This is part two written about my journey with my Biblical Studies Degree. Click here to read part one: The Spiritual Aspect.
My story starts with my former bosses/pastors encouraging me to go back to school. Although, I love to learn and the idea of school, the actual act of school was terrifying. School and I have always been strong enemies. As a kid homework, tests, and school felt impossible; especially math! No matter how hard I tried in the majority of school subjects, I couldn’t even get a 3.0 to make honor roll. After years of wondering if I had a learning disability (LD), I decided to finally get tested. I was diagnosed, at the age of 30, with working memory problems.
I waited 30 years to hear someone finally acknowledge my struggles with school and inabilities to do math, and not ride it off as a motivation problem. It was such a relief, that I started sharing my story on FB, and the more I shared my story, the more I heard other peoples’ stories. I found myself in others’ people’s pain. I was not alone. And more importantly, I was not stupid.
I went through classes to learn how my learning disability works, how to cope with it, and how to heighten my other cognitive skills. I came out of that class feeling like I was Supergirl or Superman who had finally conquered Kryptonite.
This is the picture I painted for my teacher/trainer who helped me in my LD class.
Now, it was time for the rubber to hit the road… was I really going to sign up for classes? Could this really be possible? Fears settled in and I went back and forth about actually going back to college… but I eventually took the plunge and decided to trust God and just do it.
To my surprise, my first few classes went well. It was ridiculously difficult to find someone who was considered a qualified person who was willing to do the paperwork so I could get accommodations, but I finally found someone to do it. Things were going well…
Then, Advance Inductive Bible Study Class happened. I was so frustrated because I just couldn’t figure it out! After contacting a patient professor who was doing what he could to help; I was still not understanding the information which left me feeling hopeless and helpless.
I recall one particular week where I had three frustration fits and had become a hot mess because I was tired of not understanding the information! I felt like I was back at square one. How silly I felt that I had even attempted to go back to school. I knew better than to do this! What was I thinking?
In desperation, I called a pastor-mentor of mine and asked if she would meet me and she agreed to do so. The next week we went out to eat. My pastor-mentor asked the reason for the meeting. I explained my frustration with class, then I said, “I’m seriously thinking of quitting school, and I need you to talk me out of it.”
After a few moments, my pastor-mentor responded with something along the lines of, “You can’t quit, you’ve come too far. You got diagnosed with a LD, you went through classes to learn how to deal with it, you’ve overcome a major fear, and you’ve made it through your first few classes. Do you realize how many students just transfer credits and that’s it? They haven’t done half the work that you had to do. You’ve worked too hard to quit.”
She made a valid point.
I finished that blasted class with an “A”, but I realized there was a huge difference this time than in the past. When I worked hard at school before, it made little to no difference. However this time, all the hard work paid off. It made all the difference knowing what my LD was and how to work with it. For example, I always knew the moment I got lost, but I didn’t know why, or what to do about it. Now, I knew the moment I got lost, it was because I had forgotten what was just said, and a quick reference got me back on track. I learned to depend more on my logic and less on my memory. My notes went from written word, to drawn pictures which was more effective.
Although, I knew how to cope now, it doesn’t mean everything was easy. My greatest struggle was simply being able to sit down and focus on a task. I used things such as music and movies to purposely be distraction so I would have to work harder to focus. I realized my focus is highest mid-morning so that’s when I worked the hardest on my homework. The night before a big assignment I would pray God would give me focus to get it done the next day. The prayer seemed pathetic, but I needed it, and it worked.
I struggled to remember what I read. I was married to my highlighter for two years. At one point IWU announced they were going to electronic books. I tried to keep an open mind, but in the end it proved to be more frustrating because it was harder to look things up. Luckily, it only lasted for one or two classes. THANK YOU, JESUS! I was grateful that with the exception of three classes, there were no quizzes or tests! WHEW! The less I had to depend on my memory for things, the better off I was.
Finally, school and I made peace with each another and became friends.
As I was nearing the end of my schooling, I was thrown a curveball. My math credit from my previous college did not transfer because it was too low of a grade. NOOOOOO!!!! Everything was going so well! I had two more classes to go. Why did math have to come and mess everything up for me?
I tried to advocate my way out of it, but it didn’t work. I tried to get additional accommodations, but that didn’t work either. I found myself in high anxiety over the class, but I had to finish school! I did a bunch of praying, royally freaked out, made a cry for help on Facebook, and moved forward. I remembered the words of my pastor-mentor, “You’ve come too far to quit.”
