living adventurously & making bucket lists

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I was tempted to title this post “going out on a limb” or something clever like that, but I won’t subject you to that cheesiness. Besides, I will warn you: this post doesn’t really have much of anything to do with my arm.

I have news that I’m not sure I’ve shared on this blog yet: I’m graduating college this May. After 4 years of reading and writing and studying, I’ll officially get my BA in English (and a minor in Psychology). I’ve been very lucky to land a full-time job and kickstart my career in media before I’ve even received my college diploma. But moving into the adult world brings with it lots of change and newness. In college, I had lunch with my friends every day, enjoyed long periods of time between classes (those were great for napping), and survived on a diet of junk food and coffee that fueled the all-nighters I frequently pulled. Now I’m officially a grownup. I have to look presentable at work and catch up on my sleep after a long day at the office. I don’t see my friends as often as I would like, and my life is a lot more structured. That’s not always a good thing, though. I’ll admit that the changes triggered some post-college blues I initially tried to ignore and push aside. There were the existential questions that haunted me, more than ever when I wasn’t distracted by cramming for an exam or trying to put a lab report together. I still often wonder about my life and where it’s going and what it means. I think a lot of people yearn for these answers on some level. And it’s frustrating because we all want our lives to mean something and we want to give our lives meaning. There’s a certain quote by the poet Mary Oliver that keeps making its way into the forefront of my mind:

photo-1I can’t say I have my life all figured out. I haven’t even decided on a cohesive philosophy to use as a lens through which to understand this great big world. But I know that the best way to deal with this feeling of emptiness and hunger for meaning is to try different things. I want to explore my interests and challenge myself to go beyond what’s comfortable. I want to be happy, not just content with everything. I want things to stop feeling so blah. So with that being said (er…written?), I’m going to hold myself accountable for my own happiness. There are so many things I want to experience, and I think that it’s a good a time as any to begin living as fully as I can. So this is the moment where I start taking my personal pursuit of happiness seriously. I need to go out into the world and try the things that scare me most, that perhaps I once thought I couldn’t achieve. And here are some of the things I’d like to accomplish by the end of this year – a bucket list of sorts:

– Take yoga classes – I’ve always loved the tranquility and the Eastern philosophy associated with this practice, and anyone who knows me can tell you I can certainly use a bit of meditation. I have a very loud mind and tend to get stressed or anxious very quickly, so calming my thoughts sounds like a great idea. I’m particularly interested in aerial yoga, where you hang upside down from silks tied to the ceiling. How cool is that?!

– Attend a ComicCon – This sounds super nerdy, but I’ve always dreamed of getting all dressed up and being a superhero for a day. I’m not into anime at all and I don’t really read comic books, but I could totally be Supergirl or Wonder Woman or even a version of Bionic Woman.

– Skydive – Ask someone what’s on their “bucket list,” and I’m sure 90% of people will mention skydiving. It seems that jumping out of a plane at I-don’t-know-how-many-thousand feet from the ground is the epitome of exhilaration (and insanity too, probably). I can’t wait to feel fearless falling through the sky.

– Learn archery – If you keep up with news about the Paralympic Games, you’ve probably heard of the Armless Archer Matt Stutzman. I’d love to try my hand (sorry, I can’t stay away from really lame puns today) at being a sort of hybrid between Matt Stutzman and The Hunger Games protagonist Katniss Everdeen.

– Run a 5K – This one is pretty uncharacteristic of me. I’ve never been a runner, and I think I look a bit like an uncoordinated ostrich when I try to run. But when one of my close friends suggested we all sign up for a 5K run together, I figured it wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Besides, I’m trying hard to get fit and stay in shape, so a run could do me some good.

– Wear a bathing suit fearlessly – Confession: I haven’t worn a bikini in public since I was maybe 4 years old. Even at my skinniest (which was superskinny), I felt  awkward and uncomfortable with my figure. Last year, I bought a really cute two-piece swimsuit, but it’s currently sitting in my drawer with the tags still attached. I’m hoping to tone up my body and rock that bikini this summer.

– Start a YouTube channel – I love what Ryan Haack from Living One-Handed has done with his YouTube account. He’s made instructional videos so that people with upper limb differences can learn to do things, well, one-handed. The thing is that Ryan’s a dude. And I’m itching to make a video on how I paint my nails or pull my hair up. I’m just super camera shy. Maybe one day….

