School was a nightmare for me, especially elementary school. I hated going to school. You would not know it though as I developed the ability to hide my emotions from just about everyone. Showing your emotions was weak and cowardly or at least that is what I thought at the time. I was already a hide-and-seek aficionado with my feelings. I was lucky. I was likeable, athletic and had a great memory. These were three great qualities to have in school. Hanging out with me was a non-stop party as my classmates voted me most popular one year.
From the outside looking in, it would appear that I had everything going for me. The truth is, I was dying a slow death. I was a con artist and a fraud. I had everyone fooled. Every day was Halloween as I put on a mask to avoid having others see my pain. I was miserable and I had not a soul to speak with about my situation.
I struggled in school and it crushed my self-esteem. My struggle was not for lack of effort but some unknown force preventing me from reading and writing at the same pace as the other kids. I knew something was wrong. My learning difficulties landed me in the lowest reading group. I was removed from class and sequestered to read with the slow learners. Ouch! I was aware of brands and labels but this one, I did not enjoy wearing around my neck. I struggled to read throughout elementary school. It was obvious to Mom that something was wrong. I could study 5 minutes before a test and score 100% (my memory), but then would get the same questions wrong on subsequent written assignments.
Writing a simple paragraph was torture as I consistently skipped and duplicated words. With my struggles, came a keen sense of how to cope. At the tender age of eight, my survival skills were already in tip-top shape. I earned a PhD in “street smarts”. I worked on my excuses for my bad grades in between marking periods. I had my eyes checked at least a half dozen times. In the interim, I learned to memorize words. I was a world-class professional fake reader. I had no idea what was wrong with me until my mother dragged me to the University of Maryland for some educational testing. It was there that I was diagnosed with dyslexia. It was a defining moment in my life and one that I will never forget.
There was little known about the cause(s) behind my learning and reading struggles back then that caused me so much heartache. Again, I was lucky because my Mom stepped in when no one else seemed to notice. Although not formally trained, she knew something was wrong and she became my advocate. With tutoring and a new outlook on my life, I was able to push forward and have a relatively successful academic career. I eventually attended Colgate University and graduated in four years. I do wonder about other dyslexic kids not as fortunate as I to have someone on advocating on their behalf.
Keep in mind, life has not been easy but a dyslexic child does not want easy, just possible. I am a survivor. Life has come full circle for me. At one point, I could not stand to read or write and now I earn a living doing both. My mother is no longer with me but there is not a day that I do not think about what she did to change my life.
Thanks Mom, I miss you!