I’d like to think I am not the sort of person to hold a grudge but even I must confess to not always being a saint about this. In fact, there is a grudge I have been holding on to – for over 16 years now…
But in many ways, this grudge is a good thing. It has fuelled me through hard times and given me enough determination to overcome obstacles and fight the battle for my dreams.
Back when I was just 12 years old I used to take support classes for my dyslexia. Now here’s the confession no writer ever wants to make – my thirteenth birthday was coming up and I still could not read or write!
Terrible I know, and to this day my crippling dyslexia is a source of great shame. But its also something I’ve very proud of, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
You see, back in high school, despite not being able to write more than one decent sentence on my own and having to listen to audio books, I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. And that of course was a writer. Even without the means to communicate on paper effectively, I always loved to make up and tell stories. It was my life and I enjoyed it with such passion.
However, everyone always dismissed my dream, all be it politely, as something that would never be available to me in the future. They always told you – you have to be able to spell to be a writer!
It used to sting, of course, but I was only just about to turn thirteen years old, surely I still had time to learn those skills I sorely need. Surely, at this point, all I really needed was the wherewithal and determination to push past my limitations…
My birthday falls in July so I would turn thirteen during the summer holidays. Little did I know that I would end up so distraught before the term ended, that I would ensure my destiny that summer.
As we were about to go up to GCSE’s after the next school year, we were having a career day. My English class were all gathered around a circle of tables in the library where one of my favorite teachers at the time was giving us job profiles and going around asking us what we wanted to do when we grew up. She was being so encouraging of everyone – that was of course until she got to me.
When asked, I eagerly stood up and proudly declared that I wanted to write books for a living, to the utter dismay of the support teacher sat next to me. My English teacher, however, wasn’t in the list perturbed that she was about to shatter my dream. Instead, she laughed in my face and said the magic words that would catapult me into my future career.
“You’ll never be a writer. You can’t even read….you’ll be lucky if you can get a supermarket job.”
Even at such a tender age, I was furious and I make a vow that day that I would never give up. I would work harder than anyone else until I have learned to read, until I have learned to spell, and no matter what came my way, I would always have faith in myself.
Of course, that’s easier said than done at times.
But worse was yet to come. After a heartfelt chat with my father that night, whom gave me gentle encouragement and told me that no one can tell me who I can be or what I will become, I ventured into the learning support department the next day. There, I told them that I wanted to do everything; every assignment, every lunch lesson, every spelling test, no matter what, until I was at the appropriate level.
And that was when the bombshell hit. You see, in certain educational circles, it is a known fact that a child of a certain age cannot retain certain skills if they have not already achieved them. Or so I was told at the time. So for instance, a child that cannot read or write will never learn to read or write by a certain age point, and thus for the sake of other children needing help, there support lessons get cut off, in favor of those who stand a chance of improving.
That age is 13.
You might think I would have been lost at that point, and in truth, I suppose I could have easily been if it weren’t for the fact that I knew without a shadow of a doubt what I wanted to do with my life.
So I clung on. Without the school’s help.
On the last day before the summer holidays, I checkout out the first three Harry Potter books. The librarian cocked an eyebrow at me, knowing I could not read at that level yet, but I didn’t care. I went home for the summer and got to work.
It was an agonizing first month, but eventually, I made it through the Philosophers Stone. Chamber of Secrets took me back into school, and I finished it after the first week back, meaning it had taken three weeks to complete. Prisoner of Azkaban took a fortnight. The Goblet of Fire one week. And by the time the Order of the Phoenix was published, I devoured all 766 pages in just 14 hours of solid reading.
I taught myself, by sheer force of will, often times learning the names of characters incorrectly, but just pushing through. When I couldn’t figure out a word, I would look it up in the dictionary and work out what it was from its meaning. I read out loud, watched TV with the subtitles on, read books for little kids until I could read ones for adults, building on my love of Egyptology so that within a year I was reading scholars papers and autobiographies.
By that time I was writing regular short stories, forcing my friends to read them and tell me what they thought. I took criticism like a backhand but always took it, no matter how much it hurt. By the time of the GCSE’s I told the school I wanted to take writing lessons. They wouldn’t let me, so I turned to the internet and started publishing my work online, learning from the comments.
By college, I was writing for my professors with their encouragement to study Creative Writing at degree level, and I knew then that I had changed my life. Now I am a professional freelancer and ghost-writer nearing the end of my own first full novel, whilst collaborating with another published author for a co-write. I’ve had letters published in top magazines such as People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly and I’ve won social media awards in the workplace for blogging.
My life has changed.
And for that, I have to thank one snarky remark from a teacher who didn’t believe I would ever amount to anything.
My lesson. Well, it’s simple really. Never let anyone, not even yourself, tell you that you’re not good enough. I look at other people writing, e-mails mostly, and I shudder at the lack of consistency. And often these come from highly paid individuals who probably got better grades than me at school. But I digress – the most important thing is to always seek to improve. Even now I check my work religiously. I use dictionaries, read regularly and use tools such as Grammarly to help me improve my work. But I don’t just let others do it for me. For every error a word processor picks up, I try to fix it first without a right click. I set challenges for myself and never shy from going back to the basics.
So my question today is this: what grudge have you been holding on to that could help you change your life for the better? I’d love to know in the comment section below so that I can cheer you on. Everyone deserves the right to go after their dreams, and the encouragement that goes with it.
Sometimes self-belief can be a hard thing to achieve, however no matter the obstacle, the struggle is always worth the pursuit of your dreams.
– Lauren Xena Campbell –