Guest Blogger: “Am I Still Tall?” by Jan Scheuermann

Guest post writer Jan Scheuermann posing with an exoskeleton she moved with her mind in clinical trials at the University of Pittsburgh.

I liked being tall. Sure, it was more challenging as a kid, standing out among all my classmates and towering over most of the boys. Finding clothes that fit was difficult, but it could be done. Mom insisted I not slouch, and I did not.

As soon as I turn 21, I joined the Golden Triangle Tall Club, the Pittsburgh branch of TCI (Tall Clubs International). Finally, I stood head-to-head with other tall women, who wore high heels and showed me, through example, how elegant a tall woman could be. The tall men made me feel short; they were at least 6’2”. What a novel experience!

Soon, I loved being tall. I wore high heels when I could, found sources for clothes that not only fit, but that flattered me as a tall woman. I got attention from tall men, and I dated several of them, getting a crick in my neck when I slow-danced with them, and not minding a bit.

My husband and I met through TCI. We married, had two tall children, and still attended family-friendly tall club events. I contributed occasional humorous columns to our local tall club newsletter.

When I was 36, my legs slowly stopped working. I went from standing tall to walking a bit hunched over a cane, then a walker, then finally sitting in a wheelchair. Now, at 56, I have been a quadriplegic ( due to a weird spinal disease) for the last 15 years, unable to move below my neck. Instead of holding my head high at 6 feet with no heels, I sit 4 feet tall. Or 4 feet short.

I’ve seen the world from two separate places. On my feet, I saw over crowds, knew what was in front of me on a busy sidewalk, and saw other adults face-to-face. Except short people; them, I had to look down to. That was my only choice – I couldn’t bend my knees to talk to them. That would’ve been rude.

Now, no more seeing over crowds for me. I have no idea how busy the sidewalk is in front of me. And I look other adults straight in the stomach or chest. Although I know it’s considered rude for people to bend down to talk to me, usually I wish they would. Often, I simply cannot hear them.

Of course, I preferred being tall. Understand I’m not complaining – just commenting. It is what it is. Not only have I adjusted to life as a quad, but I’m thriving. I get around in a wheelchair that I drive with my chin, and I have a wide circle of friends and family who support and love me.

But the question remains:  Am I still tall?

I still need to buy tall clothes to fit my arms. My shoes are still size 12. But I have lost all the other perks that come with being tall

I’ve decided that I am tall in length, but not in height anymore.

I cannot stand tall,so I will sit tall. I will strive to stand tall metaphorically; to stand tall in my deeds. I choose to face life with a positive attitude, to find humor in my situation, and to be there to support my children and my loved ones when they need me.

Height can be a matter of attitude. I am tall.

Jan Scheuermann made headlines around the world when she moved a robotic arm with her mind in 2012. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband.

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