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Before you judge or say anything about these goals I’ve made for myself, I’ll have you know that I’m completely aware that they won’t necessarily bring me happiness. Real happiness is a huge blend of things, I think. It’s a very complicated equation involving love and friends and good deeds and puppies, but I’ve never been any good at math. All I know is that happiness is worth pursuing, and it’s something that everyone deserves. So I’m going to surrender the existential ennui and make it happen for myself. This isn’t about proving myself or overcompensating for my disability; it’s about being free and fearless and happy and alive.

 

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

 

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media monday – aimee mullins for l’oreal

Have you seen this commercial air during any of your favorite shows recently? On the surface, it seems like any other cosmetics ad: a beautiful woman with perfect skin tells you why she loves the beauty product she’s supposed to be selling. What you most likely don’t realize (until the end of the commercial, of course) is that the woman, Aimee Mullins, is missing both legs below the knee. Mullins is a Renaissance woman who has done everything from competing in the Paralympics to walking the runway for Alexander McQueen.

The best part about this ad is that they’re not trying to sell an alternative version of beauty, like Dove and their campaign to promote healthy body image. Instead, this commercial focuses on Mullins’s ethnic heritage and skin tone. They don’t need to explain anything about Mullins or her career. They’re just promoting their product with a gorgeous spokesmodel. And at the end of the day, her lack of legs doesn’t even get mentioned. She’s selling makeup simply because she’s pretty. She’s getting attention for something that’s not her disability. And that’s all we can ask for, right?

 

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

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on rejection, the worst part of dating

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A few days ago, a friend (whom I met through this blog and who also happens to have one arm) told me about a recent dating experience. Just like I used to do, she tends to hide her limb difference when around members of the opposite sex, so the guy she’d been seeing had no clue about her arm. I encouraged her to be open with him and confident in herself, but things didn’t go very well after the Big Reveal. Surprisingly, he reacted like a complete jerk; he was reluctant to see her arm and basically dropped all contact with her. Not cool. And it’s not the only rejection I heard about this past week.

On the “Women Tell All” special episode of The Bachelor, limb different contestant Sarah Herron spills all about the pain she felt after Sean Lowe told her she was not the one for him. “It’s the worst to be told ‘you’re great, but you’re not good enough for me,'” she says. “I always fall back on, ‘Oh well, it must be because I have one arm.'” It’s a heartbreaking moment as the audience sees Sarah fighting back tears. And it brought me back to the times when no boys wanted to dance with me at parties and my 6th grade crush told me my shorter arm was ugly. So for the sake of honesty here, I’ll confess this: I cried after watching the show. I know exactly how Sarah felt, and I cried for her and for my friend and for myself and for any girl living with a physical difference in a superficial world.

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But here’s the thing that may just shed a little light and hope on this sort of situation – we’ve all been there. Turn on the TV or pick up a book or magazine, and I doubt you’ll have too much trouble finding a scene where a beautiful and seemingly perfect girl with two arms faces rejection from the guy she wants. Rejection is not a phenomenon exclusive to women with limb differences. People get rejected for all sorts of reasons, whether or not they have a disability. I know there are a few moms who read my blog who have young children with limb differences, and I’ve been hearing a lot of worries about their kids’ future love life. All I can really say is that dating isn’t easy for anyone. You will have to comfort your daughter after her first breakup and console your son after his first crush doesn’t pay any attention to him. But the fact is that you’ll have to do that with any kid, limb difference or not.

And when it comes down to it, a limb difference isn’t an automatic deal-breaker for most people. Just because you’re missing a limb doesn’t mean that all guys are going to reject you. It bothers me so much when people tell me or anyone with a difference that there will be a man who won’t be “shallow” and will look “past the disability.” That almost makes it sound as though a limb difference is some horrible deformity that makes you totally undesirable, which is completely untrue. I’m sure there are plenty of guys interested in girls like my friend or like Sarah simply because they’re gorgeous. A missing arm is not something a man should have to “accept” or “look past.”

215637_10151415710297642_1891414064_nI know I’ve been very insecure about my arm throughout my life, but I feel comfortable knowing that my boyfriend loves all of me just as I am. He’s there for me and he’s happy with the way I look, even with messy hair and 1.5 arms. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this here before, but he’s the one who inspired me to start blogging about my limb difference. And it’s definitely made me realize that I’m not alone and that I’m worth loving.

There’s not really anything comforting or intelligent I can say about rejection other than this: it really sucks. But when you do find someone who really loves you and who you can connect with and be vulnerable with, you’ll realize that all the hurts and heartbreaks kind of just fade away. So in closing, I’ll leave you with the lesson Sarah Herron took home from The Bachelor experience:

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Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

 

 

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media monday – a little humor

Happy Monday, everyone! How funny is this cartoon of a very jealous Venus de Milo?

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

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