Tag Archives: School

A Special Kind of Love

6 Nov

I promised myself I’d write about you eventually. I knew I would need to give myself a certain closure, while also leaving plenty of space for you in my heart, a space you will occupy for the rest of my life.

You carried me through my childhood. You saw the way people treated me, and you acted as a buffer between me and the rest of the world. When we were kids, I needed that buffer. I needed a safe space to go where I didn’t have to be face to face with my situation, while also not having to completely face the blows of reality either. You provided me with that space. Your presence in my life when we were kids was like a bubble I never wanted to leave because it was the one place I felt cared for, the one place I felt safe. Now, I’m no longer inside that bubble, but I find comfort in knowing it’s always a place I can still go if I am in need of reassurance.

Your presence in my life brings me to tears, both tears of joy and tears of sadness. I wonder how I ever got so lucky to have a friend as rare as you in my life. Someone who has known me since we were kids. Someone who knows everything I went through, and loves me just the same, if not more. Someone who has acted as my protector for as long as I can remember. Someone who took me to my first dance, who took me to my prom, and who would drop everything to be there for me. That kind of friendship is so incredibly rare, and the wonderful thing is how safe and cared for I feel, even when I’m just thinking of you. Therefore, my deep love for you makes sense. It brings me to tears because I know my love for you is not the same kind of love you have for me. It breaks my heart, but it doesn’t take away how I have always seen you. Truthfully, my feelings for you make sense. They truly do. I don’t know of anyone who could be cherished the way you cherish me and not develop deeper feelings.

Your belief in all that I am propels me forward. It gives me the strength to keep going when I feel like giving up, and it shows me there are people in this world that would do anything just to see me happy. Though I know that has been true for a long time, it took numerous deep conversations with you until I started to see it with my own eyes. You’ve allowed me to feel a kind of love I thought I’d never find. Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened between us if I would have recognized the love sooner. However, I don’t want to spend my life backpedaling. From this point on, I want to go forward. Forward towards a kind of love I will find one day. A kind of love I now know exists because you have shown me that even though certain forms of love are rare, they do exist.

Yes, I love you. I love you with all that I am, and I truly believe I always will. That’s the thing about first loves, right? They stay with you forever. Though you have not been my first love in the traditional relationship sense of the world, I think 15 years of friendship is a very special, though unique kind of relationship. And it’s been a special kind of love. The kind of love that has allowed me to grow and has given me support all at the same time. The kind of love that has provided me with a true sense of feeling safe, a sense of knowing I matter. The kind of love that is so rare, and yet so beautiful in all that it means.

Yet, because your presence in my life has brought me love, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that one day I will find the kind of love I wish you could show me now. Because in so many ways, you’ve done the best thing for us. Our friendship is too precious to take the risk of a relationship. You told me you vowed to never put yourself in a position where you might leave (since you had seen so many “friends” leave me, and knew how much it hurt me when they did). In its own way, that shows just how much your cherish me, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I love you, and I always will. Your presence in my life has lifted me up while also breaking me down. Though that may sound sad, it’s good. You’ve helped me to experience an emotion I never thought I’d understand. Granted, though I am no closer to understanding it, I finally know the feeling of loving someone so much that it seems as if your heart might burst from happiness. And now, in this moment, I know what it means to love you, while also allowing other people in. For a while, I was afraid giving myself the opportunity to move on would mean I had to let you go, but that’s not what it means at all. It means loving you, keeping you in my heart, but making space in my heart for new possibilities. It means it’s possible to hold all kinds of love in your heart at once, and knowing there is always room for more.

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Being Bullied: The Effects that Can Last a Lifetime.

9 Oct

About two weeks ago, I randomly received an email from a woman who works at an elementary school in Asheville. She informed me she had received my contact information from the program director of Easter Seals in Asheville who spoke very highly of me. She then told me there is a book club at the elementary school, and in the book the children are reading, the main character has Cerebral Palsy. Based on the high remarks she received from the Asheville Easter Seals program director concerning me, she asked if I’d be willing to come speak to the third through fifth graders about my experiences with CP. Specifically, she asked if I could speak about my experiences of being bullied during my school years.

