Photo of two children's chairs designed by Dane Jensen

Memories of School

Among my earliest memories growing up in Seattle, was as a grade school student, being taken by my teacher to the library. I couldn’t read and must have been holding the rest of the class back.

When we got to the library, another woman met us outside the library and the two women began discussing why we were there. Even though the two of them thought that I either couldn’t hear or couldn’t understand their discussion, I distinctly heard one of them say, “This is a case of mild to moderate retardation”. I pretended not to have heard as they ushered me into the large library room and sat me down amongst a group of children. Several were hydrocephalics, many were mentally and physically challenged. None were “normal” as I thought I was to that point. I don’t remember how many days I spent in that classroom, but the damage was done. From that point on, I vowed to myself never to trust anyone, or to let anyone get to know me, for fear of being “discovered”. It was me against the world. I became elusive, and said very little to anyone until I felt comfortable that my retardation wouldn’t be verbalized or confirmed. 

The middle child in a family of five boys, I was basically on my own from the age of three, when my parents, in a last attempt to have a girl, had twin boys. My father was a surgeon, my mother, an only child who ended up with, at one point, four boys under the age of five. So, somewhat understandably, I received no support from my family. I was the big disappointment; always with bad grades, always in trouble for some reason, and unable to retain the facts to win in an argument. 

Photo of auditorium seating by Dane Jensen

A War Ends.  So does College... with Mixed Emotions

Fast forward to age 21. It’s 1973, and the war in Vietnam just ended. Finally, I knew that I would not be drafted into the army. Staying in school (university), to that point, was only to avoid being sent to the war. I dropped out with mixed emotions; glad to have the agony of school behind me, but knowing that I could do better.

I could barely read, and I graduated from high school by the skin of my teeth. I was fairly talented with right brain activities such as drafting, geometry, art and design, but math was a nightmare and I flunked algebra hands down. To this day, I don’t know my multiplication tables. Sometimes the class clown, I also diverted attention away from me by being a good liar (or so I thought), or I used other somewhat devious techniques. I adopted any means necessary to aid in my survival.

In college, I must have set a record for the most times on academic probation. I just didn’t get it! I knew on some level that I wasn’t stupid, but I just couldn’t seem to operate as others did. There were flashes of brilliance… or at least competence, but then everything would come crashing down! All of this only helped to reinforce my chronically crippled sense of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Black Chair - Dane Jensen Design

Work, Relationships and Teaching Myself to Read

I have worked since the age of 13. I was gone every summer working on a ranch or up in Alaska and I worked my way through high school and college sometimes by holding down two or three jobs to make my way. I had no help from family, student loans, etc.  It never occurred to me back then how extraordinary that was for someone so young. It was all I knew and it reinforced my aloofness.

The next ten years of my life were spent as a carpenter and manual laborer, then a general contractor.  This fit in with my thought that maybe this was all I was capable of, but my total inability with numbers proved to be insurmountable. I worked very hard to the point of physical ill health. I enjoyed the creative/visual side of my work but not the business side. If I had not had a friend back then who committed suicide, I might very well have done the same myself. The world was a totally unnurturing place to me at that period in my life.

I moved from one romantic relationship to another during those years. I felt I had no choice but to move on as the women in my life began to get to know me. I still couldn’t risk being “discovered”. Believe me, fear of commitment was not the issue! I know I hurt some people, but it was even harder on me! During this time, I taught myself how to read by using a geometric/ relative parts of the whole approach of my own design. It has taken many years, but now I am an avid reader.

Wood Chair designed by Dane F. Jensen

Higher Education and Pivotal Moments

In 1983, at the age of 30, and ten years after I dropped out of school, I re-entered university study with the belief that I deserved better and that I was capable of more.  I really don’t know how I mustered up the self-confidence to take on additional schooling! During my first year, I saw a notice about an event on dyslexia at the school. I attended not really thinking it was relevant to me.

