Music

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Dyslexia 101.

Published May 12, 2014 by Soprano, Megan

I am different. Very funny. I know what you’re all thinking. I’m not different as in “strange” (although some would dispute that!), but I am different than most and always have been. I was the kid who listened to classical music as a child and bought shoes for their comfort, not looks. I’m also a firm believer in “it’s meant to be”. Our lives are already mapped out by God and He has a plan for our lives right down to the smallest detail.

During your last two years of secondary education everyone goes through “what to I want to be when I grow up?” phases. For me the answer was clear: get a nursing degree and then try to get into Med school. CLEARLY I have taken a completely different path! However, it was not because I wanted to (at first)…

I don’t share the fact that I have a learning disability to everyone – or at first I didn’t. I’ve since learned that it’s who I am and I need to embrace that I’m “different”. It hasn’t been an easy road, though. A Dyslexic’s (shortened LD – Learning Disabled) life is complicated for a long time, but then you learn new ways to “learn”. My dyslexia manifests itself in mainly word-blindness, memory and reading comprehension. Oddly, I am an excellent speller and can memorize opera pieces fairly easily. A reader for written tests, a note-taker, and extra time were common accommodations provided to me throughout university.

A little background on my beginning at College/University. I tried two times to get in to Nursing School and was unsuccessful at both. I completed a semester of the Programmer Analyst Diploma program at CNA, but then switched to CUTY (College-University Transfer Year). When I didn’t get in to Nursing after that first year I left to go to MUN to do some general courses in Chemistry and Biology. While there, I also joined the MUN Festival Choir and had some lessons with a MUN Voice Faculty member.

Let’s backtrack a little bit to January 2002. This was my first hint that I had a “problem”. I had been working at Dominion for only three months at that point. I had checked through a cheque from a lady and mixed up the numbers resulting in giving her too much money. Luckily she came back with the money (only in NL!), but I had a nervous pit in my stomach that something was terribly wrong. I mentioned the word Dyslexia to my workmates and my Mother who all just told me to be more careful…

Now, let’s forward to October 2002. I was now a student at MUN and having trouble with ALL of my courses: Biology, Chemistry, History, and Anthropology. All I did was study. Honestly. I lived at the library, I went to extra help sessions for Chem and Bio, but I bombed all tests and exams. You get to a point where you feel embarrassed and feel like the stupidest person alive. There were very low points for me.

Dr. John FitzGerald. This is who I credit with “saving my (academic) life”. He was my fabulous History professor at MUN and HE noticed something was wrong and got the ball rolling with the whole LD situation. I went to visit a psychologist at MUN and then on to testing at an outside private practice. A week and 19-page report later I received my Dyslexia diagnosis.

December 2002. The day I received the diagnosis I initially thought: “Ok. Well then. That’s that. At least I know.” and that was it. I didn’t take time to actually process what it meant and how it was going to change my life until years later. Looking back I think it was just a lot of information to take in and I honestly had no clue what it all meant.

During the testing of a LD, you are put through aptitude tests, personality tests, memory tests and other psychological tests. The report they give you helps you learn A LOT about yourself. For instance, I have superior creative writing skills and poor short-term memory skills. And surprising to a lot of people, most dyslexics are above average intelligence (don’t know if that applies to me. haha).

Post-Diagnosis. The hardest part to get over was the stigma I felt went with being LD. I was ashamed to tell anyone for fear they may treat me differently or think I was “stupid”. I have quickly learned that in most cases people are very understanding and you are not treated differently. Of course, there are exceptions to that.

After I was diagnosed I felt I need to move back home and truly figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was strongly advised by the psychologists who did my testing to pursue a career in the arts. My dream of being a nurse was now over and I mourned that for a little, but soon began to realize I was being called to music.

I received a lot of great support from my post-secondary schools since this diagnosis. However, I have to credit Acadia University as being the most effective for me. There was always someone to talk to and always accommodations available to me. My GPA jumped from a 1.75 at CNA/MUN to a 3.3 in my first year at Acadia. All of my profs were supportive and helped in any way they could. This allowed me to take on a full course load (though it was previously recommended I take a lighter one) and graduate on time.

I credit a childhood friend with the career path I chose today. In the back of my mind I knew I wanted to go and study music, but I kept telling myself it was a silly and unrealistic dream. It wasn’t until he said “Megan, you will never be happy unless you study music” that I believed my NEW dream could become a reality. And it did.

