Summertime; where many a child's best memories are made. Playing in the park until late after sunset – much later than usual. Those were times you cherish looking back upon.
I loved my childhood, and apropos, the summer. Many children around my area of Openshaw, Manchester were in my age bracket. Despite it being the fourth most deprived area in the UK at the time, it felt like a great time to be a kid.
My hand never affected me around my group of friends, despite having to wear a splint (a form of cast in order to protect it should any accidents occur). Kids being kids, it was accepted. It wasn't until I'd go out and about in the summertime with family or meet new friends that my hand would bother me.
In the earliest years, my ignorance was bliss. As I hit the age of eight, nine and ten-years-old, I'd always prefer to wear long-sleeve t-shirts and jackets in order to avoid attention in crowded places. As a small kid, eyeballs felt huge. I could feel them beaming at me and it would affect my confidence and put me in the position of wearing longsleeve. That small outfit change allowed me to have a sense of security. Like some of sort of invisibility cloak. I never felt eyes looking my way when I wore something longsleeve. I'd get warm under the layer, but I would always accept that as part of the cause.
Let's face it, it's a peculiar thing to see out of nowhere. People are always going to stare. My type of hand condition is one-in-seventy-five thousand people. You don't know that stuff as a child, though. You only know what you feel and I didn't feel secure without my green, zip-up jacket.
Secondary school was especially difficult. You're around all new people and have to start from fresh again. For a period of time I was known as 'the kid with the bad hand.' In school I had the ability of keeping my jacket on, but when it came to P.E. class it meant a rapidly fast change in clothing to keep attention off. Non-uniform days in the summertime meant it was mostly inescapable. This didn't only make me uncomfortable, but the repetitive staring would also irritate my best friends Ross Barthel and Aaron Duffy, who'd challenge people that gave obvious stares.
For a long, long time I was negative about my hand. I always wanted to hide it and it took me years to get used to it. It wasn't until I was fifteen that I began to accept this. When I began to think, 'You know what? It's always going to happen,' is when I became happier and more confident within myself. I felt prouder of myself.
As high school was finishing, I was out-growing my splints and wanted to move on from that hindrance. I continued to wear them until high school finished to avoid questioning of the splint's whereabouts from peers. Since May 2011, I have not worn one element of it and feel much more at ease.
To this day whenever I'm out in short-sleeves, I still notice people looking and that's a given. I can't stop that. It's only rude looks that I'll call people out on, for the simple aforementioned point that it's rude.
In conclusion, you'll always be happiest when you truly accept yourself. Sure, I have my challenging moments where I wonder what I'd be like without this condition. However, I wouldn't have the experience and toughness that I've gained through strong parents and I sure as hell wouldn't be writing this story now.
I'd share a phrase my dad used to tell me to say to people who asked about my hand, but it's not exactly PG!