Who I Used to Be

"It must be so easy for you," you say of my ability to crack poems like a code, dissect each word like something living, piece words together into a painting that hangs on the wall and lingers in your mind.

It's almost unnerving the way I've managed to completely erase parts of myself with every fresh start I have decided I needed, the way I have said, "New place, new me," each time I had a change of scenery so that even you wouldn't be able to guess who I was before I landed in your life.  Few remember the days during which I was a public school student, and even fewer remember the days when language and literature were not my place.

The truth is that it's never been easy.  In fact, before I became who I am now, I was a struggling student with the lowest reading comprehension level in my class.  While kids were reading books that were on par with where they should be in terms of reading comprehension, I was struggling to keep up.  I was the last person in my class to read the Harry Potter series simply because I couldn't.

You think that this couldn't be.  For someone who graduated her high school valedictorian, corrects your spoken and written grammar errors like it's her job, and can find the symbolism in anything she reads, it's hard to believe that I could've ever struggled with reading comprehension.  Even more shocking, I used to struggle with writing.

But I had a teacher in the seventh grade who changed my life.  It's funny how teachers do that.  I went from a student who wanted to puke at the mention of literature to one who became excited by it.  And most importantly, she encouraged me to write every day.  Every morning, before the bell would ring, I would bring her bits and pieces of everything I had written the night before, and she would read it and urge me to write more.  She never gave up on me, and I never gave up on myself.

And when I went to high school, my high school English department took me in and they became my constructive criticism, picking right up where my seventh grade teacher had left off.  They gave me credit for my good work, but reminded me that writing has no right answer and that it never fully comes to completion.  They never gave up on me, and they taught me to never give up on myself, even when the world wants to make you feel like you don't get a voice.

I'm not proud of my days as a struggling student.  I like to think of where I might be and what more I might have accomplished if I hadn't spent so much time trying to catch up, and I have never told anyone, not even my closest friends that this was where I used to be. Back then, I only smiled as they talked about the latest book they read and pretended that I had the capability to read it too.

I want to tell you this story because I want you to surround yourself with people who will never give up on you and who will teach you never to give up on yourself, people who want to see you grow and become who you are truly meant to be.  Too often, we give up on our passions for our belief that we aren't good enough, but I promise you that if you are not good enough now, you will be.  And to the student in the back of the classroom who is struggling to keep up with his classmates as they soar and you sink, stick with it, kid.  There will be a day when you'll be there too.