As a child, I would always fail my spelling tests and could never comprehend what I read. I constantly compared myself to others, and always felt left out. It took me a long time to accept that I would always have these challenges and that I would have to take extra steps to get me to the same place as my peers, but it didn’t mean that I wasn’t capable of doing just as much or even more.
I noticed at around third grade that I was failing my spelling tests that weren’t that difficult. My friends would get pretty decent grades, I was lucky if I got even two or three words right. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. When people asked me, I wouldn’t tell them. I just stayed in my seat and let my peers discuss around me, while I sat there in silence, questioning why this always happened to me. It was devastating to have it happen to me every pretest. At first, I didn’t know how to improve my spellings. My mom was concerned and wanted to help me, so she signed me up for these games that helped with spelling. I was able to pass most of my tests because of the amount of time I spent studying. Though, it wasn’t easy.
There were days I was so tired of not being able to just spell words without having issues sounding it out. Reading was sometimes just as hard or even worse. I couldn’t pronounce half the words I was reading and had no idea what they meant. I would reread the same page over and over again hoping at some point the pages would magically make sense to me. It never happened. Being dyslexic is very hard to explain to people. Sometimes when I read, I don’t see sentences or words on the pages. I’ll go back and I’ll see I’ve skipped paragraphs or flipped flopped words within the sentences. When I read, sometimes it’s just blobs on a page that just doesn’t make any sense. I remember one time very clearly; I was reading the book “Tangled” and my mom asked me to highlight every word I didn’t understand or know how to pronounce and that she help me with them later, I highlighted half the page. It was so frustrating to me that some many words didn’t make sense. I would watch my friends get pulled out of my classes to go to the advanced sessions and it made me jealous. I just wanted to be like the other kids. I wanted to be in the same classes as my friends.
It took me a long time to accept that I had differences from my classmates. I remember when my best friends were sent to go to the math portions, and I worked on the advanced packet they let us try a few months back, just to find a way to prove that I could do what they were doing. I was so desperate to be good at school.
In middle school my friends were put into all of the advanced courses, and I was only put into an intermediate math course. It separated me a lot from them, I felt sad that they were in many classes together and I was lucky to see them at lunch, study hall or gym. They were always meeting up to do homework together and always invited me, but I never felt I was truly welcomed. These thoughts destroyed my relationships with my friends because I couldn’t express my feelings and talk about it with them. They were always so willing to help me and be a true friend to me, yet I would still sit there and envy them. All of the studying I did with them and the amount of effort I was putting into school helped me keep my grades up and made me extremely competitive. I was always in the range of 3.5-3.9 every semester. I was never able to applaud my friends for getting the gold Honor Roll.
High school came around and it only got harder. The classes were overwhelming, and the workload was insane. There was no way I would have ever been able to catch up to my friends. I finally gave up on trying to get into advanced courses after my sophomore year because I took AP Government, which made me realize a lot of things.
One of the many things it taught me was to stop trying to label myself. Being myself was the most important thing, not me trying to be on the same levels as my friends. We all have our limits, even if they say the sky is. We can only push ourselves so hard until we have overworked ourselves until the point of exhaustion. I remember the night I was up until 11 pm with my stepdad and he was trying to help me understand my textbook reading while I sobbed as he explained to me what I was supposed to have gathered from the pages of blobs. I remember almost every morning I woke up at 3 am to do AP government homework because I needed almost 2-3 hours to do assignments that were challenging, but not where it should have taken that long. I was miserable every day, I loved the teacher, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t handle the work load and it was taking a toll on my mental health. It was destroying me. I couldn’t do the class at all; I failed every test, and she did round me to an 80% but I shouldn’t have been in that class. My parents had told me to drop the class, but I was stubborn and was only trying to prove to myself that I could do something that I clearly wasn’t ready for. After that course, I stopped caring about the labels of the courses and accepted that I would only work hard to get good grades for classes that I was able to handle.
I didn’t realize how much I had been struggling until I took that course. The amount of effort I had to put into my classes compared to my friends was insane. I spent most of my time studying or doing homework. I barely did anything in high school because I had to always be working on something to not fall behind. If I had free time, I was doing theatre work. I went to school at 7:30 every day and didn’t come home most days until 5 or 6 at night. It was very long days. I would have to go home and still do basic things like make dinner and have some time for myself, but still have to do more homework. It was so draining to have to do as much as I was. To understand the reading, take notes and analyze was so much. The readings were only getting more difficult, and it was hurting my grades. I ended up having to get some extra assistance even though I was in Honors English for 3 of my 4 years in high school. I pushed myself to do as much as I could, the studying was intense and long, but I managed somehow. Of course, throughout high school there were many other days that were just as rough as Sophomore year but finding study strategies and friends to help me made a huge difference. I ended up getting many report cards with all A’s my last two years and I couldn’t believe I had actually managed to. It was one of the most rewarding things ever.
Through all of the thick and thin, the most important thing is to understand yourself as a person and your limits. Push yourself where you know that there is a challenge, but not to the point where you lose yourself.
Being stubborn and refusing to accept that everyone is different when learning material didn’t get me anywhere. We don’t all grasp something at the same time. It’s ok to be a little slower when it comes to learning something, it doesn’t make you a bad student or that you aren’t putting as much work into it as someone else, it just means that you need to find what works.