When one thinks of a battle, it's usually a physical struggle. The victors triumph over inconceivable odds, and retell their tale of glory for posterity. The losers cling to their pride, which shields them from the crushing shame of defeat. What happens if the battle takes place in one's mind and the opponent is an inseparable aspect of oneself?
My battle has been with dyslexia. Diagnosed at age six, I soon became painfully aware of the gulf it opened between me and my classmates. I became the odd student who had to leave the room with an aide to learn the fundamentals everyone else had already mastered. I spent hours studying reading and math until I could function at my stated potential, which looked bleak. I was provided with less rigorous homework, tests and happy-face stickers on every mediocre paper. Many classmates thought I was lucky. They did not understand the practical difficulties, and were even envious since they thought I had less to accomplish and less to prove. I promised myself, however, that dyslexia would never become my crutch, or allow me to accept a lesser reward for a lesser effort.
I was still in the skills program in middle school, but I began to fight to free myself from its lower expectations. I was still given added time to complete assignments, but I refused that and tackled every battle at an equal level with classmates. To my immense pride, I began to get A's without special accommodations. Soon I was making honors or high honors, which qualified me to graduate from the skills program. I would enter high school as a victor, and an above-average student.
In high school, I dedicated myself not only to improving my academics, but also to helping others overcome these obstacles. Today, I talk to students in the skills program who are also facing dyslexia. I bare my battle scars proudly; only those who are fighting can understand the strength it takes to win this battle. Mentoring younger students who may have lost faith in themselves keeps me focused. I know my story has touched some, and I know their courage to continue has strengthened my resolve to prevail over my dyslexia.
In my junior year, I was inducted into the National Honor Society and invited to the National Student Leadership Conference. For the rest of my life, I will remember receiving these honors as moments when my dyslexia raised a white flag of surrender. The battle continues each day, but the struggle to be "normal" has diminished drastically. I refuse to use dyslexia as an excuse for mediocrity. I have learned that I am not afraid to rise to a challenge and make sacrifices to reach a goal. I have encountered failure, but it has simply made achievement that much sweeter. I have earned the ability to shape my future and guide others who still struggle against this opponent.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.