When I graduated high school I promised myself I would do things differently. I’d participate more and go with more.
Backtracking for a sec, I was born with congenital hip dysplasia. If you want to know exactly what is and such, google it. In short, the (left) socket in my hip isn’t deep enough. It is in fact so shallow that the ball of the femur doesn’t stay in and slips up. There it is being held in place by a bit of bone and, for the rest, the muscles and tendons and stuff that are there. This causes a limp while walking and also hurts when I walk or stand for a long time. Picture it as a muscle ache (’cause that’s basically what it is) but then increase the pain. By how much varies with what I’ve done but roughly five fold for just pushing it and hundred fold when I’m really going way beyond what I should be doing. In the latter case, pain killer/muscle relaxant is my friend.
This has, rather obviously, influenced me growing up. As a kid I’ve undergone numerous methods of treatment trying to fix it and force the socket to deepen and the femur to stay in place. Unfortunately, this hasn’t worked. Even the five surgeries during my first ten years of life were mostly ineffective. However, during elementary school, I didn’t notice all that much how it hindered me. Field trips were usually not taxing enough to really be noticed as they took, at most, about a day. There were some small things. I remember a field trip going to a forest where we would go for a walk. I think I was in 4th grade or so. It was only 3 kilometres or so but I ended up on the teacher’s back at some point so he could carry me for the remainder of the way. And I could never participate in the yearly 4-evening walk. Kids all through the country then walk, four evenings long, either a 5 km or a 10 km route and get a little medal at the end. Even the 5 km route was too much for me. Eventually, I participated in a similar event but then it wasn’t walking 4 evenings but swimming. Just so I could also get a medal.
However, I really started noticing just how it hindered me during the introductory field trip in my first year of high school. I was just shy of twelve years old* and we were going to Schiermonnikoog, one of the small islands of the north of our coast. It was a three day trip and there would be lots of walking and lots of events. So, while all the other kids walked from the hostel to town and all that stuff, I either rode a bicycle that had been arranged or I rode in the back of the van carrying various things. Now, I’ve always been a bit of an outsider kid, but from the start, this set me apart from my classmates. And it would remain so for the rest of my high school career. Not just because of the leg, but, later, also because I wasn’t interested in what the popular kids were interested in (mostly boys, make-up, shopping, you know…) and just wasn’t the group person most of them were. But I didn’t mind that.
(*we don’t have such a thing as middle school here, high school starts at 12 and takes 4, 5 or 6 years)
I did meet the girl who would become my first friend in high school during that trip though. Eva had, and still has, weak ankles and it didn’t take long for her to sprain one so she also had to ride in the van with me. Now, 12 years later, we’re still friends. 🙂
Looking back now, this is one of those defining moments. I realised I couldn’t do a lot of things. At least, not like other kids could. This realisation began to become a fixture and eventually caused me to miss out on things. We’re finally getting back to my original point now. I didn’t go with my class to The Hague when they had the history field trip to visit the parliament because there would be extensive walking. I didn’t go on the weekend field trip to Cologne because there would be extensive walking. And, finally, the one trip I now regret most not going on: the big trip abroad every class goes on in their penultimate year of school. My year, the choice was between Barcelona and I believe one of the big cities in Italy, Rome or Venice or something. I wanted to go, I had a hard time picking where to go but eventually I picked Italy. But then more and more info started dripping down as to what we were going to do and just how much was to be done on foot. In hindsight, arrangements could probably have been made, a bicycle, letting me take public transport instead of walking etc… But I eventually decided not to go.
When I graduated, the next year, I vowed to myself I would not let my leg stop me from doing anything anymore. A slightly unrealistic vow but adequate for the time. So I went to study Archaeology, something I really wanted but had been doubting on account of the physicality. And I went on the introductory field trip, even though it meant lots of walking. I paid for it dearly in terms of pain but I also gained, I got to know my classmates, became friends with some of them, laughed at the antics of others that were drunk and on the whole had a good time. I also went on the second field trip, a week or two later, to a dig. And that was a similar story, lots of walking, and thus pain, but again I gained. I made friends with Gert, and now, nearly seven years later, we’re still friends.
I went on digs in the summers and they all hurt like hell but I learned stuff and had fun. And, most importantly, I went on the week long field trip to Denmark. We walked a lot, and that hurt, but we also drove a lot and I saw the awesomest things and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world.
But, outside of those things, I remained the outsider kid I had been in high school. Mainly because I am an introvert. Not to be confused with being shy, although I used to be that too. Introvert means that I don’t like lots of people, being around a lot of people makes me mentally tired. I prefer to stay at home because that’s where I feel my best. When other, more extrovert, people go out, they enjoy themselves. They revel in the energy and the vibe and have fun. For me, going out is tiring, the energy and vibe of many people messes with my own and wears me out, and sometimes stresses me out. I didn’t go out when the others did, sitting in a bar drinking and shouting over music and other noise trying to have a communication is not my thing. Neither is going to a club and dancing and other such things my classmates did.
So, all things put together, I was still the outsider. And I (still) didn’t mind. I had enough things to occupy me and give me pleasure. It was in this period that I started playing NationStates. And for years it was my major online thing. Maybe if I hadn’t played NS I would’ve ended up on LJ earlier or somewhere else, I don’t know. I do know that NS was really good for me, I learned a lot. Not just about politics and government (NS is a political simulation game) but also about social interaction, life elsewhere, that all those artificial barriers society pulls up don’t really matter in the long run and a lot about myself. NS was also my support during the semester that I studied abroad and was wracked with home sickness during the first month.
… I think I’ve once again veered far from my point. Let’s see if I can get back to it and bring this ramble to a close.
“When I graduated high school I promised myself I would do things differently. I’d participate more and go with more.”
This is what I promised myself. And it started out okay, but eventually I couldn’t keep this promise. And surprisingly, it was not because of my leg, but because of my personality. And that pleases me. Because if I stay in and don’t go with because I genuinely don’t like it, that’s okay. But not going because I’m afraid it might hurt, that’s not okay.
And I’m glad that, through typing this I made this realisation. because when I started typing, I was sure I was gonna end up with a conclusion that I failed to keep the promise and still let my leg control me. 🙂 Thinking about it now, I know that is false, I have gone and done too many things the last few years to have that be true. For example, I went to multiple weekend-long fantasy events where most we did was walk around, either watching stuff or while engaging in role play. I paid for these events with pain but I still went and still enjoyed myself. So, go me.