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Monday, April 16, 2012

WSG 9: Always Dream

Writer's Survival Guide 9: Always Dream

I just finished reading a short interview with Kristi Yamaguchi, the Olympic gold medal figure skater. Featured in the April issue of Family Circle, the article concentrated on how Kristi balances family and work (she's published the New York Times Best Selling children's book, Dream Big, Little Pig!). Her motto, "Always Dream," resonated with me.

Dream!
Photo by melodycampbell

It got me to thinking about what kind of attitude we can take:

Who am I to want that?

or

Why not me?

Ever since fourth grade, I've been a "Why not me" gal. Here's why.

In the middle of third grade, my family moved to a small town at the bottom of Indiana. It was my first foray into the public school system. The day I started school, I made a comment about how thin the reading book was (at my old school, I'd spent the entire year bumped up a grade for reading, and our text was thick).

In this classroom, students were divided into three reading groups--low, middle, and advanced. There were two or three kids in the low group, a dozen in the middle, and six or seven in the advanced. The teacher had overheard my comment, and he promptly put me in the low reader group, with the warning, "you're going to have to work hard if you want to read with the middle group."

Honestly, the teacher didn't like me, and his attitude soon spread throughout the classroom. I spent the rest of the school year without a single friend. I did work hard in the low group, which was self-taught. We selected kindergarten level books, read them, and took short quizzes. He never worked with the low group. He spent all of his time with the middle and advanced groups.

Life in this new school bewildered me. Was I dumb? Why was I reading such simple stories? And why did all of the kids act like I didn't exist? I had gotten along well with my classmates at previous schools.

I worked very hard to move to the coveted middle reading group, and about a month before school ended, the teacher bumped me up. I was thrilled to take part in the discussions, but even when I answered his questions, I would often get a stern look or a snide comment. Only once did I ever get a sticker (I still remember it was a grape scratch n' sniff) for doing a good job. The kids no longer ignored me, but they didn't befriend me either.

It took years before I realized there was nothing wrong with me, that a teacher had held my fate in his hands, and he'd abused it. But before I came to that realization, something changed within me.

We moved back to Michigan that summer, and from fourth grade on, I knew deep within me, that I was good enough. My attitude morphed from "Who am I to want that?" to "Why not me?" at every level. I no longer feared trying out for things. I no longer stressed constantly over friends. I'd survived six months with zero friends--I knew I could survive anything.

Over the years, I've come across other tainted people who have tried to mess with my sense of self-worth, but they couldn't. Sometimes I think I've been exposed to a higher percentage of such people than the average person! But always, always, I've stood firm in my belief in myself.

God plants a seed within us, and this seed assures us that no matter what is going on around us, we are perfect in His sight. It allows us to be honest with ourselves. I know my shortcomings, and I know my strengths. No one can convince me one of my strengths is a weakness.

So what does this have to do with the motto, "Always Dream?"

Whatever you crave, whatever you're striving for--it's possible. Never let anyone tell you you're less than what you are. Never let anyone convince you dreams are for other people, for smarter people, for better people.

You're here for a reason.

Always Dream.

Have you  dealt with bias in your life?

Enjoy your Monday!

52 comments:

  1. Yay for encouraging words! Entirely appropriate for me today, since I just posted on how the negative voices in my own head try to get me down so often. I'm not a big fan of most inspirational quotes, but I love Kristi, and I love her motto. Always Dream indeed!

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    1. Oh yeah! My voice can be negative too--that's when I tell myself to stop it. Why are we so hard on ourselves?

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  2. I can't believe a teacher would treat you like that! But that's incredible that that gave you the strength to fight and be stronger. Not all kids would bounce back from a year like that. and yes, dreams are important! We have to hold on and never let go!

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    1. Laura, at the time I didn't understand what was going on. I really felt as if I deserved it, like maybe my old school was wrong and I was ignorant? But it's funny, we had a school library and I remember falling in love with C.S. Lewis and Madeline L'Engle in Indiana. Not all of it was bad. :)

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  3. Jill, I had similarly awkward experiences in school like yours, but for me, that was primarily in high school, grade school and middle school was mostly bullying (Not life-threatening, but still HARD) and pre-my pleasure reading life, I just didn't have many feel-good moments from school. Not being a natural academic didn't help. I took school seriously, it just wasn't my world, if you know what I mean.

