As I sat writing a note to my mom for Mother’s Day, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the ways in which I was so grateful to have her in my life. I wouldn’t be here today without her – literally of course – but as I thought about it more, I realized truly, I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be who I am without her influence on my life.
Today, I have a clean, beautifully curated home – because my mom made me dust the house every Saturday as a child and taught me the value of a well-kept home. I have a loving, faith-filled marriage – because I watched my parents model theirs. I have not one, but two degrees, and still take webinars and listen to podcasts in my free time – because my mom’s math and reading assignments in the summer instilled a love of learning in me. I run a small business in my free time – because my mom worked hard every day and instilled an unparalleled work ethic in me. I also know that I can do anything I set my mind to – because my mom always told me I can do hard things.
And that’s where living with vitiligo comes in. You had to have a thick skin to live in my house growing up – not because there wasn’t love, but because our family thrives on tough love and jokes. And that’s the same attitude I put towards living with vitiligo. I never stopped wearing shorts and I made jokes about my skin, letting my friends outline my spots in gel pens and writing “see spot run” on the back of my high school cross country tee. I even spent six plus years as a lifeguard – in a swimsuit where kids would ask me why my skin was tie-dyed. Yes, I was hurting on the inside, but that didn’t keep me from living my life – or at least, most of it. Why? Because I can do hard things.
I was recently at a body confidence workshop sharing my life with vitiligo in a small group conversation. As I was explaining how I would still wear shorts and carry on with everyday life because “I had no other choice,” one of the women jumped in. “But you did,” she said. “You did have a choice. And you chose to be courageous and face your fears. You didn’t have to do that. You could have worn pants.”
The comment shocked me – in a good way. How quickly I had dismissed my own success for years, telling myself a narrative that diminished my own strength. She was right. I had chosen courage in times of struggle – but I didn’t have to. I chose to. Why? Because I can do hard things.
Today, I owe my life – in more ways than one – to my mother. She taught me to never feel sorry for myself and to strive for more. In fact, she never let me question that there was any other way. To the point that I was convinced that was the only truth.
As it turns out, momma really does know best.
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. Based just south of Washington, D.C., Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.