In 2008, some peers at school noticed my walk, and told me I walked like a duck. I got called a duck quite a bit after it was made an official observation.
I, being an insecure little pancake child, decided that I did not want to be a duck, I wanted to be something else, something ‘better’, more ‘normal’. So I trained myself to walk ‘normally’, with my toes pointing forward, feet parallel.
I am no longer a duck.
But then I became something else; something, at the time, I thought was much worse.
I became The Suitcase Kid, owing to the backpack my mother picked up at an airport, that just happened to have wheels. It made the spiffiest of backpacks, but at this point in my life, I wanted to be the next Ian Thorpe, so I was packing in 30 hour weeks at the pool on top of being a student at a very pushy school. Therefore, I would be packing wedges of books, art supplies, and swim gear. Hell no, did I want that to be on my back as I made the hour long voyage to school. The bag was fantastic, I ran over many teachers and unkind people. I was notorious. You could hear me before you saw me, and I parted the crowds in the corridors. It was likened to the apparent partition of the Red Sea. The bag was unfortunately retired after the handle was broken and confiscated for use as a golf club.
I moved on, and I was teased about other unimportant, superficial things.
Swimming was going well and I was revelling in the athletic life. My starts were always discernable, owing to my explosiveness, but there were some days where I would go off the blocks and notice a sharp clicky noise when I would throw myself off. I’d forget about it by the time my hand would reach the wall, but today, I remember those clicks vividly.
In 2011, I was playing rounders (some anglaise softball game) and all was going well. I was up for batting. I hit the ball and I began to run as fast as my little swimmer legs would take me to score runs for my team. However, my ball was caught, I was out, and upon realising this, I halted my run at the base I had just passed. My body kept going but my ankles had a paused, and I was on the floor.
Queue the blood curdling scream.
Everybody thought I was hella angry because I was caught out, and it took for me to start writhing in agony for them to notice I was not, in fact, being a sore loser. I had rolled my ankle out, but at the time we didn’t know what was up because the swelling grew to a grapefruit within minutes, and I had to have a dramatic extraction from the bottom field (the furthest point from the school to a vehicular device that could get me to hospital). A little X Ray later held confirmation of no fracture, just a juicy sprain, thank goodness.
Today is the 14th of July, 2016.
I am awaiting surgery for a spiral fracture on my fibula. It was broken through my ankle rolling out after I stepped off an elevated surface. I wasn’t doing anything fancy, I was just stepping down. My ankle rolled out. I have a recovery window of 6-8 weeks, and my gait has finally earned me a referral for physiotherapy.
You see, from my duck days, I had trained myself to walk with my feet parallel, but the price of going against my body’s natural gait was to pick up an excessive supination, which is essentially, walking on the sides of your feet. Since 2008 I have twisted my right ankle countless times and almost blew it completely in 2015 (My ski boot and ligaments strengthened by the impact stress of swimming actually saved my tibia). The incident in 2011 was the start of becoming liable to these injuries. My self inflicted over supination is directly responsible for this injury. How stupid is that?
Now, if you are acquainted with me, you know that I learned to not care what others think early on. However, I am truly learning the value of being headstrong in these painful hours.
The moral of the story is this: If I wasn’t ‘Ducky’, I was ‘Suitcase Kid’, and if I wasn’t that, I was something else. Haters are going to hate and people will try to make you feel bad about unimportant things. This is not to say you shouldn’t listen to others, but to remind you that a selectively permeable membrane for opinion osmosis is critical. Don’t change what makes you, you, because someone made it the punch line of a joke. If it’s superficial it doesn’t matter at all. If you are compassionate and kind, you will be just fine, don’t let yourself feel uncomfortable because you don’t have that attribute that someone or the masses appear to have.
I don’t regret a morsel of my happenings, but I do wish that I had learned not to care what other people thought sooner. My feet and ankles have taken me around the world, off of many diving blocks, to the bottom of the seas and to the top of high peaks. I am forever a suitcase kid as I am committed to the alpine and although my baggage is a little more ergonomically stylised, I am still that suitcase kid with all of her tools, at heart. Ducks are also highly interesting creatures, and if I walked like them for a little while, so be it.
Be you, don’t lose you, you will be reminded of whats true eventually, and that could manifest itself in the kindest or cruelest of ways. At the end of the day, that thing you think people care about, no one cares about at all, and all that thinking about the benevolent thing is time spent on something that isn’t there. It’s all in your head.
PS. Cover Photo is of Ian Thorpe; ultra inspiration for me to this day. Size 17 feet, and an absolute boss.