When Nicole DeBooom had me on her podcast, Run this World with Nicole DeBoom, we talked about being different and Nicole included “Rocking Your Differences” in the podcast title because that concept resonated with her. If you haven’t listened to Nicole’s podcast, I encourage you to check it out. She has interviewed many amazing and inspirational people since she started and I personally love listening to it while I run. If you didn’t catch my podcast, you can listen to it here. Since doing the podcast, I have had people tell me that, like Nicole, the idea of rocking your differences really resonated with them, so I decided to write a blog post about why it’s so important to me so I can dig in a little deeper.
It’s no secret that my leg was amputated when I was two years old, so I have always looked different than my friends. My leg used to be flesh colored and filled in so it was generally the same shape as a biological leg.
When we went to watch the Paralympics in Georgia in 1996, I saw my first fancy leg, worn by a dancer who had red and gold fabric laminated into his socket.
I immediately went back to my own leg guy and demanded that I have a fancy leg as well. This was apparently a new thing, so my leg guys had to do some research to figure out how to cater my tween demands. They knew better than to tell me no because they had been working with us long enough to know that my mom doesn’t take no for an answer if there’s any chance something is possible. A couple years later… I finally got my first fancy leg. One of my early fancy legs had the M&M characters boldly staring back at anyone who so much as glanced at my leg. One of my co-nicknames with another friend named Emily was M&M, hence the choice of fabric. Anyways, I loved that I got to have this unique opportunity to express my personality – an opportunity I had because of my leg – and this was probably the beginning of my conscious choice to really rock my differences.
Things spiraled from there as I settled into the first school district I would attend for more than a few years, and the district I eventually graduated from 6 years later. My friends and I got extremely comfortable using my leg as a prop for our shenanigans, particularly once we were in high school. I had a few friends who affectionately called me “Stumpy” and we would use my leg to play baseball in the hallway at lunch with a crumpled up brown lunch bag. We would also stick my leg in snowbanks or behind car tires just to see how people would react. Our two biggest pranks were to walk through the hall in opposite directions and then have one friend whack me in the leg with a drumstick and I would go down writhing in fake pain strategically near a new student or teacher and to enter a classroom when there was a substitute teacher or new student with my leg turned around backwards (this works best when wearing pants in case you were curious).
Looking back, I feel a little bad about playing these pranks on people, but then I reflect a little deeper and wonder if those very pranks were the thing that helped me connect with people more quickly. My using my leg as a source of humor and entertainment, I was opening the door of communication between myself and the people I pranked, as well as my fellow pranksters. Rather than feeling that my leg was a taboo or negative, these pranks allowed others to connect with me because of the very thing that makes me visibly different than them.
Feeling different can make you feel disconnected, but I think it can be quite powerful when you use as a means to connect with others. We all have things about us that make us feel different or less than those around us – in that way we are all the same. When we are able to use those differences to connect with others, we give ourselves the opportunity to create positivity in our world. That positivity can then snowball as each person you influence goes out and connects with others. This is the very reason I started this blog – to share messages of positivity and embracing the things that make you different. I may not be able to directly impact some of the larger issues our world is facing today, but I can try to be a spark of positive energy and connectedness in hopes of creating the larger positivity snowball. That is why I put myself out there for the world, and I just hope that is enough.