When I look back on my childhood
I remember how I fooled everyone around me
that nobody believed me
when I told them, I was different.
They all know I was somewhat of an introverted loner
spending most of my days lost in dreamland
delving into books or traveling through imaginary worlds
always seeking solace with animals or nature.
But they didn’t see that my brain was always on fire
“too intense” for average folks
or how I was constantly busy
making nonlinear connections
and running full steam ahead with unspoken ideas.
I couldn’t slow my brain down
or get a grasp of what was truly going on.
And I felt limited and confused
because I processed things so differently
that I found it difficult to relate to or remember the mundane.
I understood that I couldn’t learn like other people.
And even though I appeared to be like everyone else,
my brain would automatically filter and delete
anything it deemed irrelevant
without ever asking me
if it truly was.
It was busy forming concepts
connecting the seemingly unconnected
and transporting me to different worlds in my imagination-
causing boring academic details to simply “vanish”
before I had the opportunity to hit the “save” button in my mind.
I felt so lost and challenged
by the mysterious makeup of my mind
which paradoxically appeared to contain
such profound abilities
and marked disabilities
invisible to the world.
I learned to trick my mind
and to bypass some of its roadblocks
by studying through all my senses,
which forced me to somehow retain
the masses of data
educators deemed important-
only later to learn
that, apparently, most of it wasn’t.
While navigating the school system
I managed to excel
as a chronically struggling perfectionist.
But my mind felt lost and suffocated
and I suffered through the days
while being bullied for my nonconformist weirdness
so evident in early adolescence.
How I wish people would understand
that traditional education
makes people with brains like mine
want to run and hide
from the irrelevant suffocation
that the system
forces on our creative, nonlinear selves.
We can’t make sense of the need for
useless academic expectations
or unexplainable social norms
that appear so trite and trivial
and force us to conform.
I got lucky as a teen
when we finally found a school
that enabled me to blossom.
The individualized educational program
allowed me to build
a program designed to develop
my unique thoughts and interests-
and creative interactive learning finally
enabled me to thrive.
Testing, grades, and competition were irrelevant,
and we focused on significant learning and debate.
I couldn’t have asked for more.
But even there, I often felt like an imposter
faking her way through.
I simply couldn’t figure out how,
as someone who had to employ such serious mental gymnastics
to retain the endless details of knowledge
expected of me in schools,
I was always surrounded by super-intellectual friends.
It took me many years to realize
that I was different, not lesser
and that I had been blessed
with the unique ability
to completely integrate
visual, logical, and associative thought
seamlessly and simultaneously.
This insight led me to understand
that I had been given a tremendous gift
but if left undeveloped
it would be an enormous hindrance
distracting me from any opportunity
to grow and learn and progress.
So, I learned to play brain games
and acquire strategic tools
and even sometimes bypass
the different ways
my brain processed the world.
And, as the years have gone by
and life has presented me with challenges
I have learned to overcome
or at least compensate for
I have come to realize I am very blessed
to have my different brain.
Its unique makeup enables me to see, explore,
feel, and deeply experience
what others can’t comprehend;
to connect the seemingly disconnected,
and to enjoy the invisible and deep intrinsic poetry of my mind.
Sometimes I see my brain
as a slowly growing flower
that hid buried inside a vine
until it learned to bud and bloom.
But when it did
due to G-d’s tremendous grace
this imposter learned to become a leader
sharing knowledge and creative ideas with others
to try and better the world.
When I see the path my life has taken
I wish I had known back then
that neurodivergent brains
are a great gift, but are often in disguise.
And that it takes tremendous work
to develop the skills and techniques
that enable one to understand
the wonders of different brains.
If somehow I had known, then,
what I know now
I would tell my younger self
that great things are on the way
and that G-d has blessed me with a different brain
that I would learn to love, understand, and embrace.
Because only my unique challenges and abilities
would eventually give me the power
to understand and do the incredible things
I am now privileged to do.
And even though my journey
has at times been rocky
I know I am fortunate
to have traveled this path
for it has given me the ability
to learn to appreciate
the wonders of neurodivergent brains
and to share this message
with my children and the world.
So, for all of you out there with different brains
may you learn to look beyond your challenges,
appreciate your beautiful and unique minds,
and embrace your special abilities.
Because when you do so
I am sure you will discover
the wonderful gifts hiding inside
that you- and only you- have the ability to share with the world.
Wishing you all an incredible Neurodiversity Celebration Week! Jacki