Something’s been bugging me for a long time now.
It’s been writhing there, just under the surface of my every day thoughts and challenges. My doctor summarized it perfectly during our final appointment.
We were discussing the huge disparity between my linguistic achievements and the lack thereof in math. I had always thought I had some sort of neglected math disability, so it came as a shock when she said I can grasp math concepts just as well as anyone else.
No math disability. It all lay in my working memory and processing speed. A huge part of why I had, and sometimes still have, such a hard time reading and writing.
Yet, math was not prioritized in the same way reading and writing was, despite the fact I struggled so hard.
What could have happened if math was treated with the same level of care as reading and writing? Why was it missed?
The doctor summed it up perfectly when she said with her signature dry humor, “You’re a girl. Girls aren’t supposed to be good at math.”
The meaning behind that sentiment rings true. I was a girl, and our culture tells us girls just aren’t good at math. Reading and writing are more culturally fitting. All the more reason to concentrate on that.
Girls are supposed to be quiet and day-dreamy. So when my attention drifted elsewhere, it was just me being a girl. It wasn’t me being a child in need of help harnessing their focus.
Had I been a boy, would my day-dreaming have been a cue for extra help early on? Would an interest in math and science have been nurtured more? Would I have been taught to better focus on what’s at hand?
To say nothing of the emotional trauma I’d gone through at that age. Would the lack of pressure to conform to “lady-like” standards have allowed me to clue adults in to my suffering?
How many closed doors would be open now?
Would I have gone into medicine, as I dreamed of back in middle school? Maybe I could be well on my way to curing cancer or asthma.
Would I have gone into environmental science? Maybe I’d be the one to find a solution to the energy crisis.
Could I have gone into an entirely different route to build a career business? Maybe I could have helped make the business world more accepting of those with disabilities.
I don’t know, but in many ways, I feel cheated. I feel cheated out of what could have been.
I also feel guilty for feeling angry. When I was in school, LD wasn’t as well known as it was today.
Most adults who guided me through childhood did the best they could with what information they had at hand. How could I be angry with them?
I’m angry at the system. I’m angry at the centuries of sexism and bigotry that have shaped the uglier sides of our world.
Things could have gone so much differently for me, and so many other girls just like me. Maybe it would have been better. Maybe it would have been worse. I don’t know, but I do know that lost potential makes me sad.
At least now I can channel all that hurt and rage into something more productive. If we don’t change our world for the better, who will?