The email was completely out of the blue, and I was stunned. To have received this kind of opportunity without searching for it is incredible, and I am excited for such a wonderful opportunity. However, the tricky part comes with the focus of the talk: my bullying experiences in school.

It is safe to say my bullying experiences were the worst part of my childhood (excluding my intense surgeries and physical therapy, obviously). As a child, I could not understand why I was being targeted out of everyone in my class. I understand now that children are especially curious about those who are different from them. However, I didn’t know why it always had to be me. During those times, I also didn’t understand why I was so different. All I wanted was to fit in, and by getting bullied I stuck out even more.

I got my hair pulled in kindergarten because I had no way of running away, I got pelted with a dodge ball in middle school because I couldn’t move away from the ball fast enough, and every day in gym class, I was picked last. Though I know those experiences helped me to develop a thicker skin very early on in life, many of the experiences were just plain cruel. There is no other way to say it. They resulted in me coming home from elementary school crying to my parents on a daily basis. I cried over more than just the bullying though. I cried over hating I was so different. I cried over not being able to fit in because my experiences were so different from most of the other kids my age. I cried because it wasn’t fair. None of it was fair. I was a nice kid. I smiled at other kids, I laughed with them, and yet I still didn’t ever really fit in with them.

The complex social aspects of school are difficult for any kid. However, they are especially difficult for any kid who may be a tiny bit different from their peers. I only hope to try to convey this to the children I’ll speak to at the elementary school in Asheville. I don’t want to berate them or tell them to stop being mean. After all, they are kids. Kids are curious, especially regarding things they don’t fully understand. I only hope to explain how children with disabilities should be treated just like any other kid. Yes, they are different, but pointing out their differences and excluding them from activities because they are a little bit unique only makes it that much more difficult for them.

Despite growing a tougher skin due to being bullied, I have carried my bullying experiences with me ever since I was a kid. I remember the specific moments in detail. I remember who targeted me, and I remember exactly the way I felt when I came home and cried. I know now that many of my bullying experiences were not intentional. They were just moments of kids being kids. However, that does not mean I still don’t remember the feeling of walking into gym class with my fingers crossed, silently hoping I wouldn’t have to be pelted with a dodge ball by the one girl who always got so much satisfaction out of being the one to hit me.

The hair pulling days.

19 Aug

I grew my tough skin very early on in life, and I owe it all to one girl: Layosha. I first started out my schooling at a public elementary school in my hometown, Guinyard Elementary School. I attended 2 years of kindergarten there before going to the private school in my town starting in first grade. I don’t remember much about Guinyard, except for Layosha and Miss Marie.

When I was at Guinyard, I used a walker or four-prong canes to get around. I couldn’t walk without assistance at that point, but if I was able to move, I did. Despite having the ability to be mobile, I wasn’t able to move very quickly, and Layosha took full advantage of that. Practically every day when all of us kids were out on the playground during recess, Layosha would walk up behind me and pull my hair. It wasn’t a friendly pull either. Layosha grabbed a huge handful of my hair and pulled….hard.

I should point out that Layosha was mentally handicapped, and so she didn’t know any better. However, I couldn’t understand that concept at the time. At 5 years old with a disability, I didn’t understand what was so special about me….I didn’t understand why Layosha chose to target me. All I knew was that even if I tried to get away from her every day, it never worked. Layosha had the ability to run, and she used it when trying to seek me out and pull my hair. After many weeks of hair pulling and daily tears, I knew that I wasn’t going to win.

A teacher of mine, Miss Marie, pulled me aside one day and said: “Amelia, just hit her with one of your canes.” Even now, that sentence makes me smile. Not because I ever hit Layosha (which I didn’t) but because it’s a reminder that Miss Marie has always had my back. Despite never hitting Layosha, I grew a tougher skin with every hair pull. Even though it hurt every time, I learned that bursting into tears every time would only give Layosha a feeling of satisfaction, so I got tougher and tried not to let her get to me. Yes, I could have hit Layosha with one of my canes, but I was never that kind of kid. I didn’t want revenge. I didn’t want to hurt her, even though I thought about it. I just wanted the hair pulling to stop.

