90: A Student of Life

90: A Student of Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

A Student of Life

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I wasn’t born a brilliant student. My learning disability, auditory processing disorder, made it nearly impossible to become an outstanding student. Still, throughout my testing, teachers found that I had a special gift — the gift of writing. While I scored poorly in most school subjects, I had nearly perfect written papers and exemplary spelling and grammar skills.

This phenomenon excited both my parents and elementary teachers as they encouraged me to continue with my writing. I often received journals on special occasions such as birthdays or Christmas. Each new journal excited me. Throughout elementary school, middle school, and eventually high school, I already had a dream. Unlike most students, lost, wondering where they’ll attend college or what subject they’ll major in, I already knew that I wanted to become a writer.

Unfortunately, despite my outstanding grades in advanced English, science and math were holding me back from attending a university where I could pursue my writing career. I’m just not the student type, is what I constantly told myself, but this wouldn’t matter to colleges. All they cared about were grades, right?

To achieve my goal of attending a university, I enrolled for two years at a local community college. I started getting my general education classes out of the way during my senior year of high school in order to get ahead, reassuring myself that I would only be attending a community college for two years.

Although I struggled with my math and science classes, often retaking them multiple times, I achieved my goal and it was time to apply to the UC system. I wanted to attend one of the top universities in California — the University of California, Los Angeles, or less likely, the University of California, Berkeley.

A number of colleges accepted me, but then UCLA’s letter came: “We regret to inform you…” I didn’t need to read the rest of the letter. As tears rushed down my face, I lost hope that Berkeley, the last school that I would hear from, would accept me. If I couldn’t get into UCLA, how on earth would I be accepted to Berkeley?

The last day of April arrived — the deadline to hear back from all the public universities in California. No, I didn’t have butterflies. This feeling was too painful to be mere butterflies. My stomach was caught in a torturous knot. I knew this would make or break my educational career, determining where my writing skills would be developed.

As my family and I reached our cabin in Lake Tahoe to begin our summer of fun, my phone buzzed. It was an e-mail from the administration of UC Berkeley. My mother and father reassured me that no matter what happened, they were proud of how hard I had worked these past two years. My hands trembling, I opened the e-mail to read, “Congratulations!”

Orientation came just a few short months later. While incoming students took a seat, the head of administration welcomed us to our new home in bear territory. “I’m sure most of you are thinking this was a mistake. Believe me; you’re meant to be here.” As he continued his speech, he explained that every school is looking for the right fit. Berkeley administrators were looking for students with a unique story to tell.

In my essay I had explained my difficulties in school and how I had overcome my learning disability, which as a result, opened a whole new world to me. I had fought my disability through my passion for writing, all the while exploring what life had to offer. I had been one of a handful of students chosen to study abroad in Germany at the end of high school and I had begun studying under a talented Bay Area photographer while developing my own photography skills. I wasn’t the right fit for UCLA, but I was the right fit for Berkeley. They wanted students with passion; students who had fought adversity and overcome it; students with a voice.

As a recent graduate, I’ve been published by a local publication, worked at two magazines, created my own website, and continue to develop my skills as a writer and photographer. Although I struggle with the writing process from time to time, I still aspire to become an author in the near future. Whenever I’m in doubt I remember the words that reassured me that day at orientation. I am a woman with a unique story, a woman with a voice, and one day, I plan to share it with the world.

~Chelsea DuHaime

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