Why I’m Proud to Be Called ‘Different’

You could call me different.

Look up that word on Dictionary.com and the definition you’ll find is “not ordinary; unusual.”

It’s true that from the get-go, my lifestyle was anything but typical — and not by choice. I was born with an extremely rare genetic neurological condition called hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy, type 2 (HSAN II) that rendered me unable to feel pain, temperature and touch the way most others do. That in and of itself makes me different: if the fact that the reported cases of HSAN II worldwide is estimated to be less than 50 doesn’t make me unique, I don’t know what does.

So sure, I’m a bit different in that respect. There are things I have to do differently than most people, and some things I may not be able to do at all. Sure, there are plenty of obstacles I’ve run up against that most other 19-year-old college freshmen have probably never even dreamed of. Sure, I’ve had 20 surgeries and more physical and emotional issues that I can begin to enumerate.

But to me, there’s an important distinction to be made. Hitting the genetic “jackpot” — winning odds of one in 140 million — was not something I could control. But what I choose to do with my circumstances is. I do my best on a daily basis not just to flout convention, but to outright defy it.

I am not what some would call a “typical” girl. I wasn’t at 5, wasn’t at 15 and I suspect I won’t be at 25, either. It’s always been that way — from a young age, I showed more interest in baseball and books than ballet and Barbies. Yes, I buck traditional stereotypes. And yes, I am proud of it.

But more than that, I want to spread the word that it’s OK to be different. That it’s important to set aside the natural human tendency to pass judgment on everything — and everyone — we come across. That “different” doesn’t always have to mean “bad” or “weird.”

So, please, go ahead and call me different. It’s a title I’ll bear with pride.

Megan looking at a newspaper as a baby

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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