Just another obstacle

August 17, 2021 1:17 PM

a crown icon and the words "rising voices award winner"
Black and white photo of the author from behind, wearing a ponytail and a backpack. Photo courtesy of the author.

Black and white photo of the author from behind, wearing a ponytail and a backpack. Photo courtesy of the author.

Life has thrown me some pretty insane hardballs, so when my mother found out I couldn't read she freaked. Academic learning is pretty hard to interpret when you don’t understand the language well enough and grow up in a system that regurgitates you into random abusive foster homes. I was a little preoccupied with the little things like eating a real meal. I still remember the first book she sat me down to read: “Hank Zipzer: I got a ‘D’ in Salami.” When I tell you I hated this book, I mean I HATED this book. I butchered every sentence and was convinced my mother took sick pleasure in my suffering. There is nothing more annoying than hearing those three words on repeat. “Sound it out,” my mother would say. 

My mother would never allow me to settle for anything less than perfect. I had to be able to not only pronounce the word but know the proper definition. Through this hard work, I’d eventually be able to finish that devil book. It took me months to read that little 100-page book. I nearly went crazy with rage. There were times I threw legit tantrums because I didn’t want to read. To this day, I won’t look at that book. 

That was only half the battle. School was that much harder because there was nothing scarier than being called on to read. My voice would crack and words would start to blend together. I’d developed a stutter when I spoke English, and was constantly made fun of because of it. Not knowing how to read was just another embarrassing thing I’d have to overcome. I wanted to get better.

As I got older, reading changed for me. The words got easier to pronounce and sentences flowed smoothly in my mind; no longer the jagged edges that scraped the inside of my skull. I’d actually start getting in trouble in school because I’d rather read than do my school work. It drove my English teachers crazy when I started going ahead in the assigned books for school. A sadistic pleasure I had was spoiling the ending to any who asked and many who did not. 

Books evolved from being my enemy to being my escape. The first time I opened a Percy Jackson book, my mind was blown away. Here was a kid who struggled in school, and fought monsters. A Demigod. A hero. I saw myself in Percy Jackson. My imagination would run wild with the possibilities of going on adventures and finding out who my godly parent was. What powers would I have? From this, my obsession with Greek mythology grew. I found myself enjoying reading the stories of old. 

Books allowed me to open my mind and imagine the impossible. To be able to go from not being able to read at all to reading books in days is incredible. I feel pride for that. I did the impossible. With the help my mother gave me, I now read far beyond my grade level. My younger self would be surprised because we felt we weren’t smart enough. I’d tell my younger self to have some patience, and that all would be well. I'm forever grateful to my mother, and my teachers who had to put up with me being more interested in Percy Jackson than their lessons. In all honesty, can you blame me?

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