This is the final draft of the Narrative Essay I wrote for my college English 101 class. I thought it would be fun to share it here. 🙂
Enjoy, and let me know what you think.
She sat on the family room couch, hands clasped tightly in her lap. Squirming in her seat, she worked her intertwined fingers back and forth. She swallowed, fighting the dread that slowly crept up within her six year old mind. Biting her lip, she concentrated on the floor at her feet, trying not to think of the coming trial. Every day was the same, every day, nothing changed. Here she was, barred from a world she so longed to enter, reaching for the door only to find it locked, and the key gone. This little girl was me, and the dreaded trial was my daily reading lesson. I struggle to learn how to read and write because of dyslexia, and though my case was mild, it still played a huge part in forming how I read and write today. Each word was a mountain I had to climb, a vertical slope that more times than not, I would find myself sliding down, instead of climbing up. Dyslexia made a huge impact on my literacy because it made learning to read and write a difficult challenge I had to confront and overcome, but it also taught me the value of working your hardest until what you want is accomplished. I went from avoiding reading at all costs, to falling in love with the written word and making it my craft.
The most annoying part of having dyslexia is the games it plays with your eyes. This was especially frustrating to a young child learning to read. I couldn’t explain what was happening any more than I could change it. I would be reading a sentence aloud, and suddenly, as best as I can describe it, a word would switch places with another word. Now, where this new word came from I had no idea, all I knew was “the” had morphed into “cat” then as soon as I blinked morphed back. I can’t remember how much I learned from these reading lessons, but I know my mom never gave up on me, no matter how frustrated or upset I became. It was maddening to try and put in plain words what I was seeing. As a result, I soon gave up trying to explain this maddening phenomenon and convinced myself I would never learn to read fluently. In my young mind it became a waste of time. It was too hard, and, I believed, not worth it. How wrong I was.
My earliest memories of books were our family story times growing up. My dad loved to read aloud to us and would do so every evening before my siblings and I all scrambled into bed. He read us the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and all the Dr Seuss you could think of. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was in these moments that a seed was planted inside me, a seed that would sprout into a love for the written word. I can still remember sitting on my dad’s lap, gazing in wonder at the little pictures in each book as his gentle voice brought to life every scene and every character. All I knew was that someday, I wanted to do the same thing. But how could I? That was the problem, I didn’t know how, and I didn’t think I ever would know how. All I could do was thumb through the books and make up what was happening based on the pictures and memories of when my dad read them aloud.
There I was, a kid with an itch for good stories who couldn’t read and quite frankly, had no desire to read. Sounds a bit like an oxymoron. That summed me up. I was a walking contradiction, and I didn’t even know it. One of the excuses I made about not reading was that there weren’t any interesting books at my reading level. Now, I’m sure there were, I just never took the time to find them. Excuses. I became a champion excuse-finder and maker when it came to reading. I never picked up a book unless it was full of pictures, or was extremely short, and I hated school because it involved so much reading. But even when it came to English, I figured out ways to work around having to read much. I exhausted every trick in the book, but I didn’t know the wonders of the words I was running from.
I can’t remember the title of that book I found one day on a friend’s living room bookcase. I can remember the size, the weight and the big font type, but the title escapes me. But I picked it up. Why? The pictures. There were pictures on every page, interesting pictures. Before I knew it I was slowly scanning the typed pages and found not only was it at my reading level, but the story seemed adventurous therefore drawing my interest. That day I did something I had never done before – I borrowed the book. I took that thin, paper-cover picture book home and read it. I suddenly found myself drawn in by a story, a story I could read on my own and understand. It was like a light bulb had finally come on, and I entered the world of books.
Thinking back, I find it rather ironic how I went from hating books to writing them. Who would have guessed? I currently didn’t. Once I had knocked down that carefully built wall everything changed. Before, my mom couldn’t get me to open the cover of a book for school let alone for pleasure reading. Now she can’t get me to put them down. I started living on the library website, placing holds on dozens of books, then begging my mom to pick them up when they came in. It was a couple years later that I discovered what would become my life’s obsession: Writing.
A friend showed me a story she was writing. I liked the idea, so we started writing a story together. There’s a saying about this thing called the “writer’s itch,” and that once you scratch it, it will never go away but only grow. Well, I had an itch and I scratched it. I like to tease my friend now, telling her that she created a monster. Writing became everything to me, my passion.
Dyslexia doesn’t affect me as much now as it did when I was younger. My eyes have grown stronger and I haven’t let it get in the way, but it is still there and makes known its presence now and then. When I’m tired or stressed I tend to type words backwards, or when someone is looking over my shoulder – I can never seem to keep letters in the right order when someone is watching. I still fumble around a bit when I read aloud, especially if I’m tired, but the game of appearing and disappearing words has left me alone. One funny thing that I do because of the dyslexia is the way I write out numbers when I do my banking. I write them from right to left, starting with the last number, moving backwards to the front. I’ve found this helps me write them correctly. Yes, my mind is wired in a very odd way, but as my mom says, “If it works, it works.”
Though learning to read with dyslexia was hard and trying, if I could rewrite the years and get rid of it I wouldn’t. Not only has it shaped my literacy, but it has helped shape who I am and the writer I am today. When thinking about the books I like to read and the way I write, one word came to mind: simple. I am not a long-winded reader or writer, and I believe this is because of the dyslexia. I would get lost in long paragraphs and lengthy word choices, so I would avoid them. And I realized, unknowingly, I still do to this day.