This I Believe

Martine - Piedmont, California
Entered on May 30, 2006

I believe in reaching beyond our “potential”. If we believe in ourselves, I believe that expectations can be exceeded.

At the age when most children were forming sentences, I was just beginning to utter my first words in speech therapy. Three years later it became apparent that I had significant auditory and language disabilities and had reached a plateau.

Even with intense remediation programs and tutors, halfway through middle school it was predicted by learning disability specialists that I could progress no further. It was highly recommended I attend a specialized high school that could better suit my needs because I would sink in a “regular” high school.

I felt trapped. I felt as if someone had slammed the doors in my face saying “Game Over” before I could even attempt the challenge. I knew that I was more than test scores showed, and I promised my mom that with her support I could face the challenges of a regular high school. She assured me of my intelligence, but was a firm believer in the human bell curve; that is, the further away we are from the middle, the more we “think differently”. She knew that what I was preparing to do was challenge my weaknesses rather than pursue my strengths.

What could possibly have led me to think I could do this? I had always worked hard in school, never missed handing in an assignment I could do, but I had literally no reading comprehension or writing ability. Because of processing difficulties, I had missed out on years of learning. I remember a feeling akin to just having arrived from another, very foreign, country.

As time wore on, I was able to learn more about the child who made such a decision about her life. The very personality traits which lead me to make the decision also allowed me to succeed: a positive sense of self, innate skills in strategizing and a competitive drive to succeed.

As I worked hard in a haze in processing difficulties involving reading, writing and complex ideas, I boosted my self-esteem by taking advantage of good social skills and pursuing success in non-verbal creative and athletic activities. Strategies in organization became my lifeline. In order to advocate for the support I required, I had to continually reflect on my strengths and weaknesses as well as constantly re-evaluate my limitations.

The 4.0 GPA I maintained in high school reflects a world of knowledge which may very easily have remained beyond my grasp by for a single decision I made. In the end, it was the very weakness which challenged me that took the lead – in the fall I will be at New York University pursuing a Communications major.

What I did, I did for myself. No one told me what to do or who to be. This is what is most amazing to me: the power of being able to believe in myself.