A holistic doctor asked for a volunteer and I raised my hand. He proceeded with a demonstration in Applied kinesiology for which I became the subject.  Applied Kinesiology is the study of the electrical energy in the body- it’s surpluses and its deficits. As I was instructed to raise my arm, the doctor gently pushed down with 2 fingers after he said, “now hold”. My arm moved very little. Then he wrote an “X” on a blackboard. He said, “concentrate on this”, then “now hold”, and pushed with his 2 fingers. I couldn’t even hold my arm up when he pushed lightly. He tried other symbols, some strengthening, others weakening. He explained that the “X” is a weakening symbol to dyslexics. “They don’t totally understand why” he said, “but if it’s true, you have a severe case of it”, he said to me.

Wooden dining chair designed by Dane F. Jensen

This was a pivotal moment in my life. I realize that Applied Kinesiology is a controversial topic and certainly not a mainstream science based discipline. I would not recommend it to anyone as a definitive diagnostic tool. It did however alert me to the fact that more testing needed to be done. I subsequently underwent testing with a psychologist in Los Angeles, and testing with an educational specialist in Denmark. With a confirmation of learning difficulties, (dyslexia; dyscalculia & ADD were suspected), I went through an entire metamorphosis. It began with emotional upheaval… including lashing out at my parents, the Seattle public schools, and our educational system in general, to reading all I could get my hands on about the subject. Unfortunately, the “wisdom” at that time, (the early 80’s), seemed to be that it is geometrically more and more difficult to “overcome” dyslexia past the fourth grade.  I was told by several special education teachers and administrators trained in the area of dyslexia, “you’d better do the best you can with what you have.” I will never settle for this advice.

The effect of having a confirmation of my dyslexia was life changing. Finally, there was a word, a condition, a reason for my frustrating disorientation and lack of self-confidence. I began to forgive myself and give myself permission to venture out into the world and discover who I was and who I could become.

It took me three years to achieve an undergraduate degree from UC Davis in environmental design, a degree I achieved with honors. I also received a fellowship for research I undertook at UC Davis. I worked in San Francisco on Fridays and on the weekends, and studied Danish at UC Berkley two mornings a week in anticipation of graduate work in Denmark the following year. I did subsequently study furniture Design and interior architecture in Denmark at the Royal Academy of Art and Architecture, and at the School of Architecture in Aarhus, Denmark. I then worked for a time there as an architect until my residency permit ran out.

Returning to the US, I could not find work to save myself. I ended up conducting a feasibility study for US Aid on manufacturing furniture in Honduras, C.A. for export to the US under the Caribbean Basin Joint Venture Initiative. US Aid reneged on their agreement with me and I was never paid.

photo of cabinetry designed by Dane F. Jensen

Searching for the Right Fit

I returned to Seattle and still was unable to find work. I moved to Los Angeles to work as a project manager in construction. A year later, I was recruited to study and teach at UCLA in Industrial design. Although difficult, I managed to finance my education in Los Angeles while teaching for a meager salary. I worked on movie sets, took on freelance design work, and built custom furniture in the shop at school.  I received my MA in Industrial Design in 1990, and continued to teach in the department for two more years. At this time, UCLA closed its Department of Design.  I spent several years looking for and applying for teaching positions without success.

Since that time, I have had several short-term jobs working for a variety of companies for very low wages. None of these utilized my education and / or experience. I have never found gainful employment in any field, perhaps due to the fact that I was too old to enter the job market in my 40’s when I was done with my education.

Another possibility is the chronic unemployment or underemployment dyslexics tend to experience due to various factors too long to go into here. In education I believe, the catch 22 of not having had continuous employment prevented me from procuring teaching jobs. And now in this world of the near totally computer oriented job market, it is as if I am an alien from another world. Due to dyscalculia and my visually oriented thought process, I remain in some ways, in the world of isolation that I created when I was a young boy.

I make my living at present by designing and building furniture, cabinetry, interior remodeling, and other design / build projects. Because of my spouse, Mary with whom I have discovered that total openness is a good and healthy thing, I can ask her and others for help with numbers and business problems and no longer risk being “discovered”.

