If you ask James Mauldin to describe himself in less than ten words, this is the response you will most likely receive: â€œI am socially weird and awkwardly social.â€
Some of you may have seen Mauldin walking around campusâ€”he is the one with the pep in his prosthetic step. The one with a constant smile on his face. The one who will wave to you, even if you donâ€™t know him.
In sum? He is your all-around, tiger supporting, Taco Taco lovinâ€™ Trinity student, with one great difference. He must do everything expected of a college student on two fewer feet than most. Literally.
Born without legs, Mauldin was adopted as an infant from China. It was love at first sight for his family.
â€œMy dad went to China to adopt a baby girl. He saw me and immediately said, â€˜I am going to adopt him instead,â€™â€ Mauldin said.
Mauldin, a China native, grew up in tri-state Connecticut, where he was shuffled from public school to an all-boys private school in Salisbury.
â€œPublic school, like for anybody else, was a little rough. We have all been bullied. It opened up my eyesâ€”like, wow, I didnâ€™t even know, I had a growing up experience there. Every place I go to is a process,â€ Mauldin said.
The process didnâ€™t stop for Mauldin in high school though. After taking some time off after his first semester at Trinity, he currently considers himself a â€œfreshmoreâ€â€”a rare breed of student in between a freshman and sophomore.
His major is undeclared, although he is currently leaning towards international studies. He intends to rush a fraternity this year. He speaks French, Spanish and Chinese, is involved in Trinity University Volunteer Action Community and participates in sports, his favorites being swimming, indoor volleyball, trailblazing and cross country.
â€œAcademics are my biggest challenge,â€ Mauldin said. â€œI love physical activity. It is taxing both physically and mentally, but academics are the most important to me. Social stuff is also really important.â€
While maintaining a good grade point average and becoming as involved on campus as possible are his top priorities, Mauldin also hopes to continue his personal growth through his various experiences at Trinity University.
â€œI want to further myself here,â€ Mauldin said. â€œI did a chapel talk one time senior year on overcoming challenges. Physical challenges. I try using my disadvantage to my advantage. At times I want to prove myself to other people because it is a mental thing. I donâ€™t want people to see me as crippled. Many people donâ€™t see it that way. I judge myself a lot. I feel like I have to prove myself, and there are times when I need that validation.â€
In the future, he aspires to help people. More specifically, he is looking into occupational therapy for amputees and helping guide those who have little confidence in their physical abilities. Mauldin explains that since it is impossible to move someone straight from a wheelchair out onto the track, it is much more efficient to guide them at a more emotionally intimate level.
â€œI would like to help them psychologically and physically, because they go hand in hand. It is all relative,â€ Mauldin said.
In terms of future goals for those who struggle physically, Mauldin has some key advice.
â€œMy goal is to seek interdependence for people in general. We all have our struggles, whether it be physical or not. Iâ€™ve been noticing a lot of slogans using the word â€˜adaptation.â€™ As far as linguistics go, the phrases â€˜physically disabledâ€™ and â€˜handicappedâ€™ have evolved into â€˜challenged.â€™ I want to further this progression and encourage people to use the term â€˜physically adaptive,â€™ because we are all physically adaptive.â€
His heroes include Aimee Mullins and Kelly Bruno, both amputees who have succeeded in sports, television shows and other media.
Mauldin puts the important things in his life into perspective, and he lives life the way that he thinks it should be lived.
â€œIâ€™m all over the place,â€ Mauldin said. â€œI have no idea what I want to do with my life, and itâ€™s the best. I will figure things out eventually, but right now I am just enjoying what is in front of me.â€