It's hard to fight the urge to get a bit nostalgic, as we start another year. I find myself reflecting on the past and marveling at how much has changed in a relatively short period of time. Dorian and I have been talking about opening up our own practice since we were in school together (though, at the time it seemed like we were making huge, impossible plans for a future that was so far away) and now here we are, in what felt like just a matter of moments.
For my first blog post, I want to tell you a little bit about how I got to where I am today. Though we mainly plan to use this platform to talk about issues related to mental health, neuropsychological testing, and the field of psychology as a whole, I feel that it's important to share a bit about who we are and why we do what we do.
First and foremost, it's important to know that I absolutely hated school growing up. People tend to think (rightfully so, in many cases) that if you decide to sign up for a doctoral program after finishing 4 years of college, you must REALLY LOVE SCHOOL. And, while I eventually learned to love being a student, it took a long time and a lot of failure to get to that point.
I recently found some old report cards from grade school while going through a bunch of files that had lived in my grandmother's basement for the past decade or so. One of the earliest comments from my teachers was that I seemed to prefer being social to actually doing my schoolwork (a statement that still applies to this day!) My teachers also wrote about how I was not working to my full potential. This observation became something of a theme as I made my way through elementary, middle, and high school. I was branded an underachiever early on and I worked hard to live down to those expectations. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I was devoting more time and energy to finding ways to get out of school than pretty much anything else. And I had the grades to prove it!
Thankfully, I learned about a small college in western Massachusetts (shout out to Simon's Rock!) that accepted kids after their sophomore or junior year of high school. I applied during my junior year and started the following fall, skipping 12th grade and opting not to receive a diploma or GED in the process. To this day, one of my favorite facts about myself is that I have a handful of degrees, including a doctorate, but no high school diploma. The look on someone's face when I tell them that is usually pretty priceless.
I wish I could say that I immediately became an excellent student as soon as I made it to college. However, I had never really bothered to learn how to be a student, as focused as I was on doing as little as possible just to squeak by. Did I know how to forge my mother's signature on notes to get me out of school? Of course! Did I know a thousand possible excuses to get out of class? You bet! But things like organizational skills and time management were not on that list. After 2 tough years at Simon's Rock, I graduated with my A.A. and took 2 additional years to figure out what I wanted to do next. I moved from New Jersey to Allston and worked in a series of unfulfilling retail jobs in the mean time. I eventually decided to transfer to yet another funky, off-the-beaten-path college (in this case Simmons College, a small, women's only school in Boston) to finish my degree.
It was during my first year at Simmons that I finally figured out how to be a successful student. I had matured quite a bit since leaving high school, which enabled me to appreciate the difference between being actively engaged in my own education and feeling as though someone else was forcing me to do something I didn't want to do. I also learned that my learning style really doesn't jive with the way school is traditionally taught. I always had a hard time sitting in a classroom, passively taking in information.
Once I realized that I have to be engaged with the material, ideally discussing it with other people, it felt as though a giant piece of a puzzle had finally fallen into place. It would have been a relief to have understood these things about myself when I was in grade school. As it was, I internalized the fact that the people in charge of teaching me thought I was lazy and, at times, kind of a handful (I often played the role of the class clown's angsty, sardonic cousin.) Because I never failed enough for the powers that be to suggest that I should be evaluated, I slipped through the cracks.
Having been the underachieving kid, I have a unique perspective on the importance of appreciating how we learn and it's a big part of why I got into this field. While I'm genuinely grateful to have had the experience of forging my own unique educational path, it was quite difficult at times and I understand that's not a choice most people would make for themselves or for their children. That's why I was particularly drawn to neuropsych testing. I want to help our clients avoid some of the pain, shame, and insecurity that comes along with an undiagnosed and untreated learning disability. Life can be difficult enough as it is, so if I can make things even a little bit easier for someone struggling to understand why they're failing in school or at work, I am going to do my best to try.