Photo of Dane F. Jensen

Moving Forward and Making a Difference

I act as an advocate for children with dyslexia, and I’ve served on the board for a school for dyslexic children. I have a certificate in nonprofit management and continuously seek positions with nonprofits. I hope to start a nonprofit in the support of dyslexics and their families. In the mean time, I am researching teaching methodologies for dyslexics, and legal avenues that will necessitate that our educational paradigm include effective special education for dyslexics.

I believe that there are as many ways to take in information as there are people, and until we learn to respect these differences and realize that we can all learn and grow as a result, we will continue to experience foreshortenings of our cultural, intellectual and spiritual possibilities.

Metal leaf/floral design pendant by Dane F. Jensen

At 63, I am a bit resigned, and saddened by my lack of ability to have fit in to the mainstream of society. But I am also proud of my accomplishments. I have made my own way in life, and I continue to attempt to make a difference in the lives of others. I have learned that I must take responsibility for myself, and for my life, and not wallow in what might have been. I also choose and try not to live with negativity or cynicism. Even in the darkest of times, there has always been a glimmer of hope and optimism that has left the door open for new opportunities. Giving up has never really been an option. I believe success and fulfillment are always attainable.

I continue to educate myself by taking classes such as jewelry making, nonprofit management, autobiography writing, and I occasionally assist in teaching a furniture design studio at the University of Washington.    



Thank you very much Dane, for sharing your story with our community.  

You can see more of Dane's functional and beautiful work on his websitehttp://www.dfjensen.com/


We'd like to invite you to donate to Headstrong Nation to help us to fulfull our mission for the adult dyslexic.  DONATE HERE

Like us on Facebook,  Follow us on Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.   Thanks for your support!  - The Headstrong Nation Team






poster - see it another way - Change our perspective of dyslexia from disability to gift

A graphic challenging us to change our perspective on dyslexia - © Patrice Steele

Patrice Steele, Graphic Designer, contacted Headstrong Nation to share her story as a young adult dyslexic.  As a child, Patrice had much difficulty in school and couldn't figure out why she struggled in reading, writing and mathematics.  In the 10th grade she was held back and needed to take evening classes to make up for lost time. She credits her mother for doing things for her, but acknowledges that both her parents and others close to her did not truly understand her struggles with dyslexia and dyscalculia. Her teachers would tell her parents that she was not paying attention or trying hard enough, and like so many adults with dyslexia, she was a child whose learning issues weren't properly identified and she therefore "Fell through the cracks" and didn't get the assistance and support that she needed. In school, Patrice felt like an "Outsider".  She felt her teachers were judgmental and not supportive. They assumed that Patrice didn't want to go to school, that school wasn't for her and her struggles were her problem.

Graphic of peace of a face with words on it  - Serene, tranquil, centered, peace

A graphic about Peace - © Patrice Steele

Patrice had viewed some episodes of the TV shows 20/20 and Nightline which featured other individuals with the issues that she was experiencing, including difficulties with reading and writing, poor memory, difficulty telling time and counting money. She wondered if she too, might have dyslexia, but since she wasn't getting much support at home or in school she felt alone and was scared to bring up the subject.  It took Patrice an additional two years to pass the standardized testing needed for her to obtain her high school diploma.  She experienced great difficulty and had to re-test many times before passing the ACT and finally obtaining her diploma in 2007.

Despite her struggles with school, Patrice applied to and attended the CBT College for Graphic Design.  At CBT, she experienced success in her art courses, receiving A's and B's.  She still obtained C's and D's in Math and English, however.  Patrice persevered, worked hard, and graduated. She's currently dealing with student loan debt and continues to seek employment, but it has so far been difficult for her to find a job in her chosen field of graphic design.