The first two weeks of math class was surprisingly simple! As long as I had a gist of what I was supposed to do, I could manipulate the computer program easily. Plus, our professor gave us access to the “show me how to do this” button… OH that button and I were married for six weeks!
Then the third week hit. Polynomials. In case you don’t know what these are, all you need to know is that they are what nightmares are made of. I tried watching the video three times, but that didn’t work. I contacted the professor, who was willing to help, but still I couldn’t do it. Another frustration fit sank in. I contacted one of my friends who had offered to help me from my plea on Facebook, and for three and a half hours she worked with me on FaceTime. (I feel I owe her my life now. True story!) And I got through that week! HALLELUJIAH! After two more blasted weeks of useless numbers, I passed! I passed with an “A-“… only because of a computer program I could manipulate, but that’s beside the point… It’s the only dumb “A” I ever got in math, and I’m flippin taking it! And all I have to say is, “Bite me, math!”
On Sunday, March 20th, I turned in my last paper. IT. IS. FINISHED.
A few weeks later, I was notified that I wouldn’t receive honors, because they combined my previous college experience and IWU together, making my GPA 0.17 under the lowest honors category. However, if they had only used my IWU experience, I would have graduated with a 3.74. That number brings tears to my eyes. There was a day I couldn’t even get a 3.0 no matter how hard I tried. And there it was on the page—just 0.26 under a 4.0. Unbelievable.
My graduation was set for April 30th in Marion, IN, and I decided to make a trip there to walk across the platform to graduate. My best friend, Ruth, came along on the near 8 hour trip to support me on my big day.
The approach of my graduation reminded me of so many stories I had heard these past three and a half years of people who have been affected by some sort of LD in some sort of a way. In the wee hours of the morning of my graduation, I couldn’t sleep out of excitement, so I wrote this poem:
“Today, I Walk
(A Poem Because I Can’t Sleep)”
By Deb T.
Today, I walk across a stage,
Given a piece of paper and a handshake
The tassel on my hat goes right to left
Today, I walk
I do not walk for myself
Lord knows I’m a turtle in a shell
No, I do this to make a statement
To be a voice
Today, I walk
I walk for every student who wonders, “Why does everyone get this but me?”
I walk for every student who can’t do what everyone else takes for granted
I walk for every student who thinks the best word that describes them is “stupid”
Today, I walk
I walk for the parent who wishes they could remove their child’s struggle
I walk for the parent who is tired of fighting and advocating but stays committed
I walk for the parent who secretly wonders if their child’s potential is flipping burgers
Today, I walk
I walk for every teacher who helps students before and after class
I walk for every teacher who will do anything so we “get it”
I walk for every teacher who unconditionally believes in their students
Today, I walk
I walk for a misinformed public who thinks we just need to “try harder”
I walk for a misinformed public who thinks accommodations is cheating
I walk for a misinformed public who thinks we just need to be spanked harder
Today, I walk
I walk to remind us, to convince us, to convict our very souls on the darkest and most frustrating days:
Our learning disabilities do not own us,
But we own our learning disabilities
The day of graduation was finally here! It was a rainy day that required us, graduates, to wear trash bags as we walked from one building to the other where commencement was held. I laughed. Here we were: smart alumni wearing garbage bags over our graduation garb. Oh, the irony of looking intelligent.
I had the opportunity to meet one of my classmates and one of my professors from my classes, which was nice to put a face with the name and get to meet them face to face.
As we walked into the auditorium and heard everyone cheer was overwhelming! I looked around the area and saw the crowd go wild and it took my breath away! Just three years ago, I didn’t think I would make it to this day, but here I was—I had made it! We had a speaker give a challenge to us to be people who fight injustice. One of my classmates in Biblical Studies Degree represented the rest of our class of 2016 with a great speech! Then, it was time to walk. It was amazing to shake our president’s hand and get my diploma.
But the moment that meant the most to me, was the moving of the tassels. I had to take deep breathes to keep from crying as the audience gave a roar or applause. The tassel change is such a simple and small movement, but oh the work that is symbolized in that movement makes it one of the best moments in my life. It may have taken more work, more support from friends, more questions asked to the professors, and it may have taken more time to finish my assignments than the rest of my classmates; but I made it!
My Kryptonite has no power over me!