I Never Got What I Wanted

Pardon the delay on this post, it's just felt so overwhelming with the holidays, work, and of course trying to stay inspired to write. I feel exhausted all the time lately! Recently, I completed my application to potentially present at the CASANA 2017 National Conference on CAS (Childhood Apraxia of Speech). It's been a personal dream of mine to speak at such a venue, so we shall see.

The application was pretty straight forward: what are you presenting on, strategies for presenting, your resume, etc. All pretty clear, but it was difficult to clearly organize and illustrate my thoughts in a formal application. Organizing, providing details, planning, etc - the task consumed me and I began to lose sight of my personal passions and goals for Apraxia Awareness. Not constructive at all to lose sight of your personal motivation when you need it the most.

Yearning for inspiration, I decided to look in my past. I pulled out an old filing box I've had for a few years (and never opened) that contained all the records, report cards, progress reports from my early childhood in speech therapy and throughout my academic years.

The box was huge and I spent at least four hours on a Friday night reading every single document. Trying to understand my journey from a different perspective, I read every written detail and opinion from that of teachers, aides, and speech therapists. I never looked at these documents before, since I lived it. I should know plenty about something that I've lived through, right? While losing my mind with this presentation, I knew I needed to read these documents to find some sort of truth about my Apraxia journey and origins. I knew this filing box could help me draft my presentation and address the conference's theme of "Imagining the Possibilities."

Imagine the Possibilities.

Well that seems easy to do, right? It's funny, perhaps my adult ego and confidence now took over. Before I read all these documents, I thought as a kid I dreamt of anything and everything-I could be a supreme court justice, a journalist, a doctor...the possibilities were endless. 

Upon reading these documents though, the realities of my childhood with Apraxia settled in and I quickly remembered that my personal childhood goals were rather mundane. Let's face it, my imagination of the possibilities were rather limited.

Rather than providing every single written detail I discovered, I'll only provide the highlights that resonated with me.

Apparently, when I first started Kindergarten, I was placed in 20% General Education and 80% Special Education. See, I knew I was in Special Education classes, but I had no idea that they actually split my time by percentages. And by that much? 80% special education courses.

What does that even mean-I was 80% special and 20% general?

I was even graded and had progress reports marking my abilities to cut in a straight line, zip up a jacket, and tie my shoes. I was even in special education PE for about four years since when I jumped I flailed my arms above my head, I could not throw a ball more than five feet, and I was incapable of dribbling a ball (I actually still can't dribble a ball to be honest). I had no idea I was actually graded on this stuff.

You could see my subtle progress over my academic career. Overall, my time in special education slowly dwindled as I got older. In Elementary School, I started slowly transitioning more into "General Education," but I was always behind academically.

I was forever a C student in general classes and I was in special education mathematics for a while. Teachers would write "Hard worker and pleasure to have in class..." then continue to say how I needed more work with math, speaking, or verbal participation.

Another strange occurrence was that the majority of my elementary school teachers noted my strength in reading and writing, yet when I shared these stories verbally, I was difficult to understand.  It's beyond perplexing to me that I could read, spell, and write so well, but I couldn't say any of it aloud. I mentioned my bewilderment to my mom and she bluntly said, "You just couldn't speak well, you weren't stupid."

As far as speech therapy reports are concerned, every single document from when I was 3 until 15 said basically the same thing: "Alyson's goal was to be _% intelligible. She will not meet this goal by the end of the semester. She is a hard worker and speech therapy shall continue." When I was thirteen, according to one of the reports, my goal was to be 75% ineligible and I had never met that goal. 

While reading through these reports, I had several thoughts.

The first one, was that I was a lot more delayed than I thought. But these documents forced me to compare how others perceived me along with what I experienced as well. I began to think about my childhood thoughts. The gross, murky thoughts of childhood people just don't want to remember.

So when I imagined the possibilities as a kid, what did I think of?

These documents helped me find my answer, but I don't think it's a good one.

As a kid, the only thing I could imagine was being normal.

That's all I wanted, all I daydreamed about.

I remember leaving my friends in the normal class and having to go to another 'special' classroom because I wasn't normal, I didn't speak nor think "normally" so I was outcast. I could only dream of the possibility that maybe each day would be the day that no one would ask or correct my speech. That maybe that would be the day I could stay with the other kids in the "normal" class. I recall crying in front of the mirror as a kid after one of the many rough days, yelling and begging for God to just make me normal or take away my voice because I didn't want it anymore.

While other children I'm sure were imagining other things, I became obsessed my goal of normalcy. I wanted people to treat me and accept me as normal-I was determined to convince everyone that I was like them. 

So determined for normalcy that it fueled my work ethic. Even though I could not speak correctly, I found other ways of being accepted as a normal, intelligent person. One of my main methods was through reading and writing. During the summers and breaks in Middle School throughout High School, I loved going to the library. I would check out and read several books, difficult books too, from Poe, Shakespeare, Stephen King, and I would try to acquire as much random knowledge as possible. As long as I knew more than I was expected to, then teachers would have to see me as a normal, intelligent kid.

The file for High School was the slimmest, perhaps that's a good sign though! But I noticed something strange-my grades all of a sudden were straight A's and my classes were full of the geeky, honors college-level classes. Teachers would say "pleasure to have in class, hard-worker..." and I knew these comments (granted auto-generated in their computer systems) were not put there as an introduction line into some critique as they had once been in my Elementary and Middle School days. 

I am not sure exactly how that giant transition happened-between an entirely special-education kid into a straight-A, honors geek. I assume that around Middle or High School I got rather fed up with people expecting less of me just because I spoke differently. Remember, I needed to prove to others that I was normal and they could expect normal things from me.

This desire of mine fueled my work ethic in High School, so much so that I somehow had a 4.5 GPA when I graduated. Seeing that drastic change on paper from "80% Special Education" to 4.5 GPA High-School Honors Student-I was perplexed and inspired all at the same time.

However, I also noticed with my discovery and journey down memory lane that I never got what I wanted. I never truly got the 'normalcy' I had always wanted.

When I imagined the possibilities, all I could imagine was normalcy, but I seemed to have fallen so far away from normalcy by either being the special-education kid or the brainiac, geek kid. I was never normal and not a single document in the file indicates that-I covered the two opposite sides of the spectrum. I was either the special-education kid or the above-nerd kid, but never stopped in the middle titled "NORMAL."

You may find this odd, but I was initially upset upon realizing that I was never normal. In my perspective, I thought I had become normal, but clearly these documents say otherwise. My childhood goal of being normal never happened. Since that was my goal, it's upsetting to not have reached that.

But perhaps, it is good that I didn't achieve that. Wanting to be normal really shouldn't be the final goal for anyone. Perhaps I am and was destined for more than just normalcy.

As an adult, realizing that I have never achieved that goal of normalcy and I never will, is unsettling and rewarding at the same time.

I can now say that I'm glad I never got the normalcy I wanted. I would not be who I am if I were normal, if I spoke normally. If I were not delayed academically, I never would have gained such a peculiar, driven work-ethic. I never would have started this blog, I never would have felt as accomplished. Reading these old papers, I had to accept the fact that what I thought was best for myself wasn't truly the best I could be in the long run.