Patrice recently obtained a formal evaluation to confirm her dyslexia in Fall, 2015 at age 28.  Evaluation results indicated that her reading had improved but continues to be low for her age, and that her performance in math is low. Patrice is tired of feeling embarrassed over not reading on a higher level that she feels an adult of her age should be reading. She’s worked to understand basic information, but she still mixes up words and describes her math skills as "horrible". She feels lucky that she has found other ways to obtain higher education, but acknowledges that it wasn't easy to do so and feels that no one should have to struggle like this.  She's come this far, but has other challenges ahead of her, and she hopes that she'll have the strength to tackle these challenges and find her true place in life, pursuing her passion as a graphic designer.  

A graphic of a man sitting with words - sit, think, be creative

A graphic telling others to be creative - © Patrice Steele

Patrice has created a website of her creative graphic design work here: http://steelepatricegd.wix.com/minimal-designer-por

She's also filmed and uploaded a series of videos to her YouTube channel to describe her experiences of feeling fed up from being "jerked around" by the school system where she felt she was unfairly judged and misunderstood during most of her schooling.   She also shares some beautiful examples of her art and design work.  Below we’ll share the first of Patrice’s videos on her dyslexia, and you are welcome to view the others at the YouTube channel link above.  

My Talk About Dyslexia. Learning to Have No Shame 1

Many thanks to Patrice for sharing her story and beautiful, inspirational art work with us! 


We would like to invite you to donate to Headstrong Nation  – DONATE HERE.   Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.     Thank you very much!  The Headstrong Nation Team

Dyslexia Awareness comes to St. Croix, USVI

2015 Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference – St. Croix, USVI

Achieve the Impossible hosted the 2015 Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference on November 13-15, 2015. Mrs. Juliet Thomas-Arthurton, President and Founder of Achieve the Impossible,  Dr. Tracy Johnson, Vessels of Hope Founder/CEO, dyslexia advocate, and Headstrong Nation Fellow along with Apostle Patricia Phillips, Evangelist, Founder and President of It’s Not Always Autism Tijuana Lane participated in the event.  

Attendees at the event listened to the three keynote speakers as they presented definitions, characteristics of, and additional information on individuals with learning differences and the challenges and barriers that they face. They also discussed the tools and strategies needed for those with learning differences to help them to thrive and become successful.

Flyer from Learning Disabilities conference in St Croix Nov 13 and 14 2015                                                                                                                                                    

Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference November 13th and 14th – St. Croix, USVI - Keynote Speakers: Apostle Patricia A. Phillips, Evangelist Tijuana Lane and Dr. Tracy Johnson. (Dr Rahmanda Campbell, pictured in flyer above, was unable to attend conference).

Dr. Tracy Johnson speaking to group at conference

Dr. Tracy Johnson sharing her experiences as a dyslexic.

Dr. Johnson discussed her own powerful testimony and how after receiving evidence-based multisensory Orton – Gillingham influenced remediation as a young adult she was able to attend college and obtain a number of advanced education degrees leading her to her current teaching career at Harcum College.

Photo of attendees at Learning Disabilities Conference in St. Croix

Group photo of attendees and presenters at the 2015 Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference in St. Croix, USVI

The Message and What Was Learned

The message at the conference was one of hope.  Some of the important points which the participants learned were: 

  • Having a learning difference does not mean that you are dumb.  It means that you learn differently and need specific supports and tools to enable you to thrive.
  • When it comes to teaching children how to read, one size does not fit all, and instruction should be differentiated based on the specific needs of each child. 

photo of Zion arthurton  at computer at conferenceJoshua Arthurton at dyslexia awareness conference          

         Two bright and curious young men in attendance. From left, Jeremy (Ziyon) Arthurton and Joshua Arthurton. 
  • Needed services and supports can be very costly and it’s important for dyslexics and parents of dyslexics alike to serve as advocates for change to effect change and to begin a dialog with representatives on the local and federal levels on the need to address dyslexia and related learning disabilities. 

Juliet Thomas-Arthurton photo speaking at Learning Disabilites conference

Mrs. Juliet Thomas-Arthurton, President and Founder of Achieve the Impossible Inc, and The director and coordinator of the 2015 Learning Disability Awareness Conference in St. Croix, USVI, speaking to attendees.
  • It’s important to join existing support groups along with other parents all over the United States and to consider creating a new local group, as parents share many of the same concerns.
  • With the proper instruction and support, dyslexic individuals of all ages are capable of doing great things! 

