During a business class in high school last year, I gave a presentation with a partner. I had worked hard on the presentation and love public speaking. After we gave our presentation, we got a standing ovation from the class. Then the person who was supposed to present after us said she couldn’t present because her partner was absent, so I asked the teacher if I could co-present. The teacher said that I didn’t have to. I told him that I wanted to. He gave us a few minutes to prepare and then we presented to the class. After that presentation, I got another standing ovation.
After class ended, I went home from school early because I was really tired and had a bad headache. That happens when I push myself too hard. When my battery is fully charged, it’s about 50% of the energy that most people have when they’re fully charged. Because I am pretty low in energy most days, I have learned how to manage my energy so I can still do the things I want to do. And what I want to do is succeed. In a debate, for instance, I don’t want to just do well—I want to dominate, or at least win.
Even though I got really tired after the presentation in business class and had to spend the next day in bed, I’m proud of myself for being strong enough to give two back-to-back presentations, and I had fun doing it. My brain injury isn’t going to stop me from succeeding.
The stubborn refusal to quit that I developed during my recovery from meningitis is a source of strength for me that I otherwise might have not had. Also, I love finding loopholes, and finding ways to succeed in spite of my brain injury feels like finding a loophole to me.
I love history. I used to read a lot of books about history, but I don’t read as fast as I used to, and sometimes it’s too hard on my eyes to read. I still want to learn, though, so I watch historical documentaries and historical fiction. That way, I can rest while still learning. Sometimes I have to watch something more than once to learn everything, but I don’t mind.
When I started high school, I didn’t want to meet with the brain injury specialist at my school because I didn’t want to be treated differently than other kids. I didn’t want to take part in my IEP meetings, either. I was acting as if nothing had ever happened to me because I didn’t want anyone to know that I had a brain injury and I didn’t want people to think I was stupid.
The brain injury specialist didn’t treat me like I was stupid, though. Instead, she helped me develop strategies that would help me succeed. I use my phone a lot to remind myself of tasks and assignments. I utilize color coding. I take study breaks (though sometimes I get so wrapped up in studying that I forget to set an alarm for a study break). I have started to recognize earlier that I’m feeling tired, and I take a break then instead of waiting until I have nothing left.
I’ve also learned to advocate for myself. That was hard for me in the beginning because I didn’t want special treatment. But when I got into the Webers Honors College at San Diego State University, I met with someone in their disability services office and told her what accommodations I need to succeed.
I firmly believe that, though I need some accommodations in school and have to manage my energy, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish. I still don’t know whether I’ll go into medicine or law—or maybe architecture. But I’m fascinated by the brain, so I think a psychology major will be a good foundation for me. I’m leaning towards a career in neuropsychology.
In a few days, I’ll be graduating from high school with honors. Last year, I got an academic award for history. This year, I got a Commitment to Excellence Award and an Award of Academic Distinction. To me, this isn’t the end of high school—it’s the beginning of what I’ve been working toward for a long time: college and my career. I plan to get great grades in college, go to graduate school, and have a career. It may take me a little longer than I planned, but nothing is going to stop me.