Four years old
I am in class, almost in tears, because I am stupid. I could not tell the teacher why I touched the Easter-thingies. I knew why I did it; they were nice, and everyone did it. Only I was the one seen doing it, and how could I tell the teacher why without betraying my friends? Well, I did not think it out like that; all I knew was that the teacher must think I am stupid, since I cannot even tell why I did something.
Six years old
I cannot fix the words out of my letter box fast enough. They are so small, and slip out of my fingers so easily. I love letters, and I started to read and write before the others in class, but still I must be dumb. All others can make words with the letterbox so much faster than I can.
Nine years old
Finally they know what is wrong with me, I have dyspraxia. I was not dumb for not not placing those tiny thingies fast enough, nor stupid because I wanted to feel what I saw.
17 years old
Why is it so hard for me to do my homework in time? Sleepless nights, because I have to hand in something important, and I have not finished yet. Always being just in time, always just good enough for practical things. But I am good enough, and even while I cannot plan, I get through high school pretty easily. Everything goes smooth, I can rule the world if I want to!
20 years old
A speaking disability, that is what they say I have. That is why I cannot plan, or take initiative, or talk with cliënts the way I should when I learned to be a social worker. That is why I could not tell stories good enough when I learned to be a primary school teacher. I cannot do anything right, see, I knew all along I was stupid. Now I am without work, without education, too stupid to have a good job, and too clumsy to do a more practical job.
Thanks to the Social Security worker – who knew me, and knew I would be able to work my ass off, and who knew how hard I needed a break, so she sent me on a holiday with my parents – and thanks to an old classmate who was able to give me a job, I survived. I learned I could do something, I learned I could work, and people wanted me to work. Later there was my boss, when I worked with a big insurance company on the customer centre – yes, on the phone, me, with my speaking disability. He gave me a year’s contract, because he was confident I was good enough. When the contract stopped and they could not give me a new one, there was Jaap, the director of a small company on the verge of bankruptcy. He was not in the position to hire just anyone, but he needed someone good enough to help him sorting out things. I was hired. His words: ‘You should not be so insecure, you are great!’ Then there was the teacher who helped me getting my first-year-degree, because she thought I was worth helping.
Now I have been jobless for about half a year. I do not have the right education for the things I want to do, nor do I have enough job experience. The jobs I had were too diverse, too short, and too long ago, or so I was told at the employment agency. It would be a miracle if they could find me a job, she said. There would always be people better than me, she said. ‘Why would you be a go-getter? You stopped three studies’ she said.
I will tell you why I am a go-getter.
Although I have a couple of disabilities, I finished high school without any extra help. My sister had an ambulant coach for these disabilities, my brothers even are at a special school for them, I did not get any more help than a normal student, and I finished it with good grades. Although the first study was a total disaster, I did not give up until I had to. If they had given me a chance to improve myself and learn to cope with the extra disability I found out I had, I would have finished that one – I have FOUGHT to get the aknowledgement that I could do it, but it just was too late. After months of being jobless, I was able to get a job, and to get better jobs after that. Not only that, other people who knew me, believed in me. I started another study, because I wanted to have a degree anyway, and it took me almost on the verge of a burn-out before I was willing to give up.
And you, just fresh from college and younger than I am – you for who, looking at your age everything went smoothly, after which you had a job right away, doubt that I do not give up too easily? Step into my shoes please, I wonder if you are able to walk in them for as much as five minutes.