For most college students, it’s easy to get lost in a crowd, especially if you go to a larger university. Not so much for me. As a college senior, I am 21 years old and 4 feet 2 inches tall.
I stand out whether I like it or not due to my achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism. I am a little person. At Texas A&M (WHOOP!) I am one of four to five little people. No, I don’t know all of them, but everyone asks if I do. We’re a kind of campus celebrity, but I don’t stand for pictures like our mascot Miss Rev IX. I’m a Biomedical Sciences/Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences double major, which is to say I want to be a veterinarian. At school, I work at an extension of the vet school where people’s pets can live after their owners can no longer care for them. My experience at TAMU is vastly different than most others’, mostly due to my height. The following is a typical day for me this semester.
8:15 a.m.- Park my car in the only handicapped space left. It will still be a 5-minute walk to my class after this. To open my car door, I use my leg rather than my arm, so I don’t fall out of the car.
8:20 a.m. – I arrive for class. I sit at the front of the lecture hall. Here’s where a problem is. The ludicrously tiny desk attached to the chair is too low. While my average height friends’ long arms easily reach to write notes with ease, I must either lean forward like the black vultures I study or slump in my seat. Either way by the end of the class, my back is in pain.
9:00 a.m.- Class is over. I leap out of my seat, throwing my things into my backpack and run to my car. My next class is halfway across campus and starts in 20 minutes. I have to get in my car, drive, find a parking space, park and run to the class. I am one to two minutes late 95 percent of the time. I didn’t feel like explaining this to my prof, but he’s had me before and figured it out. In the car, I am stalled by a train that splits our campus in half, startled by bicyclists (THE WORST) and pedestrians texting. The handicapped spaces are all taken, two of them by people dropping off their friends. I have to do another circle while the girl exiting the vehicle chats, and now I will be five minutes late to class. I am now in a mood.
9:23 a.m.- I make it to class. The seats are all filled, except for one in the very back right corner. I squeeze past other students. When you’re 5 feet 6 inches, your torso is mostly clear of the chair backs. When I try to force my way past people, I have a decision to make: avoid eye contact but have their knees hit my butt, or save my butt and have my chest right in their face? I always, always choose the former. I sit down, and struggle to see the board and hear the lecture.
10:00 a.m.- Because I work with animals, I often hear, “Are you walking the dog, or is it the other way around?” I currently work with 19 cats, 14 dogs and a llama, all who think I am pretty great and capable at my job. A regular work day involves a lot of physical activity, and while I may overestimate my ability to lift a 65-pound dog, my coworkers never question my “creative” methods to get other jobs done.
2:00 p.m.- Shopping at HEB, I discover the brand of tampons I like are on the top shelf. While I am okay with asking strangers to get things down for me, this is a new problem. I wait five minutes watching man after man walk by (because NO) before a woman and her baby enter the aisle. I promise ma’am, it was more awkward for me than it was for you.
3:00 p.m.- Home! I study with my friends for the rest of the evening. The tampon incident comes up, and one of my friends notes, “Sometimes I forget you’re a little person.” That’s sweet, but I never get to forget I am a little person. Society doesn’t let me forget. I am a little person.