To quote a great Mandalorian from a mediocre film, “I’m just a simple man trying to make his way in the Universe.” But Jango Fett aside, that’s really what I think. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been telling stories. Not like what you’d expect from a young child, what with the spinning lies to cover mistakes or percieved grievances from his parents, but real stories; stories of far away places, people and events, fictions of sapient canines at war with reptilian hominids in space, of super heroes, of fantasy warlords and spellbound swordsmen. Taels of wonder, of fear, of the hardships of those who rise above their station and change the world for the better. It came as second nature to me. And for a long time I didn’t really know why. I just yearned to create new stories and ideas, as if I needed them like air in my lungs. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
My family moved a lot when I was younger. My father was a United States Marine. That carried with it a number of issues; constant moving meant new schools, and since I had an undiagnosed learning disability until I was arond 12 years old, that meant it remained hidden when otherwise a teacher or concerned person may have been able to put the pieces together faster. This disability left me illiterate for those years. It was embarassing, and left me with shame and guilt that I still struggle with to this day. On top of this, I was, and still am, an introverted personality. This left me with a difficulty in making new friends, or even keeping old ones. With these struggles all combining against little A.C., I spent the majority of my time diving into worlds I created myself, places where I could be whoever I wanted and not feel so lonely.
My literacy seemed impossible to achieve, and that fact was told to me over and over by my teachers and peers. No matter what I did, the letters on the page would move, slide, even fall off the paper. I knew the alphabet. I could recite the letters, and even write them by themselves, but as soon as those letters were brought together into words, something changed. P’s looked like d’s, or q’s, or both at the same time. vowels would blend together, and entire sentences became single words on the worksheets I was given. “You’re just not smart enough,” was the most common phrase I heard in those days from my teachers. It hurt.
In the fifth grade I was lucky enough to be in a class with a teacher who specialized in learning issues. Her name was Mrs. Papke. She recognized my issue almost immediately as I explained my difficulty with the assignments. Consigned to my defeat and suffering from depression, I told her what I had heard from so many people. That I was stupid.
“You’re not stupid,” She replied with such genuine concern. “You’re dyslexic.” I had never heard the term before. She explained that it was a different way of my mind working, where I interepreted information in ways that other neurotypical people didn’t. She began to teach me techniques to control my dyslexia, and over the course of that school year, my reading level went from below first grade to college level. I could finally grasp the magnitude of written language, and I was so hungry for those words. I began reading everything I could find, especially fiction, becasue I wanted to know what worlds others had created and how they did it. It filled me with joy, but more than that, it filled me with hope.
Because of Mrs. Papke, I have been able to harness my mind and share it with others. Writing is more than entertainment. It is the deepest, most impactful way to transmit raw, pure thought to another being. It is telepathy in paper. Whatever I put on in these words as you read them, you hear them, feel them, see them in your mind; and you understand them. Without my voice ringing against your ear drum, you hear me. Across time and space, you hear me. And even when I am gone and burried, what I have written will remain. That is the power she gave me. And I am eternally grateful.
We moved yet again after I learned so much from Mrs. Papke. As I progressed through high school, I was constantly approached by english teachers asking me to participate in writing tournaments within my school district. They complimented my writing, and told me how great they thought it was. It was terrifying. All those years I had known only that teachers would tear me down and tell me how dumb I was, and then suddenly I was seen as a prodigy, it felt. I didn’t know how to handle it. But I’ve always had a sense of pride within myself to try new things and give them my all. So I did the tournaments. I always made the qualifiying rounds, but the finals had to be hand written; this was my bane, as a computer can help me catch when my dyslexia is leaving a word mispelled, or crushed into another word to make a new frankienword. But pen and paper hold no such mechanism. So I usually got third in those events.
It took a lot of time and effort to escape the programming of my youth. I still struggle with these issues to this day. I am not stupid. I am dyslexic.
I am a writer. I am one because every day I choose to be one. There is no point of success or wealth that determines whether I am a writer or not. Only that I decide it myself. People too often focus on what cannot be done. I hear it all the time. Sure, making it in any profession isn’t easy. But that shouldn’t stop you from chasing your dreams. You can get laid off or fired from a job you don’t even like just because the market changed around you, so it’s not like there’s any less risk in doing something you like, or even love. Take the chances you want to take, instead of the ones you feel obligated to do. All of life is a gamble. So put your chips on the one you really want to win. Les Brown once said, “I’d rather aim high and miss than aim low and hit.” I couldn’t agree more. So keep going. I won’t quit. My work isn’t in an office or a store, it’s to create worlds and transmit them to others with paper telepathy.