shouldn’t be doing, because of my artificial leg’ never really occurs to me. Looking back, I think the reason this doubt doesn’t interfere has little to do with me, and much more to do with a couple of key early influences, combined with good fortune later in life (such as my visit to Jeff and Harmony, described previously).
One of those influences was my mother. She is a fierce lady. The stories I remember her telling during my childhood were about her days at the University of Queens, where she graduated with an honors degree in mathematics. Her class included only the second, third, and fourth women to do so. I also remember her telling stories of the non-Caucasian men she dated in those days. Her mother encouraged neither the maths nor the men, any more than did the society of the day. Intentional or not, I think the message I took away, very much unconsciously, was ‘you don’t drink the Kool-aid just because it’s what you’re being offered’.
I’ve always been one to mull things over (a reasonably apt critical thinker? I don’t know). I suspect I started questioning some social norms unconsciously, and very early on. As time has passed this process has become more conscious.
So. After I learned to walk again, it seemed only logical that I would learn to bike and ski again. And, as part of my rehabilitation, I took up swimming, and it turned out I was all right at it. So why not become a lifeguard? What is it about climbing that makes it not possible with three limbs?… And so on. I never consciously went through this thought process, but I must have decided somewhere along the line.
I never got to pick my mom, or the country I was born in, or my diagnosis with childhood cancer. I happen to be a bit (well, maybe a lot) of an endorphin junkie, and I love being active. I’m stoked that people find me inspiring, because I love to be inspired in turn, and love that there are people out there doing things that I find inspiring, but I can’t deny that it all seems a bit… normal.