Growing up I seemed to always be accused of being lazy and stupid. I suppose this day was every other average day, Ms. Robinson, my kindergarten teacher called my parents after school to discuss my behavior issues. “Your daughter refuses to carry out my simple instructions when I ask her to silently read or to complete homework”, – I remembered hearing this as I sat next to my parents. Holding back my tears, I silently asked myself: “Why am I always called here after school, every day? What did I do wrong?”
I officially learned I had a learning disability when I was seven, which made it difficult for me to carry out specific instructions from my teachers. I remembered sitting at the dinner table while my parents talked about my diagnoses, feeling sad and depressed. What was a learning disability? Does it mean that I would never make friends, learn to write, or be good in math? All I knew was that there was something wrong inside of me, forever. I knew this because I was treated differently, I had no friends and I could not spell, read or answer questions quickly.
Unlike my father, who had friends that protected him and supported him during his high school years, I had friends that will often abandon me out of annoyance. I recall the day when I was invited to eat lunch with a group of girls for the first time. I was unbelievably happy as hope overwhelmed me that I could make genuine friends. After learning I had a learning disability they started calling me lazy and stupid. After a while, I began to believe them. Sometimes, I just gave up. I could not write, spell, or read, or answer questions as quickly as the people in my class. I hated myself for having a learning disability. I longed the day where I can be like everybody else, I kept telling myself if I try hard enough I can be “normal” too. But at each failure I encounter, I find myself more and more disappointed.
Although I didn’t have the support of my friends, I was fortunate to have the support of my family. During my toughest times, I had my parents to talk to and they supported and encourage me to be myself. My mom never expect me to be better than anyone else’s. Like Jeffrey Star, his mother encouraged him to be himself, even when he was made fun of for wearing makeup to school. I remembered one day, I came home crying because I got a low mark on my math test. I was upset I could not prove myself to be as smart as the people in my class. But my parents, on the other hand, were proud of me, they said that I tried and that was enough.
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When I graduated from elementary school, I was happy that I can start a new life but I was afraid of what the future would hold. My first year was like a roller coaster ride as successes and failures were unpredictable to me, but I tried my hardest with a positive attitude. I started to focus on my weaknesses and work to improve them, that was my first step towards accepting myself. I rarely told anyone I had a learning disability since they usually saw it as an excuse. Instead, I pretended I did not have a learning disability when I was dealing with it every day which was very stressful for me.
As I worked on my weaknesses, I began to see my own progress and potential. Looking back, I was praised a lot for my artistic skills and my ability to think outside the box. I might not excel at reading or spelling but I am good at solving complex math problems. I often forgot the formulas of math equations but I learned ways to compensate for my disabilities. I would rewrite my notes when I’m studying to help me remember. This was enough for me to realize I was not “stupid”. I soon learned to embrace my strengths and my weaknesses, I acknowledged and accepted my learning disability. When I told people about my learning disability, I felt relief knowing I am true to myself. It took a lot of adjusting but I am not sad or ashamed, I am happy.
Self-acceptance is hard when you grew up in a very strict environment just like the students from residential schools. During the 1870s, Aboriginal children’s across Canada were forced to go to residential schools. The purpose of residential schools was to remove their Aboriginal culture and assimilate to Canadian culture. Students had their haircut short and were prohibited in speaking their own language. Teachers would often resort to violence in order to remove the Aboriginal culture. This can be related to the struggles I had when I was dealing with my learning disability as people would accuse me of being stupid and lazy. In 1990, the last residential school was shut down but these schools caused great mental harm to Aboriginal. Fortunately, some residential school survivors have found peace with themselves and accepted their aboriginal culture just like how I have accepted my disability. Accepting ourselves brings a better understanding of ourselves and we are able to see our values and potential. We will be more motivated to make changes and improve our weaknesses, this can create a positive healthy mindset and make us truly happy.
Part of me still wishes to live a “normal” life where my learning disability never existed. Part of me wishes to never have experienced the pain. But as I worked on my weaknesses, I saw my potential, I started to see myself for who I am. I grew more confident as time passes and I’m not afraid to take risks anymore. I am happy because I accept my learning disability and therefore, I accept myself for who I am.