    I hate hearing about teachers who abuse their authority like that, you're teaching the exact opposite of what kids need to survive the world, it's part of why I've stalled with my education after high school (I didn't graduate) I've in some ways had to re-learn the good things about education, after stigmatizing experiences from my school life,

    You said, "I survived having no friends for six months, I can survive anything." I've gone years without friends, so I must be an Iron Man in the making (Not the Marvel guy, I'm speaking metaphorical here).

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    1. I understand, Taurean (nice to see you here, by the way!). I switched schools seven times between K-8, so I never knew what I was going to get with each new classroom. I really had to learn skills that didn't come easily to me. Plus, I don't know about you, but I have no childhood friends outside of my family. People talk about their "best friend since second grade," but when you don't fit in or you don't stay in one school, you're unlikely to form long-term friendships.

      I'm so glad you're recognizing how education can fit into your life now that it isn't accompanied by the social stresses. Do you read a lot? I read several non-fiction books a month. Plus, there are so many excellent resources online. I hope nothing stops you from pursuing what you're passionate about! :)

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  4. I mean friends offline, Jill, I have many online writer friends I treasure, including you, it's just not the same, you know?

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  5. Jerk!!!! Unfortunately he's not a rarity in the school system.

    I had a guidance counselor who told me not to think about university. I would never succeed. I didn't want to believe that was true. I now have a MSc in exercise biological sciences with a focus on energy metabolism. Yeah, right. I'll never succeed at university.

    It's all in OUR attitude whether or not we'll succeed. We should never give anyone the power to destroy us like what we had to deal with. :)

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    1. Love, love this!! I know. You and I must be alike, because when I stated my major (electrical engineering), my male peers (most of my classes were all male) informed me in a condescending tone "it was really hard," and called me a ditz. Thank you, jerks. I guess the fact I graduated top of our class makes ME have the last laugh. :)

      And awesome degree by the way--do you still work in the field? Is it mostly research? Sounds amazing!

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  6. Yes. I've been here.

    And I want to say here and now that I cannot wait to see your dream come to fruition. As I've told you time and time again I'm believing it for you!
    ~ Wendy

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    1. Thanks Wendy. Your support, emotionally and as a critique partner, means soooo much to me. I feel the same about you!

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  7. What a great post! I struggled for a long time with this, because I had similar experiences in junior high. My friends just suddenly turned on me in seventh grade, and some kids said my mom changed my grades (she worked in the front office), etc etc. Once I hit junior year of high school, though, I'd found my "niche" and knew that I could do anything I put my mind too. And learning how God sees me...that's a big one too.

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    1. It's really painful to deal with lies and cattiness. I wish I could say I didn't know what you went through, but unfortunately I had a few lab partners who didn't like my input on our project and told the teacher I was cheating during my senior year in college. The teacher informed me the final exam would prove if I was cheating or not. I got an A on it. Even though I'd gotten straight A's in the class, the teacher gave me a C overall--some bias just can't be overcome.

      During times like that, I remind myself it doesn't matter what the rest of the world sees or thinks. I know the truth, and I live with integrity. Light always shines in this world. Your light is shining. :)

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  8. We're both blogging about dreaming today! Great minds, right?

    I want to raise my son so that he believes he can accomplish anything. I love my parents. They are amazing, amazing people. But sometimes, I think they were afraid to let my brother or I dream too big.

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    1. I want the same for my kids, Katie. I think we live in a different time, a time of more possibilities than when our parents grew up. I love that you're encouraging your son to dream the impossible! What a blessing!

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  9. This rocks! Especially because this morning the chapter I read in my devotional was called "Elegant Dreams." It was sooooo good and I felt so validated after reading it. God gave me big dreams. When the dream feels too big for me, that's how I can know it's from him!

    Big thumbs down for that mean teacher. I've, thankfully, been surrounded by pretty encouraging people most of my life. I don't want to take that for granted. I'm glad he didn't keep you down! Yay for rising above!

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    1. The dream often feels too big for me, but, like you, I know it's from God and that He'll make everything happen just as it's supposed to. Isn't that reassuring? It's mind-boggling!

      I'm so glad you had supportive teachers! My kids have had some gems too. What a blessing!

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  10. Good grief. Perfect example of why some people shouldn't be teachers. What a complete jerk. I wish I'd had your gumption. My freshman year of college, when I was enrolled in the school of journalism but unsure of what to major in (and thinking of switching to English), the head of the magazine department and J-School Dean told me magazine writing was for people like me, who wanted to write a novel but never would.

