At almost 24 years old I feel younger now than I felt at almost 17.
I was born with achondroplasia. It’s a rare genetic bone disorder, a type of dwarfism that affects the way cartilage becomes bone. I always felt like I wasn’t supposed to be born this way. When I was younger, even up to the age of 16, I always imagined myself as “average height” or “taller” or whatever you want to call it. In my dreams at night I was always average height. From as far back as I can remember, I always felt like I wasn’t born into the right body.
At 17, I finally felt like I had awoken from a long dream – a dream where I didn’t have much control. I have never let my dwarfism own me, but it did control me. That’s why a few months before turning 17 I decided to have a life-changing surgery. I suddenly felt like I had a chance to start my life all over again. I was able to experience things I never had the chance to experience before, and experience old things in a new way.
It might not make sense, but it wasn’t until after my first leg surgery that I began to be so open about my dwarfism. I wasn’t afraid of who I used to be, because I was finally where I knew I was supposed to be – in the body that I made for me. My new body gave me a chance to be the person I always felt like I was but that no one knew was in here. I felt like my dwarfism was a shell that was holding back and hiding what was on the inside. Everyone always says, “it’s what’s on the inside that matters.” But when too much is focused on the outside, the inside doesn’t have much of a chance to emerge. At 16 I finally began to break that shell.
In the beginning of my limb lengthening surgeries I often said, “I’m the same person, just taller.” But I actually don’t feel like the same person at all anymore. People treat me differently now and that makes me feel differently about myself. Some say it’s bad that I am now a “totally different person” and I should have just “learned to embrace” my dwarfism. But is anyone the same person they were when they were 16?
Limb lengthening is controversial. It’s currently popular to love the body you were born with and find beauty in whatever you have. But I like to say, “own your own body and take charge of your own life.” True beauty is the person you are in your soul. If that means blonder, then do it! If that means more fit, make it happen. For me it took more than a little work but I got here.
October is dwarfism awareness month. It’s a month dedicated to advocating for dwarfism. Some like to celebrate it, others like to just educate. I’m the latter. I have great respect for my friends in the dwarfism community who enjoy their little person status. However, I don’t feel the need to celebrate it because it’s never been something that I’ve taken #pride in. It wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter. It’s just something I’ve dealt with and will continue to deal with.
but most importantly, I feel so much younger now.