I had drafted this blog for a while now and rewrote it a few times, then I read Chris’s blog post about Aspergers and decided it was time to post it and be done thinking about it. I’m split the post up. This one about daily life. The other about love. Of course they both intersect.
I am a proud dyslexic, I came out (as such) along time ago and even have it in my blog subtitle. I write openly, hoping this will encourage the many other dyslexics and generally more neurodiverse people to come out (in lui of a better word).
From the start
I always knew I was different when I couldn’t spell short words, the lessons made little sense and I was easily distracted by other stuff. The words had a code/pattern which made no sense to me. By the time of primary school, it was clear something was different about me.I couldn’t follow peoples voice directions without translating it into a map or something visual.
Tying laces, ties or knots was a small nightmare mainly due to trying to remember which hand is left and which is right. Because of this I became slightly ambidextrous which would confuse things further
My primary school did send me for dyslexia testing but I never finished it and so my dyslexia wasn’t officially diagnosed till over 10 years later at Ravensbourne College while trying to write my final year dissertation. This means I had no help, allowances or support all the way through secondary school and most of my college life.
Reading was also difficult for two reasons. The line lengths and the words. My mum would regularly take me and my sister to the local library and I managed by reading lots of non-fiction.
In that period of time, the seed was set in my mind and I read up about dyslexia and found coping mechanisms which centred around using computers to remember everything I couldn’t remember or spell. I bought a 2nd hand HP 200LX pocket computer with my saved up paper round money and used for lots of things. That was my first and I followed that with the Compaq Areo and Ipaqs.
I am notoriously bad with time. But thats only half the story. The reason why I’m so bad is because I tend to pack a lot in. To give you an example.
I live all of about 10mins walk from the Piccadilly Station (the major station for Manchester) Knowing its only 10mins away I tend to leave about 15mins before the time of the train leaving, I should really leave 20mins before to be sure. But what typically happens is knowing I can make it in 10-15mins, I end up doing stuff right up to the last minute I can leave. Maybe I can send off a few more emails, put bleach in the toilets, empty the recycling, etc, etc. With that I end up rushing to catch the train.
Time management is very difficult, if not impossible for many Dyslexics. This is not due to them being lazy, thoughtless or uncaring. Dyslexics are right-brain dominant thinkers and live in the present. The past and future belong to the left-brainers.
A Dyslexic tends not to look at their life in any kind of a systematic way. They are often called “free spirits”, “flighty” , “unfocused” or “easily distracted” .
Welcome to the flow
I also tend to get fully immersed in things and tend to forget about time as I enter the flow state. Luckily the flow state tends to be with other people as we bounce ideas around. So its not directly responsible for missing the train most of the time but there are many times when chatting with somebody or some people, that time will just slow down and I wont even realise what time it actually is, meaning I’ll miss the last train or bus home.
Flow is a interesting state and there are certain people I feel the flow with more than others. The other night at a party I was pleasantly surprised to meet a women who I suspected was dyslexic but look through her book shelf confirmed it. We talked till 3am and to be honest could have talked the rest of the night easily. Insert joke about two dyslexics in a cafe never leaving.
I’m curious about everything and find creative people quite attractive (this is where the sapiosexual stuff comes). I do find people concreted in reality a bit boring and tend to ignore them a little. I find these people too straight-laced and too conformist for my thoughts. I am not conformist… I’m black, I’m dyslexic and a self confessed geek. I have found my as a bit of spokesperson for the all of those things at times in my life. People come to me with stereotypes in mind and I break them in half. I won’t lie, I kind of enjoy the look on their face when I challenge their stereotypes.
Know thy self is what they say, and to be honest through my life experiences I do know who I am.
Working with dyslexia
I feel my mind is consistently on the go, bouncing from concept to concept. A few people in the organisation, have said “we pay you to think” and I frankly that plays to my strengths. I am so grateful to be in a job which fits but I know so many dyslexics people who struggle with their job positions.
BBC R&D is very academic and frankly I haven’t chosen a academic course for my life. Luckily the research world is in the middle of being radically changed by the internet (like most things) and this means conceptual thinking and collaboration is better treasured. If I had applied to join the department in the past, my cv/application would have been binned. But I was adsorbed into the department with my position as BBC Backstage.
I find work is full of people who are bound by the tangible and my unique selling point is the intangible, forward thinking and the essential need to collaborate. This why I partly find academic papers interesting (building on other ideas) and ever-so backwards (why are they so hard to write?)
I have little time for non-collaboration, I actually think every project I have ever done in BBC R&D, have been done with an external organisation of some kind. Information security love me, as I use tools which have collaboration baked in. They must have a fit every-time I try something new but I do take security seriously and struggle through end user licence agreements to understand whats really going on.
Literacy, language and memory
This is the stuff everybody thinks about when they think about dyslexia but there’s other elements which you may not think about. Consistent with most dyslexics my short term memory is bad. Trying to remember a phone number, ip address or email is a little nightmare. I changed my voicemail to reflect this issue.
Reading out-loud from a book or text is a nightmare I don’t have to visit too much since leaving school. Sometimes I forget the problem till I get up and start reading. For example I read a chapter from my book in a get together and the feelings of trying to do it came flooding back. Its the reading and speaking outloud, its not being in front of a small number of people or talking. I do that all the time and learned to ditch speaker notes and find my own style which just happens to be best practice for presentations.
Learning a different language is painful to say the least. I don’t know if its a dyslexic trait but I have such a hard time trying that it seems almost pointless. Thankfully the technology has my back, as I found out in Tokyo.
The future is intangible
I am seriously blessed to born in a age where whats in your head isn’t a sign of intelligence. However not everybody has got the message yet. The nature of business has changed and being authentic and collaborative is key. Its also very clear a diverse workforce is better than a monolithic workforce.
I met a woman once who wrote a academically sound paper as a series of videos. She passed her PhD with the series of videos and her fight to get it accepted is something I’m not unaccustomed to.
I’ve had to fight for many things in my life and to be honest I will never go down without a fight. Being dyslexic is a card which I was dealt and there are advantage and disadvantages. Especially when it comes to my social and love life…
(To be continued soon…)