Information is power and St. Croix needs more!

Juliet Arthurton, the president and Founder of Achieve the Impossible Inc., and the Director and coordinator of the conference, acknowledges that more information on dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, CAPD and other learning disabilities needs to be shared with those in St. Croix to continue to raise the level of awareness of parents, educators and individuals living with these conditions.

The following link will take to a page on our website listing some general definitions and many useful links to organizations which provide information and resources on dyslexia. We hope that this information will help you as a starting point on your journey. - http://headstrongnation.org/list-dyslexia-and-other-related-ld-resources

What’s Next?

The response to the conference was very positive, and Dr. Johnson is looking forward to returning to St. Croix sometime in March, 2016 for part two of the conference!  She is pleased that Dr. Rahmanda Campbell, CEO of the Learning Clinic Inc., who was originally slated to be a keynote speaker, but was unable to attend, will get an opportunity to join this second event. 

Apostle Patricia Phillips, Evangelist Tijuana Lane, and Dr. Tracy Johnson posing for camera at WCVI - TV 23  studio

Apostle Patricia A. Phillips, Pastor and Founder of Nothing but the Word Deliverance Church, Florence NJ, Evangelist Tijuana Lane, President and Founder of It’s Not Always Autism, and Dr. Tracy Johnson, CEO and Founding President of Vessels of Hope, Inc.

Evangelist Tijuana Lane, Mrs. Juliet Thomas Arthurton, Apostle Patricia Phillips and Dr. Tracy Johnson Photo

Evangelist Tijuana Lane, Mrs. Juliet Thomas -Arthurton, Apostle Patricia A. Phillips and Dr. Tracy Johnson, CEO Vessels of Hope. 

Photo shoot of group at WCVI TV 23 Pastor Virginia Ventura of Miracle Revival Deliverance Tabernacle Church, Ms.Patricia Sage, Apostle Patricia A Phillips, Evangelist Tijuanna Lane, Dr. Tracy Johnson, Mr. Christopher Millette,General Manager of WCVI-TV23 and Mrs. Juliet Thomas-Arthurton. )

Photo Shoot at WCVI-TV23, the only ChristianTV & Family Broadcasting Station in St.Croix Virgin Island. Pastor Virginia Ventura of Miracle Revival Deliverance Tabernacle Church, Ms.Patricia Sage, Apostle Patricia A Phillips, Evangelist Tijuana Lane, Dr. Tracy Johnson, Mr. Christopher Millette, General Manager of WCVI-TV23, and Mrs. Juliet Thomas-Arthurton.

Great job to all in continuing to spread awareness to those living in St. Croix and beyond!

Headstrong Nation Mission Statement: 

Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia.  We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, to understand it, and to develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles.  

Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  If you would like to help us to fulfill our mission, please consider donating to Headstrong Nation HERE 

Thank You! ~ The Headstrong Nation Team 


photo of document from US Dept.of Education Assistant Secretary of ED

The Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, United States Department of Education, Michael K. Yudin released a letter today to clarify that there is nothing in the IDEA  (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)  that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents, despite the communications from stakeholders, including parents, advocacy groups, and national disability organizations, who believe that State and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) are reluctant to reference or use dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in evaluations, eligibility determinations, or in the development of the individualized education program (IEP) under the IDEA.

In the letter, Mr. Yudin states that the Office of Special Ed, Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) encourages State Education Agencies and Local Education Agencies (SEA's and LEA's) to consider situations where it would be appropriate to use the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia to describe and address the child’s unique, identified needs through evaluation, eligibility, and IEP documents. OSERS further encourages States to review their policies, procedures, and practices to ensure that they do not prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in evaluations, eligibility, and IEP documents. Finally, in ensuring the provision of free appropriate public education (FAPE), OSERS encourages SEAs to remind their LEAs of the importance of addressing the unique educational needs of children with specific learning disabilities resulting from dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia during IEP Team meetings and other meetings with parents under IDEA. 

