Remembering the Power of Choice

Paralympian Jenna Fesemyer

I didn’t realize I was different when I was growing up. I was born a triplet, so it seemed like everywhere I turned I was greeted with a new challenge from my siblings. From having gym class with my mom at school to playing SPUD out in the yard with our childhood friends (does anyone know what SPUD is anymore?!), I was always running, jumping, getting dirty and inviting others to be active with me. 

It wasn’t until college that I fully realized that I was different. I remember going to one of my residence hall’s welcome week parties where I received so many stares from my peers. What were they looking at? How should I act? Should I make it a conversation piece? Maybe I should’ve worn jeans. 

What they were looking at was my bulky prosthetic leg that went from the floor all the way up to my hip. It was a flesh color foam to (mostly) hide the glaring metal innerworkings that helped me walk. Being born without a leg and a hip joint, the way that I walk requires a slight limp when I step with my left foot. 

I remember when I was younger, I had a bully. Isn’t it crazy that we can remember the exact things that were said to us if they were rude or undermining? I would come home from school and cry to my mom. On one of those low days, where I felt tired and pushed down, my mom challenged me to create a mindset that has ultimately changed my life. She said that we all have choices in life. In this circumstance, I could cry and let this person take control of my feelings. Or conversely, I can recognize that what he is saying comes from his own insecurities, and to choose to love the parts of myself that are unique. I let myself cry for a few minutes and chose to never let this person occupy space in my mind again. 

That’s exactly what I needed to do once again when I got to college. 

Although I’m an amputee, I am passionate about the sport of wheelchair racing. I believe that the small challenge from my mom many years ago has helped me to refine my focus in sport and help me achieve my goals. Everyday has been a choice for me: Wake up and get my workout in or hit snooze? Be angry at how my clothes fit on a particular day or be thankful for the many gifts my body has? 

It’s been a constant journey of mindfulness over time to choose the things that serve me. But through this little daily “challenge,” I’ve grown in my mindfulness practice and became an elite athlete in my sport, having competed for Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games! I’ve also been able to achieve my academic goals as I now pursue a PhD studying physical activity and leisure behaviors.

So, my challenge to you today:

Take a couple of minutes to spend in mindfulness. I like to practice mindfulness in a space that I am familiar with, so I don’t run into distractions. Slow down your breath and narrow your focus. Start with a lens of gratitude and then dive in! What thoughts are serving you best today? Which ones aren’t? If you have thoughts that aren’t creating a healthy and happy pattern – acknowledge them, and politely dismiss them. 

It takes lots of time to refine this practice! I guarantee that you will be able to feel lighter and happier on the other end. Just a few minutes daily will be enough to shift your mindset and to create thought patterns that serve you, and not overtake you. Wishing you the best on your new journey and I’ll see you at the other end of the mindful path!  


Jenna Fesemyer


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