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Dyslexia Is the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

My success today is directly tied to my ostensible failures of the past, not because of the scars, but because of what I had to learn in order to survive a system that did not recognize me as a legitimate member.
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My mother would disagree. She still agonizes over how I went through living hell in school as a result of being dyslexic and undiagnosed. It pains her to think that there was something my father and she could have done to spare me the grief, humiliation and shame of not functioning, and therefore performing, in line with the rest of my peers. She blames herself regardless of how many times I try to tell her that it all went exactly the way it was supposed to go, that is, if you use my life as it exists today as the means to measure. I'm healthy and happy and highly engaged in my life, all things I consider more valuable than regrets over what had been. Plus in some weird, ironic way, my success today is directly tied to my ostensible failures of the past, not because of the scars, but because of what I had to learn in order to survive a system that did not recognize me as a legitimate member.

I didn't always feel as though my years struggling in school were the gift that I do now, however. After I was diagnosed in college, I was angry and full of resentment toward the people who were unable to see the truth of what I was, and a system so small-minded that it couldn't function without labels. But it wasn't just the labels that angered me; it was the derogatory, demeaning, minimizing, soul-sucking nature attached to them and how they were used against well-meaning and talented kids without even the slightest awareness or concern of how it would affect the child's view of him or herself. Today I've come to see it as selfish to teach in such a way that suits the teacher more than it does the student. For a while, every time I thought about the level of ignorance, myopia and critical judgment rampant in my school, I felt my heart skip into my throat carrying with it an intense desire to tell every last one of them that it was they who were stupid. Eventually bygones became bygones and it was clear to me that once I got out from under the misguided goals of education, I was free. Second chances, as it were, I was away from the grinding toll of being reminded daily of all the things I couldn't do.

My first job was working for Chanel, my last was at Goldman Sachs, and in between there was a string of other companies whereby I was surrounded by business people who weren't looking for what was wrong, but saw what was right, and beyond that, wanted to use it constructively toward a common goal. As you might imagine, I found this very refreshing. Work ended up being the antithesis of primary school, which is to say positive, enriching and highly instructive. Between that and a successful run in college and graduate school twice, the glaring flaws in education became even more blinding. With no appreciation for cognitive diversity whatsoever, the system churns out more of the same old thing falling to realize that when children become adults, they will need to compete in an environment where innovation, creativity and point of difference are together the single most coveted competencies in organizations. Schools, as we know them, don't get that.

Additionally, it does nothing to prepare kids for the real world of work where emotional and psychological skills come into play as much as, if not more than, the tactical and technical. For me, it so happens that what made the situation unbearable from K through 12, is also what forced two things to happen which could not have been foreseen at the time. One, I developed the kind of survival skills that can't be taught from a textbook. And two, my brain was unable to adapt to the status quo. As a result, it's as if all the best parts were preserved, which turn out to be the most valuable assets I've brought to bear on my professional life. Not to mention that in the process, I learned to fight the system, communicate very well verbally as I dodged bullet after bullet, and most importantly, discovered that there was no point in listening to people who thought they knew about me and believed they had the authority to define who I was under the guise of their authority and/or title. They didn't.

So, here I am. I write, I teach, I dance and I have created two businesses that I run, all from the failure that everyone believed I would ultimately become.

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