Wherever I go, people notice me. If I end up in the same place twice, complete strangers recognize me. But they don’t see me, they see something that describes me.
The problem? I don’t get noticed for who I am or what I’ve done. I get noticed for my height (or lack thereof). I’m noticed and remembered for my disability. Something completely separate and yet somehow inseparable from me. When passing strangers see me, they don’t see a person. They see an anomaly. I will forever be different in their minds, no matter what I do or how hard I try.
I am very much a people person, so I don’t mind interacting with others. On the contrary, I love it when my day involves going places and getting out in the world. I just wish people looked past the fact that I technically have a disability to see that I’m a person, period. I want to be noticed for being kind, or a diligent worker, or an encourager. Not for something over which I have no control. Not for the label society puts on people with dwarfism.
I dislike labels. Labels assume everything falls under specific categories and doesn’t vary too much. Society has this need to label, categorize, and file everything away neatly. Humans often don’t fit labels. Humans have personalities (shocker, I know). Humans have individual thoughts, dreams, views, and struggles. When people try to categorize me by my dwarfism, they miss knowing ME as an entire person. I’m looked straight through (or over). I am invisible; my disability is the only image people see.
This doesn’t just apply to strangers. Some people who have known me my entire life still treat me differently from everyone else. Something in the air changes when I talk with them. When I approach them or they approach me, I feel the shift in their brain. It’s so hard to describe, but there’s a palpable change in their words and body language. Sometimes they seem slightly uncomfortable or guarded, like they never know how to talk to me. They talk as if worried they might offend me by saying something wrong. Other times, the conversation feels patronizing. So many times I have felt 6, 8, or 10 years old again when talking with certain people. You know that tone of voice people adopt when talking with kids? I get that tone a lot. The overly cheerful, peppy, everything-is-sunshine-and-rainbows tone. The “you’re doing great, sweetie” tone. All because I’m short.
I would love to switch places with my disability for a day. For once, I could be seen first and IT could go unnoticed. I’m tired of being invisible. Everything I do or say in the outside world gets interpreted through the lens of dwarfism. I want people to see me as a person – as a human – just like them. I’m blessed with friends who do see me as a person, and the rest of the world needs to catch up with that mentality.
“Dwarfism” is a label. “Disabled” is a label. I am not a label, I am so much more than that. I am made up of countless experiences, dreams, and emotions that you’d be surprised they can all fit in my 3’8″ body. I’m a girl who randomly bursts into song when she’s happy. I’m a girl who lights up like she won the lottery when she gets to meet up with a friend. I’m a girl who frequently runs into things with her head, and has the bruises to prove it. I’m a girl who occasionally cries out of sheer loneliness. I’m a girl who trips over her words like it’s a sport. I’m a girl who loves helping others. I’m a girl who wants to be seen for all her merits and all her flaws.
When society only sees the dwarfism, they just see my shell. The life is on the inside. That is what I wish the world could see. That is what I wish the world took the time to see.