My Journey to Ambidexterity

We live in a predominantly right-handed world.

My two-year-old self did not realize this.

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I remember that there came I time when I realized, I had two hands, and could choose to use the one I liked best. So I remember choosing my left, for no particular reason at all. An arbitrary decision.

And so I grew up that way. I didn’t mind too much that my favorite hand only got to play an alberti bass on the piano for the most part, or that I had to use my right hand to hold my violin bow. Typically, I was the only southpaw in all of my classes, and I was fine with that.

But it was the other people who made me feel disadvantaged. I would have never noticed the necessity of left-handed scissors or the discomfort of college-level desks, or the fact that we all use our right hands, by default, to navigate computer mouses, if they were never pointed out to me. I wouldn’t have noticed that I was any different due to a simple choice I made when a was a few years old. I accepted graphite-covered hands and made normal, righty checkmarks like the rest of the population, because that was how the world worked, and I was adaptable.

Normally I don’t think about the “problems” of my type, and righties don’t think about them either. The world is what it is.

Sometimes I would get annoyed when someone I’d known for years observes me for a moment, then realizes, “Oh, you’re left-handed!” Yeah, and you’re right-handed.

Or when visiting relatives noticed, and launched into conversations that were literally the same, year after year. “So you use your left hand to eat. Most American presidents were left-handed. You guys are smart and creative. But it might not be practical for writing.”

In fact, there came a time in fifth grade where my parents tried to force me into using my right hand to write my Chinese letters, since it follows the natural flow of strokes. I had the absolute worst handwriting in my class, and it was frustrating and downright embarrassing. They had good intentions, of course.

That was my first attempt at ambidexterity.

My second venture began in junior year. My family got a plate of tiny glass marbles and a pair of chopsticks for me to practice with. (I can’t pick up the slippery things with my dominant hand that well, what is this impossible task you have given me??) After my first round of frustrated failure, I was so angry that I dumped all the marbles onto the floor. I never even finished my first chopstick-noodle-meal because I was messier than my brothers, who were seven and under. I think you have to experience that raging frustration for yourself to understand what it was like, but anyways, it got better.

After several months of using my right hand for ordinary tasks like eating, holding cups, opening drawers, grabbing objects, and even writing (i.e. “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The dog wakes up and decides to be non-lazy.” I never got good enough to bring this into everyday use yet, like journaling and taking class notes.), I felt less limited by habit.

That’s my key takeaway. I’m comfortable pouring something with my left hand and mixing it simultaneously with my right, or vice versa. Sometimes you don’t realize how mindlessly you are living – intentionally controlling my right hand led me to intentionally control and live my life. From being mindful of the flavor of my food to noticing my own handwriting and that of others, life was challenging, but also more present.

The thing about switching from left to right though, is that people don’t notice. The majority of the population is right-handed, so who would notice if another person joined their ranks? So my rewards were not externally affirmed, but isn’t that enough? For me, I’ll say that for now, it is.

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2 thoughts on “My Journey to Ambidexterity

  1. teaismyjam says:

    I completely agree with all this, and the line that says, “The majority of the population is right-handed, so who would notice if another person joined their ranks?”.
    Atleast now there is more awareness attached to it, but ofcourse you still get the generic question, ” oh! You’re left handed?”.

    Liked by 1 person

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