Have you heard of Jessica Cox, the world’s first licensed armless pilot, as well as the first armless black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association.
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Jessica was born in 1983 and due to a rare birth defect, she was born without arms. In spite of that, Jessica flies airplanes, drives cars, and otherwise lives a normal life using her feet as others use their hands.
Jessica’s mother often said, “There are no limits to what you can do and who you can be.” Jessica was enrolled in the public school and learned to adapt to her situations until she found a way to do things herself. She was participating in gymnastics by age three, swimming by five, tap dancing by six, and taekwondo at the age of ten.
As a teen, Jessica stopped using her prosthetic arms and learned to use her chin and shoulders and with a lot of practice, her feet and toes started doing much of what a hand and fingers could do. Taekwondo helped in learning creativity, gaining dexterity and building her confidence. At 14, she had her first black belt in Taekwondo.
To Jessica, the word ‘impossible’ really means I’m possible, and as a motivational speaker, she reminds her audiences of that fact.
Jessica gives herself time to reinvent how things are usually done, calling it ‘Thinking Outside the SHOE’. That acronym stands for: Self-imposed Limitations, Habits, Over Complication, and Excuses. It means getting rid of the fears, excuses and false limits we place on ourselves. To make the absolute best of all we’ve been given and live our lives to the fullest. To express our gratitude daily because we have so much to be grateful for.
One of the things that impressed me most when watching Jessica’s videos is the fact that she mentions people’s reactions to her difference. Not to her disability, but to her difference. I appreciated that because I have a daughter who was also born with a difference. In fact, many years ago I wrote a poem for her and in many ways it encompasses the view that Jessica Cox has taken towards her life.
I don’t know how to tell you
Just what to do or say,
When thoughtless, shallow people
Turn their heads and look away.
They take their health for granted,
Their eyes and ears and limbs,
And when they see you’re not the same
They sigh and sing their hymns.
I’m sorry you were born this way,
I’d like to make you whole.
But imperfections of the body
Have no bearing on the soul.
There will be times of darkness
When you will sit and cry.
The cruel, heartless staring
Will make you want to die.
They don’t know what it’s like to be
A babe born incomplete.
So raise your head and wipe your eyes,
You won’t accept defeat.
There’s a world out there to conquer.
You can make it if you try.
Don’t let self-pity swallow you.
My child, hold your head high.
© Carol Bremner