I look down at the skin on the bed of my fingernail, contemplating where to bite next. My second-grade teacher’s voice is a continuous buzz in the background. She is trying to explain a concept, yet her words cannot reach me. As the clock ticks for every second I drift off, I concentrate entirely on the one task of calming down, so I can finally open my ears. It is a lost battle, for now. “Try harder!” I tell myself, gripping the nearest pencil. A knock echoes from the metal door, my gaze sharpens towards the front of the classroom where a woman enters. She calls me over; all eyes converge on me. The feeling of shame and being singled out rush over my reddening face – the remedial teacher had come to get me. “Why me?!” I ask myself.
I would eventually learn that I have dyslexia.
I spent my early years in the Israeli school system in shame, most days excluded from the rest. When I was nine years old, the relocation of my family to the United States, following my father’s career, reinforced my academic alienation. However, the thought of embracing American culture excited me, and my eagerness developed into a passion for learning how to read, write, and speak English in less than three months. While teachers in Israel did not praise me for my different learning style, in America I felt capable for the first time.
Once in high school, I took a step backwards, questioning my competence and excluding myself from interactions with others. To my surprise, however, the competitive school environment coerced me into pushing myself through discomfort; instead, I explored my strengths, took responsibility, and stopped dwelling on my weaknesses. I committed myself to water polo, swimming, and later to cross-country. I felt new confidence as a member of a community of student-athletes.
Along with many other extracurricular activities, I joined Freestyle Art Academy my Junior year. This took my abilities a step further combining art with technology. When I got the chance to make a documentary about any topic of my choice, I decided to research schizophrenia, which afflicted my aunt. This project allowed me to combine my love for psychology with my newfound skills in creating digital media. Through a series of personal interviews, I connected with a variety of people in my life, including my mom, my grandma, and my AP Psychology teacher. This project not only helped me take on a leadership role, but it also helped solidify my decision to go into the neuropsychology field.
Getting tested for dyslexia at the end of my Junior year finally gave me a complete view of my abilities. I could finally find the words to explain my endless frustration with test-taking, time management, and writing. Despite learning the reason for my difficulties, this evaluation did not change my ambitions. Instead of letting dyslexia define who I am and how I learn, I pushed myself harder.
My diagnostic test not only helped me overcome my internal struggle but opened my eyes to who I want to become. Studying psychology and neurology to help others understand how their minds work, to better the community, is where I see myself thriving. Through collaboration and persistence, I conquered my inner battle and have now found the inspiration to help others.