Monday, February 10, 2020

Getting Past It All...

Posted by Bethany Averie, author at February 10, 2020
Happy Monday One and All!

Yikes! It's been a month since I wrote on this blog. I'm sorry! If it's any consolation, I did update the Jeannie Averie blog.

This post is one that I started thinking about last week. I did some talking about this on Twitter (under both names) but I haven't actually written it all out in a more cohesive format.

First and foremost: this is not a pity party. I hate throwing myself pity parties. Please, don't pity me. Don't feel sorry for me. My life has had ups and downs like everyone else's and I'm not looking for special treatment. In fact, I hate being patronized, too. The only special treatment I ever got out of this was having a laptop to take notes in high school and untimed standardized testing days. For the rest, I've worked hard. Oftentimes, swallowing my nerves and asking for help. Sometimes facing less-than-understanding teachers, but never felt entitled to anything except for the help I needed...and even then, it was sometimes hard for me to accept because I didn't want to be different. (Now I like being different and unique!)

I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. Yes, I know, I'm basically revealing my age, which I don't usually do--not from embarrassment, or being sensitive about my age, but because it just isn't important to my writing. But, it is important to my story, because I grew up in a time where learning disabilities weren't really as understood as they are today or have quite as many options and resources.

I'm one of eight children. Number 7 to be exact. I have 2 brothers and 5 sisters. We're pretty close-knit and very close to our folks. My dad was a Chemical Engineer, but you can banish the idea we were super rich or affluent because we weren't. That money had to cover the roof over our head, food, clothing, schooling, etc. With 8 kids, it adds up. (I wore hand-me-downs along with some newer stuff, too). But, I have no regrets with how I was brought up. From a young age, I was taught the value of hard work, honesty, faith, courtesy/manners, and taking responsibility for my own actions. We weren't perfect, but it was nice.

We weren't aware I had learning disabilities until I hit Elementry school. And even then, it wasn't until I was in the 4th grade that anyone took my low test scores and other stuff into serious consideration. My teachers before that meant well and made excuses that "some kids test low" and that my mother couldn't expect me to be a straight-A student like the sister closest in age to me (not that she ever did, she didn't...she just wanted to help me). So after 4th grade, I got taken out of the school, and Mom homeschooled me. It wasn't long before she noticed I had very clear differences in how my siblings learned. When teaching me the monetary value of things, I didn't make the connection between ten pennies being the same as one dime. So, in the sixth grade, she found out about a learning clinic and got me tested.

The tests revealed that I shouldn't even be able to use the bathroom on my own--which, was nonsense since I'd been going to the bathroom on my own rather successfully for YEARS (and I'm happy to report that I still can use the bathroom on my own). But, tests don't measure abilities, just a certain set of criteria. So, I went for remediation. I worked with the whole office on different things--visualization, focus, puzzles, memorization, and the like.

Part of my diagnosis fell under umbrella categories like dyslexia and such. The way I describe it is that everybody has bridges in the brains--bridges that connect one idea to another. Some of my bridges were broken, and in some cases, none existed. Through the program they used to help me, I made tremendous improvement.

They had me learn how to touch-type, and I started writing more. Mom says my handwriting improved, and even my math and spelling improved. Stories poured out of me, lyrics, and poetry, too.

In high school, I opted to go to a school 2 of my sisters had graduated from, and one of my other sisters was a senior. I don't regret it. Yes, I faced some bullying like I had in elementary school. Yes, sometimes it was hard. But, I don't regret it.

I met some great teachers, whom I'm still friends with over 20/30 years later. Some of my best friends are those I met in high school (and one who I became friends within the 4th grade).

Senior year, I decided I'd challenge myself. I'd go for the Silver Honor Roll for the entire year. I'd gotten it for different quarters, but never all year. The Silver Honor Roll required the student to maintain an A and B average for the entire semester, which meant for both semesters I had to maintain the average. Sometimes I was worried I wouldn't make it, but through tutoring, working my butt off at times, and dealing with being a procrastinator, I managed to maintain the Silver all year. It was one of my proudest academic moments.

Unlike my sister, I never qualified for the National Honor Society, and I only took one advanced class my entire academic career, but I got that Honor Roll and I graduated.

I ended up going to a business school for their 8-month Information Processing (clerical/secretarial work) and graduated from there with decent (I think A's and B's) grades.

The corporate world presented different challenges. I tried NOT to reveal my learning disabilities because I didn't want special treatment. I wanted to earn jobs and to prove my capabilities without any particular treatment. Unfortunately, that didn't really work out and I ended up having to reveal them pretty much in every job I had. It was frustrating because if I revealed them I risked being treated in a way I didn't want to, and if I didn't, I got in trouble.

Eventually, in my early twenties, I got married to a man who didn't care if I had learning disabilities or not (in fact, he's been really nice about them and encourages me to overcome my obstacles). I started getting serious about writing, and in 2013 my first novel was published. I've published 4 more since, and working on more, and now I'm working on getting my first adult (Jeannie Averie pen-name) out there.

The point is, aside from some extra tutoring, and my deceased friend spending a ton of time on the phone with me Senior year explaining the teacher's lecture from our Shakespeare class (my one and only advanced class!) And the patience of some excellent teachers, friends, and colleagues, I got where I am. I never asked them to just hand me anything. I wanted to earn it. I wanted to prove I could do it. (In a group situation in high school, kids would try to just give me the answer, instead of teaching me the process, which I wouldn't accept. I'd either learn it and come up with the answer, or I'd tell the teacher or my parents that I needed help). 

That's the way I am, now, too. I don't want things handed to me, I want to earn them. I know how to work hard, so I'll put in the time. I might not always get it right, but I will try, learn, and grow from experiences.

If you have learning disabilities (I hate the term "learning differences" because EVERYONE has their own way of learning, so it's all different; but, what I have are actual disabilities in my learning) I hope my story can encourage you. Even if it's hard, you can accomplish things. You have to set realistic goals, but don't be afraid to challenge yourself. More than once, it's paid off for me.

Have A Marvelously Merry Monday!

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