“Your son has a rare condition, he was born with a form of dwarfism. I don’t know much about his condition, the only thing I do know is that he will never exceed great heights.”
I was born with a lot of question marks, but isn’t everyone? No one knows exactly what their son or daughter is going to look like, what skills he or she will possess, or what they can and can not do in the future. We are all born with one thing in common and that is potential. Potential to be whoever we want to be, the potential to do whatever we want to do, and the potential to answer all questions had towards us from the beginning. There are two great days in a person’s life–the day we are born, and the day we discover why!
My parents’ lives temporarily changed on December 21, 1990. The excitement of having their first-born child immediately turned into concern and wondering. Together we all had to learn about dwarfism. My parents purchased educational books to further learn about my condition. I learned what being a dwarf meant by living day-to-day, through physical and emotional experiences. I found the educational books my parents purchased a couple of years ago. There was a bookmark on the first page of Chapter 5 “Explaining to Your Child That He/She Is Different.” My father never finished the book. He left it at that, he wanted to go on this journey of life with me. From the beginning my parents truly believed that I wasn’t going to be any different. They temporarily adapted towards me, making me feel comfortable in my own skin by instilling this confidence in me that I am no different. As the years past, they have let go of my hand so I can prove to others my ability, independence and my confidence. Life is as normal as possible, and that is because I have exceeded greater heights already then what any book or a doctor will ever tell me.
“Hey mommy, look at his big head. (laughing and pointing) Why is he so small?” “Look at that midget!” “Why is a little boy working here?” “I’m taller than you! He looks funny!”
I have taken a verbal beating over the past 21 years. A beating that has occurred so often that I’ve found ways to hide the bruises. Every time I heal, my skin becomes thicker. These verbal punches don’t rattle me anymore–they motivate me. These moments, serve as perfect learning opportunities for children and adults everywhere. I encourage parents to use this time as an opportunity to teach them that God makes everyone different. That he has a plan for all of us, he gives us only what we can handle. I write this blog to build dwarfism awareness. I don’t just talk through an online media outlet. If there are any parents reading this, teach your children as early as possible about all of the different kinds of people there are out in this world. Explain to them that although we look different, we all share the same potential, the same attitudes, emotions and feelings. What may be an uncomfortable situation for you, is a very comfortable situation for me. If you won’t I can/will explain to the child why I’m their size, why I’m different. I promise you the questions asked afterwards will be of excitement and curiosity rather than hatred and concern. Be curious, not judgmental. You learn as you go, and that is how you grow. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me–they motivate me.
“Your son will never be able to ride a bike, play sports competitively, or live a normal life.”
Check, Check and CHECK. Once my parents were told this, one of the first toys bought for me for exercise purposes was a bicycle. It was blue with training wheels. I was told I couldn’t ride a bike because my short limbs (arms and legs) wouldn’t be able to reach the pedals. We solved that problem by duct taping wooden blocks to the pedals, lowering the seat and purchasing a hockey helmet to ensure extra protection for the spills that were bound to occur. I have played soccer, baseball, golf and hockey all competitively. I retired from them all at a young age, because of safety reasons. I found my passion through the participation of one of these competitive sports. I’ve never worried about being the next great Sidney Crosby or Tiger Woods. I’m worrying about being the first great me.
“Mat your education has to be the most important priority in your life. You will never be able to dig a hole. Your job in life has to be the person who figures out how to dig that hole. How to make this hole different then the rest. Your mind will be your greatest asset. Your strength will come from your heart.”
The reason we have two ears and one mouth is so we listen more and talk less. My father said this quote to me when I was 16, writing an essay about what I want to be when I grow up. 21 years later I have finally realized what I want to be–half the man my father has become. He is the greatest coach, he is the greatest father. Yet my approach has to be different. I need to think differently then everyone else. I can’t afford to crack my head again, because it is my greatest asset. I learn something new everyday and hope to continue learning for as long as I can. My father wants me to be a teacher. I just want to be him. You are your best teacher. You are your best student. We truly can be whoever and whatever we want to be. We are everything, in one. Doing what other people expect you to do is no guarantee of happiness. Create your own path, even if it’s hard for others to accept.
“Is this your little brother? How old is he?”
I take so much pride in my siblings. I celebrate their accomplishments, and feel responsible for their defeats. I’ve shared with you all stories of why my brothers’ and sister are
better than yours. They have it made, while I’m trying to pave my way. But in reality, I’m no different, I just do things differently. I am optimistic enough to believe that my brothers’ and sister brag about me too. If there not bragging they are teaching. Teaching others that we all walk the same path, I just wear different shoes. That if we all start looking at what’s the same instead of always looking at what’s different, we’ll begin to see that we all have a lot in common. I use my platform to help me obtain the unreachable. I just want everyone to see something in me that says, “Everything’s going to be okay.”
“Mat you can’t… Mat you will never… Mat you won’t…Mat that’s good enough for you. Mat you can watch…”
LIMITATIONS. I absolutely love when someone puts a limit towards what I can and can’t do–it’s my favorite motivation. “Won’t, Can’t, never” don’t exist until after I put in my best effort. I love trying new things, I want to experience it all–even if I fall. I love proving people wrong.I don’t mind being the last one picked when picking teams to compete in a physical activity. In the end, I feel great about myself for trying, for putting forth my best effort, for crossing off another activity on my bucket list of things I was told I wouldn’t/couldn’t be able to do. The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens. Don’t give up. The only thing you can count on during any given moment is you! Doubt me, go ahead I dare you.
I have been told and called a lot of things in my life. These quotations are not necessarily direct, for most are nastier, but mainly because at this age they go in one ear and out the other. Don’t worry about what you can’t control. It doesn’t matter what the critics say, they can never take your joy or work ethic away from you. People who tell you that you can’t do something is because they can’t do it themselves. When the world says, “You’re not good enough.” Get a second opinion. Judge a book by its cover, and you’ll miss out on a story that is beautiful, inspiring, deep, and possibly life-changing. My life has been as normal as possible, so normal that this is my first post since the first week of summer.
I want to leave you with one more quote that proves that there are A LOT of good people in this world. A quote that you should adopt into your everyday approach when it comes to meeting new people.
“You know he’s different right?” “Yeah, that’s what I like about him. He’s not like everyone else.”
Let the people talk, I’m still going to walk.