The hair pulling never did stop, and eventually I left Guinyard to go to the private school in my town. I guess you could say that I “ran” from Layosha, but I don’t really see it that way. I see it as escaping a certain level of taunting that would most likely only get worse. And with already having to learn how to live with a disability, I had enough on my plate for being so young. I didn’t need something else pulling me down.

I think about Layosha sometimes, wondering what she’s like now. I wonder if there was ever another kid with a physical disability that she teased. I hope there wasn’t. However, if there was, I hope that they didn’t hesitate to take Miss Marie’s advice.

Blazing my own trail.

18 Aug

As I sit at my desk gearing up for the start of my junior year of college (which begins on Monday), I am amazed at how I was able to keep up with my schoolwork when I was in and out of the hospital for my intense surgeries and intense physical therapy following those surgeries. Granted, I had tutors, and without them, I don’t think I would have been able to get all of my schoolwork done. However, it’s hard for me to imagine that I had so much time. I had time for schoolwork even when it wasn’t the highest priority (though it was definitely the second highest). The first concern, of course, was focusing on getting me as independent as possible through intense surgeries and PT.

I think I’m just very thankful that I was able to stay at the same pace as the rest of my classmates. I still am not quite sure how I did all of it. Maybe I didn’t need as much sleep in those days, or maybe I just didn’t have as much schoolwork as I am remembering. I definitely know that if I was faced with the same situation right now, I wouldn’t be graduating in a mere 2 years. However, that was middle school. Even though my academics were incredibly important, they weren’t as heavily weighted as they are in college obviously. Either way, I feel like I got lucky on that front. Thanks to some really great tutors, I was moving at the same pace as the rest of my classmates even when I was doing schoolwork from the hospital and from home.

All things considered, I am happy that I got the same education as the kids that I grew up with despite my disability. My parents could have chosen a different avenue, but they chose to put me in an environment with every other kid my age, and I’m so glad they did. Yes, I was teased and yes I faced some difficulties that other kids my age didn’t have to worry about. However, I also learned at a relatively young age that I had to blaze my own trail. Best of all, I’m glad that I was put in a regular school environment in the very beginning of my education so that I could get used to being around regular kids. Through this immersion, I learned quickly that I was different, but I also learned that in a school setting, I was treated like every other kid in my class. I was held to exactly the same standards as every other student, and I definitely know that I benefited from that.

It is because of my parents’ decision to place me in a regular school environment and my pure love of learning that has gotten me to where I am today in terms of my education. I am grateful that my CP does not limit my intelligence because school has provided me with yet another avenue that I am able to excel in without being limited. Yes, I may have had to work harder in middle school knowing that I had to get my schoolwork done while also going to physical therapy and having intense surgeries, but I did it. I did it because it was expected of me and because I loved to learn. I’m grateful that my parents instilled in me a love of learning, and I’m happy to say that despite having to focus on my CP as I was growing up, I was still able to blaze my own trail.

The Different Faces Of Curiousity Regarding My CP.

13 May

Since starting my memoir this past January, the number one thing that I have realized is that no one knows exactly how I felt growing up and living with Cerebral Palsy except me. As a writer, that can often be a hard way to start off since I don’t have other sources to gather much information from. I just have my own memories and feelings of how my CP has impacted my life.

Even though I may have friends and family who want to understand, no one can say they know exactly what I faced. Growing up, not having anyone who understood was hard. I attended a private school in my hometown from 1st grade until 10th grade, and even though the kids that I went to school with were some of the same kids that could be found on my street on the weekends playing in front yards and riding their bikes up and down the sidewalk, they didn’t really know me. They wondered about me, that I could tell. The way they stared but never said anything told me how they felt. Growing up, I hated the staring, and I still do. However, when I was at school and didn’t have much of anything to “hide behind,” there was no way to escape the staring. The kids I went to private school with hardly ever asked what was wrong with me. Either their parents had told them, or they just weren’t sure. As I was growing up, I quickly learned that I was the one that was going to have to initiate friendships. People weren’t going to walk up to me begging to hang out with me or sit with me at lunch, and that was something I had to deal with early on.