#SayDyslexia!  A step in the right direction. Voices were heard.  Good news for many and a document to refer to and share with your child’s school, family and friends. Congratulations to the grassroots movement Decoding Dyslexia and the many other disability organizations and advocacy groups who got involved on a legislative level to spread awareness on the need to use the word and address dyslexia in the schools.  Positive change can occur one person at a time, one word at a time. Spread dyslexia awareness today!

To view the PDF letter in its entirety, click HERE.  


Any questions? 

Contact us at our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/headstrongnation.  We're not experts, but we’ll do what we can to point you to resources and to answer any questions that you may have.  You may also follow us on Twitter, https://twitter.com/headstrongnatio and on Pinterest.

Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia. We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, understand it, and develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles. If you'd like to help support us in fulfilling our mission for the adult dyslexic, please consider donating to Headstrong Nation by clicking on the DONATE BUTTON at the top of the page.  Thank you! - The Headstrong Nation Team

Headstrong is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation, and is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax ID 47-0925290.   





Photo of celadon glazed pottery bowl

Imagine being asked to cover a lunch break at a folk festival for an artisan that you are planning on apprenticing with.  You are given a cash box, and a little worn out card with sales tax amounts printed on it. You have no calculator.  You mention to the artist, a potter, that you are not good at math, and that you are uncomfortable with this idea.  She giggles and says “nonsense! I will only be away for a half hour to grab a pulled pork sandwich.  You’ll be fine.”  You feel ashamed because she is minimizing your concerns.  You’ve always been  “math anxious”. Your inability to work with numbers has affected your life in many ways.  You always did poorly in school,  and couldn’t keep a waitress or retail job operating a cash register.  Your dreams of becoming a nurse were dashed because you failed the medication math exam and you dropped out of nursing school as you felt inadequate.  Your parents were disappointed in you. You felt lost and less than. That was almost 20 years ago.  You are only being asked to play cashier for thirty minutes but the pressure you feel is tremendous.  You tell yourself again,  "I’m an adult, how hard can this be?  You can do this!"

You are asked to take an item of pottery the customer would like to purchase, wrap it securely in paper, place in a bag, then add up the total cost of the items. Once you have a subtotal, you will look at the paper card to obtain the sales tax  and then you’ll add the sales tax onto the subtotal and let the customer know how much he owes. After you’ve been given the money, you will make change and give this to the customer.  You take a deep breath, and wait for the first customer, determined to do your best. Five people approach your stand, and your mind goes blank.  Everyone is waiting, your hand is shaking as you try to add the numbers on a pad of paper.  You’ve given back the wrong change, miscalculated totals, and forgot to add in the sales tax.  Forget about counting up! You find it difficult to breathe, your face is flushed,  you’re sweating in your long plaid skirt with a stupid frilly bonnet on your head.  You keep smiling though, pretending like you have everything under control,  handing out business cards for the potter, complimenting the customers on their choices, and wondering why you ever agreed to this in the first place. 

Graphic Numbers make me numb with math signs and numbers all over the page

A half hour later the potter returns from her pulled pork sandwich, notices your mistakes and your upsetment, and shoots you an expression of mild annoyance and disappointment when you inform her that you’ve just botched up a number of transactions.  Now, it’s your turn to take a break.  In a fog, you wander aimlessly around the fairgrounds, trying to make sense of what just happened. You don’t feel hungry, and you don't feel like looking around at the sights.  You’ve shut down.  You can’t feel your feet on the ground, as you’ve gone numb, you’ve stuffed it inside.  You count down the hours until the end of the event.  You are silent on the ride home, and you find your mind trailing off during the chatty upbeat conversation in the car. You aren’t feeling very upbeat.  You have no appetite for the ice cream that the potter stops to buy everyone in the car. You felt you didn’t deserve the ice cream anyway, since you're such a “screw up”.