My advice. Never judge a book by its cover. Dyslexics are smart people. We really are. We just learn differently and some times take a little bit longer to grasp a concept. But when we do, look out!

I now make it a point to tell my students and fellow teachers I am LD. Not to make excuses, but rather to show them that it doesn’t matter what problems you have, you can get through them with hard work. Most are amazed and once a student said “But Miss, how can you be a teacher and you have a learning disability?”, to which I replied “You can be anything if you work hard enough”.

I don’t look at my disability as a hindrance anymore but rather part of my character. For years leading up to my diagnosis I had all but given up on reading for pleasure, but now I am a bookworm once again thanks to re-learning my approach to reading. Does dyslexia still cause me a headache or two? YES. Everyday. You just learn to cope with it and learn a different approach and you try until you get it.

I wouldn’t change a thing about the path life has taken me on. There is never a time that I wish I had gone to nursing school. I am proud of my musical abilities and achievements thus far and believe this was the path that had been laid out for me before I was born.

I took the road less travelled, the hard way, the uphill climb…but after all, that’s me in a nutshell, right?

30.

Published July 7, 2013 by Soprano, Megan

So here we are. Almost a full year since I wrote an entry. Shocking, I know. Honestly, I’ve been busy I know what you’re thinking-excuses, excuses-but honestly I have been REALLY busy. Where to begin…

Well I can’t promise this entry will be a happy one, because the truth is I’m going through a confusing and tough time in my life. Almost four weeks ago I turned 30 which was extremely difficult for me to “swallow”. I know people say that’s still “young”, etc. but to me it isn’t. I’m 30 and what do I have to show for it? Sure I’ve gotten two degrees and my teaching certificate, but I have no husband, no permanent job, and no house (I live with my parents again-more on that later!). The majority of my friends are all married with children or at least have a long-term partner. Me. Nothing. Zilch. Nadda.

The only thing I can honestly say I am proud of is the fact that I acquired 20 private music students all on my own and I found out that I absolutely LOVE teaching privately. From the first day it started I was never nervous and I felt like I knew what I was doing. Of course, all of that is gone with the ground-breaking decision I had to make this spring.

Long-story-short, I went to an education fair at MUN (you may have seen me partially on NTV news! lol) and scored an interview with Nova Central School District. I had NO intentions of leaving St. John’s (even though my heart had been tugging at me lately) so I went to it to see what they had to offer. It turned out it was more than the ONE day of subbing I had received here. They had no subs in central NL so I made the decision to move home and back in to my parents house – AT 30. After just moving in to a brand new apartment I was giving that all up to go live with Mom and Dad again. I feel I have no choice at this point…what’s to lose, really?

I guess I should also fill you in on the fact that I left my workplace of Dominion after over 11 years of service back in February. That was another hard decisions-it seems like 2013 is the year of hard decisions for me!-but one that was necessary. Now I am a strong-willed and tough-skinned person, but this was bordering on torture to go to work every day. I was being harrassed by a manager there (no, I’m not saying names) and after months of mistreatment I finally broke. I had began to develop some depression and anxiety issues and my physical health was being compromised. I gave my two-weeks’ notice and I was outa there! Honestly, it’s been the best decision. I was able to get my unemployment and truly I have never felt better mentally or physically.

So now that I’m back in Grand Falls-Windsor I’ve began to remember all of the little things that annoy me about this town. One of them being the politics surrounding the music community. I’m not going to get in to specifics right now, but let’s just say I’ve already had enough of people bowing down to one (unworthy) person. Give someone else a chance. Let someone else shine for a change. This is a whole other topic for another day!

So you might ask, where does that leave my own music career and education? Truly I have no idea. I gave up studying with Dr. Leibel when I moved back home and will hopefully begin studying with someone in Corner Brook, but honestly I am scared. I am 30 years old now and I had hoped to be done graduate school by 30. Now who knows if I’ll ever get in? It’s so frustrating and hard when you want something so badly, but do not have the resources or mentors to aide you. Have I given up? In my heart, no. In my mind, kind of-kind of not. I guess I feel a little hopeless and confused. I know if I don’t pursue my dream I will regret it and on the other hand I feel like I’m so deep in the hole that I’ll never find a way out. I just pray to God for guidance and open doors. I think I deserve a break. I’ve been dealt so many blows I at least deserve that.

As for the rest of my life I don’t know what’s gonna happen. Will I get a job? Will I be good at classroom teaching? Will I get students? Will I find love? Will I ever get to pursue my dream? Will someone ever steer me out of this mess?

I
don’t
know.