The Choices We Make – the Life it Shapes Part 2

In my last blog ‘Part 1’ of this, I told the story of being moved from one school to another, to get help with my dyslexia, and how that move made a huge positive difference in terms of my literacy skills. On the other hand, the school move led to 7 years of bullying, and it destroyed my confidence and outgoing personality.

I ended my last blog pondering, if I could do it all over again, would I pick changing schools and get vital help for my dyslexia, or would I stay and grow up potentially heavily dyslexic, but with friends and confidence?

This is part 2, because the thing about regrets or wishes for ‘do overs’ is that they’re based on 20/20 hindsight and a presumption that life would turn out differently – better – if we’d followed a different path in our lives. But there’s no such guarantee, now is there?

I often have these ‘what if’ conversations with my partner. He grew up with confidence and friends and no learning (or other) difficulties. He got a ‘sensible’ (but not passion-felt) degree. He moved to a small Scottish town, he bought a flat, he got a safeguarded job, which he’ll be in until he retires. He never travelled. He isn’t ambitious. He doesn’t have a drive towards anything other than an easy life and financially safe retirement. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But not terribly exciting, in my opinion.

Whereas, I had learning struggles and so I studied hard to overcome the worst of my dyslexia. My bullying led me to desperately wanting to understand human behaviour and developed my passion for psychology. I fought my low confidence and self-worth for decades, constantly forcing myself to push beyond my boundaries. I left my business degree and the chance for a reliable book-keeping career behind, and moved to London. I then moved to Australia and New Zealand. After a bad break-up, I finally moved to Scotland, and I got my dream degree in psychology, despite critics telling me I couldn’t make it. With each step I took down my unorthodox path, I grew a little bit more in confidence and spirit. I walked away from another long-term, but bad relationship, ignoring the fear of being alone, or to be found unwanted, and I found love again with a supportive, accepting and great man – but not until I’d come to accept and love myself, flaws and all.

I’ve now set up a private counselling practice, despite my fear and embarrassment that my website, Facebook posts or contract might be riddled with spelling mistakes. I can still feel overwhelmed with a sense of ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m a fraud’, ‘I’m not as good as everyone else, so I shouldn’t be doing this’. But I won’t let my fears or inner critical voice stop me.

So, was I to get a do-over when it came to picking schools, I might have wanted to stay put and hope to have grown up with friends and more confidence. However, I know that the struggles I faced, the emotional turmoil, and the confidence battles I had to fight with myself, made me a stronger person, made me determined and stubborn (for better and worse), made me ambitious and adventurous. I made me someone who practices compassion in all encounters, knowing what it feels like to left out, ignored, or (mis)treated for being ‘different’; and it made me someone who wants to help improve other people’s lives. Had I had an ‘easy’ life growing up, I probably wouldn’t have developed such strengths.

What about you?

Terese Smith, guest blogger

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