    I followed her advice and stayed in J-School, majored in magazine journalism. It was okay, but I didn't love it. I loved the few English classes I took. And when I got engaged my senior year, the same advisor refused to help me get any internships, which is essential to get a leg up in journalism, because she was pissed I was getting married. She was getting a divorce. Sigh. That whole chain of events sent me on a many years long wrong career path. I wish I'd had your self worth and stood up for myself. And I certainly won't let my child make the same mistake.

    Awesome post, Jill.

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    1. Stacy, my heart is aching for you. I've heard so many loving people give terrible advice to kids who are trying to figure out their career, and it comes at the worst time because we're usually insecure during those late teens.

      And, yes, I have a strong sense of self-worth, but I haven't always stood up for myself soon enough. I've had toxic co-workers who I should have stopped in their tracks. They hurt my career, but I tend to believe the best in people and didn't want to believe they were sabotaging me. I think age, experience, and listening to our instincts are what get us where we need to go.

      Sometimes all those painful events shape us to have an extra degree of compassion. :)

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    2. Thank you. I'm still not sure if she meant well, but I do know I learned from it. Just took me a long time. And yes, it does help me to have compassion.

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  11. Thanks for sharing your heart, Jill! I'm a big dreamer and blog about it a lot! I love your spin on "why not me?" I've used that expression in a whiny negative sense before for. "Why not me? Why didn't I get that book contract?" But I love the way you used the same words to convey a message of hope and perseverance!

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    1. Oh Gina, I can whine with the best! It's human nature--we can't help but bemoan our wait. And I also fight envy. When that tinny voice inside me starts up with the "but she got a contract" talk, I have to literally stop what I'm doing and pray. It gets bad!

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  12. Jill, I want to take that third grade little you and give her a big hug, then take her to the library where we would get masses of really cool books and read and talk about them for ages.

    Yay for you taking what could've been a crushing experience and emerging stronger and more positive than ever.

    Dream big!!

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    1. Erica, thank you. In fact I would take you up on that big hug right now! I can't take credit for not being crushed. I can see that it was God making me stronger so He could use me more effectively.

      We all have some rough childhood experiences, but I truly believe they can make us empathetic, strong, and powerful people. :)

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  13. Jill, that story broke my heart and inspired me at the same time! Lovely. :)

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    1. Aw, thanks, Jessica. I appreciate you!

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  14. What an inspiring story, Jill. Thank you for sharing it!

    I'm one of those people who, when told they can't do something, look around and think why not? And then I focus on what I want to start working toward it. There are hundreds of setbacks on any path we choose to take, the key is to use those setbacks to grow stronger - as you said. Use them and never stop believing in your own, God-given abilities, drive and courage.

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    1. Absolutely true. We all experience setbacks--constantly. Every day can be riddled with them. But we keep going on. :)

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  15. I'm from a small town and had an older sister and a cousin who were the brainiacs in the family. By the time I got to the teachers, they had high expectations that I couldn't reach. Like you, I've learned to use those experiences to fuel my dreams and passions. I may not have made the highest ACT score, but I can work hard and accomplish whatever I want to do.

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    1. It's very hard to walk in the "revered" footsteps of older siblings. I'm sorry you had to deal with that. It's like, hey--we're from the same gene pool but we aren't the same people! I give you a lot of credit for overcoming those expectations and achieving so much!

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  16. I love this. I was in a low reading group because I was one of the youngest in the class. I tried and tried to get the teacher to bump me up, to no avail... it's interesting that so many of us have had similar experiences.

    But yes, the bottom line is- DREAM!!!

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    1. Oh Cheryl, what was the criteria back then, for goodness sakes?? They might as well have put the tall kids in the high level! It's just silly. I'm sorry you had to deal with it too.

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  17. Jill, this is such an encouragement. We are all going to have moments like this in our lives, even as adults, and we can know that God has our back and we're worth it. Hard work and passion for a dream can get you far!

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    1. Cindy, it's true. I deal with this type of stuff even now. It's been an interesting journey that's for sure! God is amazing, and He does amazing things in our lives!

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  18. I'm encouraged by your post, Jill. When I went to parochial school, I was put in a low reading group. It's sad and embarrassing to say this, but this particular school had a policy of placing African-American children in low reading groups based on an assumption that they couldn't perform as well as their Caucasian peers. Even though I consistently received A's in reading and phonics, it took two years, first and second grade, before one of the teachers placed me in an advanced group.

