Dancing with judgment

Opinions rain down and collect at my feet
The words that appear both bitter and sweet
I bought an umbrella when it was too much to take
To block out the words dripping down with much weight
Gathering courage I struck out my tongue
To collect inspiration for poems or a song
More daunting I feel
My heart starts to race
I drop my umbrella and dance in the rain

I spent four years of my life strengthtraining for a sport before finding that my greatest strength is in my own weakness. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor 12:9). The summer before my freshman year of college, I found out I was dyslexic. This learning disability is not something anyone could identify by looking at or speaking with me, but is identifiable in the long, taxing, additional hours it takes me to finish my homework or tests at school. It’s identifiable in a life of second-guessing myself and increased anxiety caused by the fear of being wrong because I think differently from the majority of people around me.

In high school, I was dedicated to sports. I poured myself into excelling in track. I was motivated to be the best version of myself, and made it to the state meet my senior year. No one knew, not even myself, about the different way I processed the world. It was not very evident my junior or senior year of high school because I took an easier course load to compliment my time-consuming training schedule for track. School wasn’t a challenge then. A lot of the time, I emphasized track over schoolwork because sports came more naturally.

I went into college as a writing major and music minor. I wanted to marry my two passions and thought that would be a good fit. I found out very quickly this may not be the plan for me. I was overwhelmed with multiple essay due dates and test days intertwined in the same week. It takes me at least twice as long as the average person for writing and reading comprehension activities. I went from having an occasional monthly test in high school to sacrificing sleep to keep up with due dates my other friends didn’t seem to find intimidating. The extra time it took me to complete schoolwork was robbing me of time and memories I could have been making with my friends as a college student. I would do study groups and study on my own all week, and then still walk out of my music class in tears, knowing I just failed a test.

The information wasn’t processing as fast for me as it was for the other students in my classes. It was very frustrating because I was putting in the same amount, if not more, effort than the other students and yet barely passing some classes. It felt like no matter how hard I tried the outcome would be the same.

My initial reaction was to place the blame on myself: I wasn’t smart enough; I wasn’t putting in enough time. But I was holding myself accountable to standards I couldn’t control. I was letting my stress and worry consume my outlook and control my opinion of myself. I remember going to adoration after a long day of classes, feeling defeated by my weaknesses. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed to understand as quickly as the people around me did. I opened the Bible and underlined a section that seemed to be just for me:

Give alms from your possessions. Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, so that God’s face will not be turned away from you. Give in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, do not be afraid to give alms even of that little. You will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity. For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps one from entering the Darkness. Almsgiving is a worthy offering in the sight of the Most High for all who practice it (Tb 4:7-11).

This Scripture passage registered with me immensely. I believe this was God’s way of telling me I should not let my own perspective cloud his bigger plan for my life. I may not see my disability as a gift yet, but I have realized it may be a way to help others. My disability has helped me sympathize and connect with people more deeply. It has enlightened me to notice the struggles of others; not only people with disabilities, but each person’s own individual weaknesses. It has opened my heart to the virtue of patience. I’m learning to be more patient with myself, and not get discouraged if I move at a slower pace than the people around me. Excising this virtue has helped me to be more patient with the people I interact with in my life everyday.

Discovering I have dyslexia has led me to change my major to education in the hope of possibly working with students with disabilities. Dyslexia made me feel weak, but through this weakness, my eyes were turned to God’s strength. In my complete surrender to God’s plan and acceptance of my own weaknesses, I found a new unbreakable perspective rooted in his love. St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” I found peace after realizing I don’t have to carry my burdens alone.

My story doesn’t just relate to those with learning disabilities, but to every person who bears some kind of weakness. All of our weaknesses are an opportunity to invite God into our lives and let his radiating love break though limitations set by the human eye. Although I am still learning and adjusting to this new path God has for me, I am confident in his plans, and the reason behind giving me a different way of learning.

Photo (above) Francesca competing in the 100M hurdles her senior year. Photo (right) by Willow Hollow Photography.

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