Life is hard, play short

It might be hard to determine from my headshot, but what you see in that photo accounts for a fair amount of my total height.

In my youth, I was usually the sign holder in class photos and a bookend in dance recital routines. Softball pitchers despised my lack of strike zone and back-to-school shopping always included the hemming of multiple pairs of pants. Catching a glimpse of the band at a SRO concert was dicey, as was changing the sheets on my lofted dorm room bed. The first time I put on a pair of high heels, I had the epiphany, "Huh, so THIS is what the rest of the world sees!" before taking a step and nearly rolling an ankle. (At least I didn't have far to fall.)

At 5'1" I'm the tallest woman in my immediate family, yet three inches shorter than the average American female, per a 2018 CDC report. While being on the smaller side has had its advantages over the years (agility on the paddle court, lots of legroom on flights, the absolute best hide-and-seek spots), there have been some downsides. Forgot my ID? Sorry, no beer for me. Grocery shopping alone? The items I need better be on low shelves. Negotiating for a car? Smile through frustration when the salesperson asks to speak with my dad about financing options.

And there's still more fun to come: I'm the mother of two boys and though the jury's still out on where they'll land on the height chart (my husband is 6'2"), I'm pretty sure I'll need to stand on a milk crate someday to lecture them about breaking curfew.

Growing up small in stature, though frustrating at times, has taught me how to think big. How to go above and beyond in every situation, no matter how minuscule or massive. How to advocate for what's important and address what is unfair or wrong. Practice didn't exactly make perfect - the past few years have been so laced with unfamiliar landscapes and unheard of challenges that it's been difficult to stand tall and see the road ahead some days - but it certainly helped. I often quip that I'm 5'2" on a good day and honestly, it feels like less of a joke and more of a reality lately, even in my Nikes.

So are my diminutive measurements ideal when trying to grab the cookies off the high cabinet shelf? No, but they have taught me how to learn, improvise and adapt to life's little (and not-so-little) challenges. Plus, my sister got me a two-pack of grabbers from Amazon. I'm pretty much unstoppable now.

- Lex Silberberg of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].