You return home and the tears come.  Your husband meets you at the front door, wide eyed. You rip off the stupid skirt and stuff it, and the frilly bonnet, in a bag. It’s hard to shake these feelings off.  They are all too familiar.  You feel ashamed and inadequate. Then comes the anger. You’re angry at yourself, angry at the potter, angry at the other woman in the car who can make change.  Why didn’t she listen to me? Why didn’t she believe me? Then you berate yourself. There goes the tape again. The one that plays itself over and over when events like this happen. There is something fundamentally wrong with you. Why can’t you do what others do so easily? The tape continues, and you let it wash over you.  You feel small.

photo of small ceramic pots on a hand

A week later, you write the potter a polite note, thanking her for the opportunity to help and for the ice cream.  You repay her for the price of the clay that she had offered you in exchange for helping her out. You inform her that you are unable to apprentice with her in her studio as something’s come up, and you don’t offer her any more details. She’d never understand anyway.  You’re done.  The block of clay sits unused, and you let your dreams of working as a potter fade away.  The next folk festival you attend, you cringe when you see a sign for pulled pork sandwiches. You never liked pulled pork, anyway...

Shame. Another opportunity lost. 

I was the apprentice.  - Eileen


Moving Forward: 

In the past I  let my failures define me.  I know better now.  My failures are not who I am inside, or what I am capable of becoming.

Failure and missed opportunity were an ongoing theme for me.  I focused on my weaknesses at the expense of my strengths, and I was uncomfortable asking for help.  I did not understand that my failures could be opportunities for learning and growing.  I spent a lot of time comparing myself to others, and always fell short of my ideal. I dropped out, quit and started again many times.  Persistence wasn't something I was good at. I preferred to run away.

At the age of 18, I dropped out of nursing school  in the first 10 months, after struggling through the program and failing a medication math exam.  I felt the need to get away, so I applied to live as an exchange student in Sweden for a year to “find myself”.  Living away from home helped me to gain some perspective, and gave me some time to lick my wounds.  Upon my return to the U.S., I was able to begin a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. It was a major that did not have a huge math requirement, and my advisor let me work around some of this creatively through taking a foreign language.

I realized that one of the things I enjoyed most about my brief experience as a nursing student was helping each patient to feel as comfortable as possible during their stay in the hospital.  I was able to identify this desire to help others as a strength for me which helped in the selection of my new major.  I obtained my degree in a little under 10 years part-time, while I worked at a variety of temporary jobs.  The combined work and college experience was stressful for me, as I struggled to maintain a healthy GPA.

This was a time before PC’s and Macs, and Iphones with apps.  The technology that most of us take for granted now. All assignments were either written by hand or on an electric typewriter, and I used my share of Wite Out.  Toward the end of my senior year, I spent much of my paycheck from the local college diner where I worked to hire a typist who could read my poor handwriting and type my research papers.  I requested a dishwasher job working  the night shift, as I never got the hang of waitressing as I was unable to keep track of who got which meal at which table, and I was afraid of operating the dreaded cash register.   At age 27, upon graduating, I chose not to celebrate my success with a graduation party.  I felt I had taken too long, and it was time to move on to the world of work, whatever that might look like for me.  In retrospect, I wish I had acknowledged my achievements and taken some time to celebrate.

Hindsight enables me to understand my past struggles.  After my youngest son was identified as dyslexic,  I began to reflect on my past and was able to put together the pieces. I realize that my challenges in math,  although I'm not formally diagnosed,  are likely due to dyscalculia, a math disability.  I realize now that it's never too late to learn something new, to ask for help, and to choose a new path for myself that is more in line with my strengths.  It’s how I perceive my failures and how I rebound from them that is most important.  I understand that I must be vigilant, daily, at keeping those old ineffective, damaging messages of the past from occupying my mind.  it’s important for me to reach out to others early and often when I’m feeling stuck. I know that persistence and hard work pays off, and that it’s important to be patient with myself. I make mistakes daily, but I am not a mistake. I've learned that it’s o.k. to fail...Really!  It’s how I will grow.

More on the value of failure coming soon!   


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