Therefore, I initiated things. I had to let other kids know that I was comfortable with myself so that they could be comfortable with me. When the other kids asked what was wrong with me, I’d say, “I have Cerebral Palsy. I was born with it.” That seemed to satisfy most of the kids. Though I knew they still didn’t fully understand, they were curious. All kids are curious. Therefore, I just had to find a way to answer their question without having to go into so much detail (since I didn’t fully understand things when I was that young either). Heck, I didn’t understand why I was different from all the other kids my age, so how could I explain that to the kids I went to school with. I couldn’t. It’s that simple.

These days, I’ve been hesitant to explain to friends about my CP just because I’ve realized that for most of them, it doesn’t matter. They are my friends, and they could care less about what’s wrong with me because to them it’s not a big deal. To them, it doesn’t define me. Even though it took me a long time to be able to vocally say that my Cerebral Palsy doesn’t define who I am, I have reached a point where I can talk about my CP with my friends (which I think is because I have started writing my memoir and am no longer afraid to be my true self). No, my CP doesn’t define me. However, it still affects me on a day-to-day basis. That’s not something that can be denied. Therefore, when I’ve told my friends about my CP, it hasn’t been hard for me. It’s been easier to talk about, and after I’ve opened up about it, I’ve gotten so much support from my friends about my strength and courage. And in my mind, getting that kind of response is worth facing the fear of talking about the disability that, though it may not define me, has impacted me on a physical and emotional level that most people can’t even fathom.

For me, every single day is a struggle, which is not something that most people know. Most people don’t realize that I still feel a large amount of physical pain, especially in my back, which often causes me to stop, place my hand on my lower back, and breathe through the pain. Even on the days when the pain gets bad though, I choose to be a fighter. I choose to be a fighter because honestly, what other choice do I have? Giving up has never been an option for me, and so rather than simply allowing myself to wallow in self-pity, I’ve learned to thrive.

Thank All Of Your Writing Mentors.

14 Mar

After yesterday’s blog post Does Music Help Your Writing generated so much feedback, I thought I’d stick with the topic of writing for today’s post as well. However, I don’t want to focus on just writing, but mainly how certain people have impacted your writing…and the different ways that they have helped you broaden your writing experience. I’ll start with some of the writing mentors I’ve had over the years.

