In the movie “The Blind Side” the main character, Michael, has a learning disorder, where he has a nearly impossible time learning from words on paper. As in, reading and understanding, taking written tests, etc. Until seeing that movie, and really talking with K (the husband) and expressing my frustrations, I just thought there was something wrong with how I think, how I learn, and didn’t realize others had the same issue. I haven’t been diagnosed, as it’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life (had to go to special classes to learn to read in grade school, have tests given to me verbally in high school and college), and just learned to work around, but I have a learning disorder.
I grew up in an insanely talented family. My dad is probably the hardest worker you will ever meet. He started his career repairing refrigerator equipment, and moved up in the company to be a very successful salesman. When he wasn’t doing that, he was building, repairing, doing everything from wiring, to plumbing, to building an entire garage, and the list goes on. My mom is an amazing musician, cook, seamstress, crafter, and she can really pick up anything if she wants to. She is the master of juggling a million things and never dropping the ball. She started piano lessons at 4 years old and has perfect pitch, plays the piano, clarinet, accordion, the saxophone, and banjo a bit. My sister, Mad, has done everything. She excels in school, and could be a “professional student” she loves it so much. She picks up things so quickly, from picking up photography in college and being accepted into a program shortly after, that others had been working toward for years. She sings, plays the piano, bassoon, guitar, clarinet, saxophone, and is pursuing a yoga teaching certificate. Then, I married someone equally as talented, K wants to be a writer and has an insane knack for it, sings, plays the clarinet, taught himself to play the piano, and recently took up wood working and is rocking it.
Then, there’s me. To others, I look just as successful as them. I went to college for art and cooking, I took voice lessons for 12 years, I have moved up in my career as a QA Tester, I am hard working, I crochet, knit, and sew. But, behind the scenes, it’s completely different. I went to college, and failed out of it – even with a tutor, and studying like crazy I couldn’t catch on fast enough, so eventually I stopped trying and it was all just a social aspect for me. I learned to sing, but it was, and still is, a huge struggle. I can’t hear pitches on the piano, unless I am physically playing my part, and singing as I play, or unless I can match someone else singing. When I do sing a lot of the time I have to “play” the part with my hand by my side, just so I can hit the right notes. I can’t hear parts – I’ve sang alto, but what my sister, and others can learn in an afternoon takes me weeks to months, and is a huge struggle. QA Testing I’ve excelled at, but my mind naturally dissects things, and I work my butt off every single day. For art, I’m good, but I had to do the graph method for years, and then I ended up getting that down, and as I have no depth perception, I had to develop my own style to be able to get perspective right, so I dissect everything into shapes when I draw.
I don’t learn well, or almost at all, in a normal classroom setting. It takes me months to years to learn something others can learn in a semester. I want a college degree, I will have one some day, but for me, that’s a 6-10 year endeavor, not just a 2-4 year commitment. I never even really liked playing games, unless it’s something I grew up playing it. Reading the instructions, or having them read to me, and then diving into play was just too overwhelming, I didn’t understand the rules, and I’d shut down. K loves games, so this was really, really inconvenient for him. I finally told him that I’d play a new game with him, but he just had to teach me as we went, or read the instructions before, and we’d play it to learn, and bam, we play games weekly now, and I LOVE it.
I grew up very jealous of my sister, and how it seemed everything came so easily to her, and to others. I’m sure she had her own struggles that I didn’t see, but to me I just saw this girl that, literally, could do anything, and I wanted to be like that more than anything. Luckily, as I’ve grown up, that jealousy has gone away, albeit slowly, as I’ve realized that I kind of kick ass. I’ve been able to do so, so many things that I never thought I could, all while doing these things are so much harder for me than they are for more people.
I’ve developed an insane work ethic because of having to work so hard for anything that I want, so, I am grateful for how hard things have been. I hear people constantly say they can’t do something, and give an excuse as to why. I have every reason to not be successful, to not have a job that pays well, and to not actually have a career, but I do, and because of that I don’t handle excuses from others well, just ask K. It’s something I need to work on, but I think a lot of people need to take a step back, and really see how bad ass they are, and just go for what they want.
Yes, I’m afraid of failing, but it’s going to happen if you go for what you want. I’ve learned how to pick myself back up, and to work harder, and come back stronger. The quote by Erin Hanson,
What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you Fly?
is one of my favorites, and will even be one of my next tattoos, that’s how much I love it. You will fall, but, afterword, you can get up, do better, and fly. That’s what gets me through the really hard times, like lately, with switching jobs. It’s always terrifying: will I catch on fast enough? Do I know the basics well enough to be able to learn quickly enough? What if I fail? I have these thoughts every time I get a new job, or try something do, and every time I do better than before.
And, if you’re blessed with amazingly talented people in your life, like I have been, don’t let yourself be jealous or resent them. They have their own battles – you wouldn’t want theirs, and they wouldn’t want yours. That’s something I’m still working on. I made Mad’s life hell growing up, and was pretty much the worst sister ever – no exaggeration. Now, I’m trying to be her cheerleader, her support, and take the role of actually being her sister, and wanting to help her succeed. I wish so badly I’d done it sooner, and realized everything that was playing a part in how I was acting earlier.
My not understanding why I react the way I do actually almost ended not only my relationship with my sister, but my marriage to K. I’d take his struggles to improve in areas we’d talked about as excuses, because I knew how easily things came to him, and would instead take his struggles as him not caring, which led to many fights. After finally opening up to him, we both have a better understanding, and more respect for the other. So, while these struggles have almost cost me some of the things I love most, they’ve also shaped me into who I am today, and even though it’d be nice if things could come to me easier, I wouldn’t change things, because this is just part of me.
So, at the end of the day, my learning disability, and my brain not working like everyone else’s (that’s how I explained it to K) is a good thing, and helps me be the best I can be. And, damnit, I’m going to fly.