I love to know things. As a kid, my knowing things began from watching every nature show and any other educational show on PBS. I would be so focused on the show that I would block everyone and everything out. Reading was kind of a struggle for me in the beginning. I remember picking up a Dr. Seuss book and being so lost and feeling so confused. See, I was dyslexic, and I had no real ability to phonetically sound out new words. I read by memorization only. At school, they had flashcards with words in bold letters and we would basically be shown and told what the words were. I could memorize how the word looked, the shape of it, but not internalize the actual letters as they connected to the sounds. I cannot now, nor have I ever been able to spell. No matter how hard I would try, the sequence of the letters and the sounds they created were a total mystery to me. For me, there were no evaluations, parent meetings, 504 plans, or any way for me to even articulate my difficulties because I didn’t understand the problem and I was afraid to even tell anyone. Sadly I was forced to repeat the first grade.
Honestly, it’s funny to me now but at the time I thought this was a sign that I was crazy, and if I said anything people would know and lock me up! So, I couldn’t read but I could still learn from shows and that is what I did. Soon the shows were not enough. This was the late 70s early 80s there wasn’t a lot of programming. I watched every episode of Nature, Cosmos, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and any other show I could. The problem was, with one TV in a time where kids watched whatever the adults said I simply wasn’t getting enough info. I was forced to find ways to read better. I decided I would just memorize how every word I came across looked. All I had to do was figure out how the word was pronounced once, and the word was stored as a card with bold letters each having its own shape and meaning. My other fix was to simply skip really hard words and figure out what they were from the words around them. I read dictionaries page by page sometimes to add more words to my collection. Soon found myself flipping through the old encyclopedia set at my grandma’s house as I mastered my technique. I began to love reading, it lit my already active imagination and it could take me to places all over the world.
I was seven when the Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark came out and ten when Romancing the Stone hit the big screen. I was instantly in love and KNEW that I would one day be an archaeologist traveling the world hunting down treasure and finding romance as I did. I will admit that prior to this revelation, I thought I was going to be an astronaut and have space adventures like in Star Wars but that was back when I was a little kid. Raiders and Romancing the Stone came out in the early 80s I was much more mature by then and therefore able to make more realistic life choices! I read everything I could about archeology and anthropology which wasn’t much, but I felt like I was an expert. I would examine the maps in those encyclopedias, I thought the maps were the best part of the encyclopedias because they had layers of cellophane that you could fold over the map with extra information on each layer! Often when my grandma kicked me outside to play I would imagine what it would be like to visit those places, meet the people there, eat the food, and know all kinds of new things. I would look at the sky and clouds that wrapped themselves around my part of the world and I just knew they were not MY sky or MY clouds I could just feel the pull of other places in my bones and I knew I would have to go. I would have to become an adventurer or an explorer so that I could find My side of the sky and all the excitement that came with it. I am seriously cracking up laughing at myself right now. Writing this has forced me to go back, to sit, and look through the eyes of seven-year-old me with the perspective of forty-four-year-old me and I am proud. Proud that I found ways to overcome my reading struggles on my own, that during that process I gained so much without knowing it, and that I now understand the origins of my wanderlust. No, I never did become an archeologist, but the dream stuck with me well into adulthood (so many college classes on anthropology and archeology!). I have changed directions on my path many times, but it wasn’t until just now as I write this that I am struck by how each divergence I have taken has truly kept me on that same path. I didn’t fully understand why I absolutely HAVE to travel and I never knew why I would try to find ways to have adventure in my everyday life. Everything I have done can be traced back to seven-year-old me. All my experiences good and bad have been pushing me forward towards a dream I dreamt as a child, a goal I created as a young adult, and a path that I believed I was no longer on. When the reality is that all paths are one….
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