  1. My seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Trish: Though I enjoyed writing before I took Mrs. Trish’s English class, the belief in my ability grew when I entered her classroom. Not only did she encourage me to keep on writing, she helped me realize that I could use writing as an outlet, as a way to escape when reality became too painful. She was also the first person (other than my parents) who told me that I had “a gift.” Hearing that from someone other than my parents was a huge turning point. I remember when I let Mrs. Trish read the first article that I ever got published (Writing To Survive). She cried, telling me how proud she was of me and how she knew that one day I’d truly impact the world with my writing. I didn’t remember some of the great advice she gave me until reflecting on what I gained from her in terms of my writing, but I know that she was the one who first really supported me (besides my parents) in my love of writing. To this day, we still keep up, but not as much as I’d like since college keeps me busy.
  2. A previous co-worker, Mike: In my junior year at Salem, I interned at the Columbia Star (and wrote the article “Writing To Survive,” mentioned above). One of my co-workers there, Mike, had a huge impact on me and my writing. I interned at The Star for three weeks, and while I was there, Mike was constantly picking at me. Not in a mean way, but in a way that solidified our mentor-mentee relationship. When my internship was over, Mike wrote me a letter (that is still one of the most honest portrayals of what it means to be a writer I’ve ever read) and gave me Stephen King’s book, On Writing (which has been extremely helpful through the process of writing my book). I met Mike back in 2009, and I’m happy to say that we keep up a regular email correspondence, which I’m grateful for. He is one of those writers who I know will give me completely honest feedback on my writing. He knows what I’ve been through, and so he also knows that I can take the criticism, especially since he also points out that the criticisms he gives me come from his heart since he wants to see me grow as a writer and a person.
  3. My AP English teacher, Dr. Cahill: Between my internship with The Star and the start of my freshman year at Wofford College, I took a hiatus from writing. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have people supporting my writing. Dr. Cahill is one of the teachers that I’ll never forget. She loves what she teaches, and she makes that known to her students. Though I didn’t do much personal writing during my senior year (since I had so many other responsibilities like college applications and being the editor-in-chief of my school paper), I still had support. For every literary analysis that I wrote in AP English, I went to see Dr. Cahill in order to get her feedback before turning in my final draft. Though she knew that I was an anxious student, she always made a point to try to lift me up. I remember one day when I was in her office she said: “Amelia, you’ve got to believe in yourself a little more. You’re a great writer. Can’t you see that?” It was in that moment that I realized how hard I was being on myself as a writer. To this day, I’m still hard on myself in terms of my writing, and I think it’s something that all artists face when trying to express themselves. However, having Dr. Cahill point it out to me was an important realization in terms of growing as a writer.
  4. My Freshman English teacher, Dr. Cox: Beginning in August of 2010 (my freshman year at Wofford College), Dr. Cox had a huge impact on me. She’s a writer herself, and one of the truest writing professors that I’ve known. I remember one specific assignment we were given during the fall semester of 2010. The assignment was to write a short story in which we held a specific belief and then over time our position/opinion changed regarding this particular belief. I put a personal spin on my story. I wrote about how as a kid I thought that I only had friends because I thought they pitied me. This opinion changed when, in seventh grade, I befriended my first true friend, Lauren. She showed me what it meant to be a true friend, and she helped me realize that I shouldn’t automatically jump to the assumption of pity when it comes to friends. Anyway, Dr. Cox helped me so much with this story. After a short conversation with her after class, I realized that she knew me better than I knew myself. I remember the end of that conversation because Dr. Cox said: “Amelia, writing isn’t true unless it costs you something,” and I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget that. In my case, this meant showing my vulnerability to Dr. Cox as well as my English class, and I was scared. However, I got positive reactions from my classmates, and on future writing assignments I noticed that my classmates were sharing stories that were more personal for them. One day, I came out of class smiling because after having numerous classmates share personal stories, Dr. Cox pulled me aside and said: “It’s because of you, Amelia. You broke down the wall of fear that people had built around their personal experiences and made it known that it was okay to share them.” That is something that will always stick with me because it’s a reminder that my words have the power to impact others around me.

I have no idea where I’d be without these 4 people. Well, yes, I do. My writing wouldn’t be as developed as it is at this point. I wouldn’t have grown so much over the last few years. Thankfully, I still correspond with all 4 of my writing mentors, and every day I am happy to have their support and love. As writers, we all need guidance, whether we care to admit it or not. As it turns out, the people who guide us may be some of the most influential people in our lives, because they’ve taught us not only what it means to express ourselves, but how to look within ourselves to find our true inner voice. I know from experience that it can take a while to find your inner voice, but once you’re able to find it, a strong and life-long connection to creativity, and ultimately, to ourselves and those around us, emerges.

Study Sunday.

26 Feb

Well, today started off with a trip to the Dairy Freeze, my favorite ice cream place that’s near Kayley’s house in Virginia. They have amazing milkshakes! Anyway, after a little more chill time with Kayley, I hit the road for the 4 hour car drive back to Asheville. I’m pretty wiped now, but I’m happy to be back!

Spring Break starts this coming Friday, so this week is consists of quizzes and midterms. Bleh! Thankfully, my midterms aren’t until Thursday and Friday. However, I study best with notecards, so today and tomorrow and part of Tuesday will be spent making tons of notecards since I want to do well on my midterms. Though it’ll take a while, it’s a relief to know the best way for me to study.

My ideal study spot: coffee shop with notes and notecards, plus my computer and headphones so that I can listen to my Itunes. The library is a close second, but sometimes it’s a little too quiet. I also love drinking coffee and snacking while I study (if only it wasn’t already 6:15 or I would make some).

Anyway, sorry for the short post but I’ve got to go start making these notecards before I get too sleepy!

What’s your ideal study spot?/What’s your favorite study method?