In my 22 years on this Earth, there are a few things I have gotten to know quite well: chairs, stepladders and the tips of my toes.
Long story short (pun intended), I am what you might call “vertically challenged.” At my fullest height, I am 4 feet, 11 inches.
So, I’ve had to stand on my tiptoes to dance at every prom and homecoming. I’ve had to push the seat up whenever I get behind the wheel of a car. And I’ve had to maneuver chairs around the kitchen to reach spices on top shelves.
Of course, I’ve heard the usual jokes. While at King’s Island, friends tend to push me up to the “You must be this tall to ride” sign, double-checking that I make the cut. My younger brother would dramatically look over my head when he first hit his growth spurt. And my dad, recently when I couldn’t see something, jokingly said, “Sarah, I’m not lifting you on my shoulders.”
I’ve even made a few jokes myself. It’s not uncommon, after I take off a pair of heels, and my feet hit the now-much-closer ground, for me to say with a laugh, “Wow, this is how short I am?”
I joke, though, because it’s something that has never really bothered me. After all, not everyone can say they’re only 4 feet, 11 inches. And, besides, being short comes with a ton of advantages.
For one, I hardly ever – and I mean, practically never – have to duck or bend over. Also, long car trips are much more comfortable when you have shorter limbs to cram into backseats.
After all, as Yoda (possibly the most famous fictional shorty), once said, “Judge me by my size, do you?”
History is full of people whose actions far out-measured their size. According to The Chicago Tribune, the following people all had below-average heights: French philosopher Voltaire (5 feet, 3 inches), “Jane Eyre” author Charlotte Bronte (4 feet, 10 inches), industrialist Andrew Carnegie (5 feet), and ‘80s singer Pat Benatar (5 feet).
We all know that how a person looks is hardly the best indicator of who they are and what they can do. But what is more difficult, sometimes, is for a person to feel that way about themselves. Sadly, it is human nature to want to be like others, to avoid that terrible “d” word – different.
I have been thinking quite a lot about what “different” really means. By the time genetics, life experiences, personality and countless other factors are considered, doesn’t that word describe everybody to some extent? Isn’t being different simply a part of being alive?
It’s like those Dr. Pepper commercials, where some famous person begins by saying something like, “A lot of people dream of becoming a dancer,” and numbers, usually in the millions, appear on the screen. As the commercial progresses, the number is cut again and again as the speaker adds his or her own personal life events, until only the number one remains.
But I think that same concept applies to everyone, not just people who are famous enough to appear in soda-pop ads. We all, in some way or another, can narrow ourselves down to be the “just one” who does this or that.
Perhaps I grew up with too many Disney movies, but I truly can’t help thinking that we all are, in some way, unique. Very few people, however, seem to actually believe that. Some shy away from such a thing. Others truly think they are not special at all. And still others feel that, what makes them special, makes them strange.
And yet I don’t really believe that any of those mindsets are right.
It’s a simple idea – embracing your individuality and admitting that you do have something to offer than nobody else can. But it’s something we often choose to ignore for a million different reasons.
But, perhaps, if we could learn to stop hiding and accept our own personal traits, then maybe we’d be able to appreciate the beautiful gallery of differences in the world around us. So many times, acceptance can’t happen as a society until we learn to do it with ourselves.
As Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Sarah Allen may be reached at 937-402-2571 or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.