Spring 2016: “What We Fear” Middle School Winner Deedee Jansen

Read Deedee's essay, "How Do You Spell: Afriad, Dislexsa, Faer," about how people's biases toward dyslexia can lock her in a cage, but having dyslexia can also be a blessing for seeing things differently.

Deedee Jansen, a seventh grader at Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences in Santa Fe, NM, read and responded to the online YES! Magazine article, “This Artist Collects Your Worst Fears and Turns Them Into Something Great.” In this story, Julie M. Elman shares how she created The Fear Project to help her cope with her own fears. That project soon grew to help others, too. Elman takes people’s stories—their actual words—about what they fear, and uses art to visually interpret those fears. Her vibrant, multi-media collages articulate what we’re afraid of or dread, and make them acceptable, tangible, and part of everyday life. Writing Prompt: What is one thing you fear about your future? How can you lessen that fear?

“How Do You Spell: Afraid, Dyslexia, Faer.” Illustration by Julie M. Elman  

How Do You Spell: Afriad, Dislexsa, Faer

To me, letters are not soldiers but hip-hop artists. I have trouble reading and spelling. This is because I have dyslexia. When the spelling bee comes around each year my heart beats fast. If there was a meter measuring my nervousness it would explode. When I have to spell boycott, I try: B-O-Y-C-O-T. As I sit back down, out in the first round, I hope that I never have to go up to the podium again.

When I tell people I have dyslexia, they say something like, “I thought you were smart.” This is what I’m afraid of. I am afraid that people will think I am a gentle rain when I am really a typhoon. I want to make a monumental impact, and I am afraid as soon as people hear the word dyslexia they won’t let me be as great as I want to be. I am afraid they will put me in a cage.

In the YES! Magazine article, “This Artist Collects Your Worst Fears and Turns Them Into Something Great,” it states that Julie M. Elman collects fears and makes them beautiful. The cage I find myself in collects my fear about dyslexia and my fear that others misunderstand my learning differences. Trying to get out of the cage is harder than swimming through molasses.

Other students sometimes fear that someone with dyslexia gets preferential treatment—that we’ll receive more attention, earn a higher grade, or be given special privileges. The people who don’t understand dyslexia turn my typhoon into a gentle rain. They put a dim on my brilliance. 

I am afraid that when I apply for college and scholarships, admissions counselors and review committees will see that I have dyslexia and count me out. I am just as good as anyone else and I work twice as hard. But people don’t see this, they just see the misspellings, the red marks on my paper. Sometimes it is all I see, too. My papers look like they’ve been through a war, bloody all over.

When I ask for accommodations, I’m leveling the playing field . But part of me doesn’t want to ask because I don’t want to be looked down on, making what’s already twice the work about 100 times more difficult. A test that takes my friend an hour will take me an hour-and-a-half. Even in math, my best subject, I get time-and-a-half on my tests. This is something my teachers need to know. I need to help them help me. I also need rely on encouragement from my family. They help me get past all my fears, especially this one, by always supporting me and standing up for me.

Dyslexia is a blessing. I think “out of the box” because I don’t even see the box. When my mom first told me I had dyslexia, she asked me if I knew what that meant and I said, “It means I am like Einstein.” One thing that people don’t realize about dyslexia is that it lets you see things differently. This is why Einstein is considered a genius. This is why one day I will be considered a genius.

I want to have a monumental impact that will improve the world and help people. It might be creating something like the light bulb or the Mona Lisa. My dyslexia will not get in the way, it might even help.

These are fears I must leave behind if I am to become a typhoon. And even though the letters will forever be hip-hop artists, I know how to handle these fears. So let the letters dance, no soldiers for me.

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