How I overcame dyslexia to become a journalist
By Jill Wellington
If a magic fairy had visited me as a young girl and told me I would be a journalist when I grew up, I would have said, “No way!” That was the last vocation I could ever imagine for myself. The evening newscasts frightened me with their macabre scenes of violence and atrocities. I would flip off the television if a story came on about abuse or crime. I had an internal instinct of love and peace that didn’t settle with what I saw on the news.
I never knew I had writing talent even after I wrote a humorous little story in the fourth grade titled Jimmy and the Frog. My teacher had me read it to the class, and for a fleeting moment, I felt I could write.
The feeling quickly melted away as I was overwhelmed with dyslexia, often failing tests despite my understanding of the topic. History was the worst. Those multiple choice tests still haunt me as I remember the words scrambling in front of me. Yet if they had asked, I could have written an eloquent essay about the topic. But nobody ever asked, and I was still struggling in my senior year of high school.
I clearly remember my government teacher calling me to his desk where he held my failed test. Across the top he had scribbled, If you don’t pass the final exam, you will not be able to graduate.
I don’t know where I got the courage that bleak moment, but I told him I did not test well, and pleaded for him to let me do a project instead. When this special teacher agreed, he had no idea he was about to change my life forever. I knew at that instant I would get an A in the class.
I poked around and learned our school had recently purchased new video equipment for the library and the librarian was eager to help me create a political campaign on tape. The ideas poured out of me, and I created candidates, campaign platforms, interviews, and debates using my friends as actors.
I will never forget my pounding heart as I turned out the lights in the classroom and aired my masterpiece. As the lights went back on, there was a hush over the room, then someone clapped. The room erupted into applause and my twelve years of heart-wrenching academic failure evaporated in that moment. I got my A, and the librarian asked if I wanted to create an in-school newscast with the video equipment.
I was not a pretty sight on camera with my mouth full of metal braces. Several times the rubber bands would shoot off and hit the camera lens. But every time I went out to cover a school event, I could quickly assess the situation, and the words would easily formulate into a creative, and coherent story.
One day I was covering a wrestling tournament, a topic I knew nothing about. Yet the story immediately clarified in my mind, and I had fun highlighting some quirky wrestling moves. When I got back to the library to view the tape and write the story, I said out loud, “I am good at this!” I knew it in my heart, body, mind and very soul. I had found my life mission.
I entered college that fall and still struggled with the classes. But many teachers let me write papers in lieu of a test, and I squeaked through history. In journalism classes, I hit my stride and when we were assigned to provide one story a week for the campus radio news show, I provided one every day. With ease, I gathered and wrote story after story, knowing, “I’m good at this!”
I stuck with journalism even though my brother thought I was crazy. “That isn’t practical,” he chanted. “How will you ever get a job in that field?”
Yet I knew he was wrong, and so was the teacher who told me I had a bad voice for broadcasting. I went to the speech department and hired a speech therapist. I knew I was good at broadcast journalism.
Of course, the rest is history. Incredible coincidences or synchronicities guided me through an eighteen year journalism career filled with fascinating adventures, accolades and awards.
I have sobbed as I wrote this, revisiting old wounds. I tell this story now for one reason only. So YOU will KNOW. When your heart awakens to your life mission, YOU will KNOW. No situation or person can suppress your true calling. You chose it before you were born, and you will discover it within yourself when the timing is perfect.
Promise me, you will not let outward appearances or influences quash your vibrant true self. Everyone has a life mission so important, the world would not be as glittery without you. You know…
© holisticshop 2004. All rights reserved
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