I believe that limits do not exist. In life, there are only challenges and obstacles to overcome, and it is always possible to work around hindrances to accomplish our goals.
I was born with only three fingers on my right hand. The first time I realized that I was different was in kindergarten, when my teacher told us that we could use our fingers to count to ten, and I could only reach eight. When I was younger, I was teased relentlessly by other children in my school. Even my friends would make hurtful comments sometimes, without any intent of offense. I grew up with names like “Alien,” and “Dinosaur,” which took a major toll on my self-esteem. I was embarassed of myself, and thought that I wasn’t “complete,” because my hand wasn’t like everyone else’s. I didn’t realize that I could be more than my “freaky hand” until I was eight years old.
I have always considered myself the creative type, and my mother believed that I would have a natural ability to play music. She took me to a local studio, where it was “Choose Your Instrument Day.” I walked from room to room, but nothing in particular caught my attention. I was about to give up and ask my mom if we could leave, when I walked past the last room and stopped. Something about the music coming from that room hit me, and I turned around. My eyes were immediately drawn to the guitar being played, and I listened. I watched the man’s fingers dance on the instrument, and I was so absorbed in the music that I failed to notice that he was using all ten of them. After he finished his song, I was hooked. I looked at my mom seriously, and said: “I want that one.” We talked to him for a while about lessons, and were about to leave when my mom turned back to him. In a voice not meant for me to hear, she said: “She has a… different hand. Will she be able to get very far with this?” He looked at me for a moment with a bit of speculation. Then he smiled, and said something that changed the way I looked at my situation forever: “We’ll find a way to make it work.”
I have been playing classical guitar for over half of my life now. I can do things with three fingers that other people need five to do. My interests have evolved, and I now consider theatre to be what I am most passionate about. I still battle insecurites–I have to fight out the inner voice that tells me: “You’ll never make it, they’ll cast someone normal instead.” But now I know that I can be successful in whatever I do, no matter what I’ve been given to work with.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.