    As for other biases, oh yes! Even now, I encounter people that assume because I'm a writer, I sit at home and eat bon bons all day. Nothing wrong with eating bon bons. They're yummy, lol, but I really find it irritating that people consider what we do only to be an elitist, glorified hobby, or something that "hippies" or "bored housewives" take up. Crazy...

    All that aside, thank you for sharing your story with us :-)

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    1. Brandi, thank you for being honest. It's true. There was a huge bias against minorities when I was young. I'm so sorry you had to go through that.

      And I'm laughing at your bon-bons! I've been a stay-at-home mom for years. Bon-bons? Don't I wish!!

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  19. Wonderful post, Jill. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. We are good enough! I do allow myself to dream...

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    1. I allow myself to also. Sometimes I really good at creating these fabulous dreams! Other times I can dream about such small things. It's not always easy to dream big. :)

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  20. Powerful story, Jill! I think many of us face naysayers and stereotyping from others, and also from ourselves.

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    1. Yes. What captivates me (and always has) is how unique and interesting each person is. I can talk to anyone and be mesmerized. We all have a story and our story is important. Stereotyping and naysaying shouldn't exist.

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  21. Wow, Jill. I didn't realize you'd switched schools so many times. Sounds like my childhood. We moved every year or two until I was in high school. I believe that's what kept me from totally giving into my shyness. (I like to think I'd only be classified as reserved nowadays.) I like how you used that negative situation to make a positive change in the way you approach life. That's making the proverbial lemonade.

    I'm so sorry you had a negative experience with that teacher. Who knows why he treated you that way. Perhaps you reminded him of a daughter he'd lost or tapped into some other gunk from his past. The writer in me can imagine all kinds of reasons for his treatment of you, or should I say mistreatment. I've been there, and it hurts. It helps me to remember that mistreatment without an identifiable cause may have nothing to do with me.

    In my case, my dad got a job my teacher thought should have gone to a friend of hers. Since I was dad's kid, I got the cold shoulder. In your case, you may never know why your teacher treated you the way he did. But I know this. The Lord used the experience for good, helping to shape you into the wonderful woman you are today. =)

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    1. Oh, Keli, we are going to have so many stories to share when we meet! I was shy growing up but switching schools cured that! And I agree with you. We don't know why this man was petty but he may have had a powerful motivation.

      I don't hold it against him, but I certainly hope other kids weren't affected negatively by him either. I guess that's part of life--learning to deal with the blows as they come.

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  22. Very inspiring, Jill! Had conversation with my daughter recently along these lines. We discussed how our worth does not start or stop with a soccer coach, a friend at school, a boss, etc. Our worth is made whole in God and no one else.

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    1. I think it's harder to see our kids mistreated than to experience it ourselves. I hate seeing my kids disappointed or being treated unfairly. I'm with you--it's important to remind them often that God loves us as-is and that even if everything falls apart, he is still there holding our hand.

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  23. I was put into a "middle" English class where none of the students even tried. I worked hard, nearly always got my stories read to the class, and finally got to an "A" English class. Here I had to work even harder because we had a touch teacher who taught us Shakespeare quotes that I still know today. I loved it. It was one of my best classes ever. I can relate to your story. Everything you say is so true.

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    1. This is so cool, Nancy! I loved teachers who challenged me. I had a tough teacher in high school who encouraged self-motivation on reading projects. I thrived in his classroom. He didn't give any kid individual attention--and I liked it that way.

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  24. Jill: I think we undervalue the power of dreaming big. Thanks for sharing your story and how you dealt with it.

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    1. I agree, Shay. We hedge our bets, tell ourselves we only need X to be happy, and sometimes don't even let ourselves consider Y and Z for fear they're too magnificent. How silly! What's wrong with dreaming big? Nothing!

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  25. Jill:
    They say some people put others through the mill, so to speak, to make them stronger people. This past Sunday, I was reminded of my fourth grade teacher. She was NOT my favorite. Had I been a bit older, I'd say she embarrassed me at times. I don't remember feeling very good about that year. Even today, there are people in that profession for the wrong reasons.

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  26. I can't believe someone would not like YOU! I wonder if that teacher ever looked back and regretted that decision. No matter...attitude is everything, and you've got an awesome one.

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  27. Thanks for the encouragement and for sharing your story. We all have difficult times in life!

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  28. How beautiful! And what a powerful lesson to learn at such a young age. It took me a little longer to get the "Why not me?" into my blood. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story!

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