I was telling my good friend about an experience I had as a kid that was vital to my well-being. It helped me understand there’s a bigger world than my home and the town I lived in. At UC Santa Barbara I learned about queerness, race, freedom, music, writing, friendship. It helped me understand that love is possible, and people can care. The experience is part of what saved me. It’s part of how I survived.
I was always a writer, as soon as I could write! My kindergarten classmates were doing the minimum, with our chunky pencils and brown-gray paper with dotted lines. I was doing the maximum! How excited I was, to fill a page with words. It felt like magic. Are we allowed to write on the back too?
An eighth grade English teacher loved my writing, and she told me about a summer school at the university in Santa Barbara. “I think it would be really good for you,” she said.
It was the Young Scholars Summer Program, and I had to apply. They needed an application form and samples of my writing. It would mean six weeks away from home living in the dorms, as I did creative writing. I was 13 years old. Being in eighth grade about to enter ninth grade, that was the youngest I could apply.
My teachers wrote recommendations on a piece of paper, and I had to carry the completed form to the office. As I walked, I read what my teachers had said about me. My English teacher hadn’t hidden the paper in an envelope, and she told me to read it.
So I read it and fell over crying. I remember my body hitting the building, as I walked toward the school’s office. My teacher said that in her 17 years or however long she had been teaching, she’d never encountered such a good writer. She said I was remarkable.
That teacher’s faith in me and her brilliance to see my brilliance changed my life.
I completed the application and was accepted to the program. But my parents didn’t have the money. My teachers took up a collection. They gave a buncha donation to my mom, to pay my way to the summer school.
And the rest is history. I met my best friend that summer, and I learned a million things. Some of the things I learned were even in classrooms.
Then I went to UCSB as an undergrad, went to grad school, became a teacher like I wanted to, taught six years at university and community college, and flipped out, which derailed me from my career dreams.
But that’s how you see the lovely disabled person who stands before you today. I’ve lived well into adulthood despite an ACE score of 9, hearing voices, autism, mood swings, and powerful differences. The only way I could do that was thanks to remarkable people who believed in me and told me I had a gift. Don’t throw it away.
what saved me
A few hundred dollars toward the education of a child can go a long way. Especially if that child is disabled and not safe at home. Education is not just education. What saved me was learning that a bigger world existed and I could live there one day.
Please realize that small things you do can matter toward others’ survival.