Because Of You I Didn’t Give Up
By Chloe Quinn
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I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn so many wonderful life lessons throughout the years, but I think one of the best lessons that was ever taught to me was by my mom. She taught me that “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.” This was a lesson I was taught from a very young age. As I got older I didn’t know how much this lesson would be a big part of my life.
When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with a visual perceptual problem. I didn’t understand what that meant, I didn’t know that I had a disability, I didn’t know there would be some things I couldn’t do that others did well, and I never thought I would struggle as much as I did. I remember that I didn’t know how to tie my shoes or write on a piece of paper. I remember having to go to these doctors who would train my eyes and my memory to make them stronger.
I remember the good, busy days filled with friends, sports practices and activities, but I also remember the days that it took every ounce of energy to walk through that classroom door or put those cleats on. It took every piece of me to tell myself I was ok when I knew I wasn’t. It took everything in me to keep going when I was scared, insecure and fearful. I remember the days I spent feeling alone, feeling trapped and feeling that I would never be happy, healthy or successful.
As I got older, school was harder and teachers had a hard time understanding my disability and how I learned. I very quickly became afraid of going to school--it filled me with such anxiety. My success was inconsistent and sometimes it felt like a battle to walk down those school hallways. I spent days in the bathroom alone afraid to walk through that classroom door and see that teacher. I was always worried about what they would think of me, how I would do in their class and if I would feel ok. There were many times that it was a fight to get my accomodations and receive what I was entitled to. Some teachers believed that I was using my disability as an excuse if I didn’t do well.
Even though my mom was a teacher and she knew how to advocate for me, and I had some other teachers that advocated for me as well, I remember being fearful of what would happen to me. It was a constant tug of war and it felt like no matter what happened no one would be happy. It was a confusing cycle to live in; I thought my school was supposed to help me because at the end of the day we are all on the same team. I had some teachers who were frustrated that I couldn’t pass a test,and I remember the coach who was mad that I would get so nervous up at the plate or behind the block to race.
I was able to put on this face that everything was okay. I was able to smile and be loud and bubbly, but on the inside I felt the exact opposite. I noticed myself changing. I was happy and fun, outgoing and filled with a fire and passion for things, and then I was someone who had lost that light, sparkle and the person I wanted to be. I could tell teachers and coaches knew I was changing and some were concerned, but some were angry. I remember being told by a coach at a game one day after I struck out and threw down my helmet:“ I want the old Chloe back.’’
I remember in that moment I wanted to jump up and scream. I wanted her back, too--I wanted her back because this Chloe felt broken and lost. No one knew that I cried in the bathroom at school alone or that I was not proud of the person I was becoming. I was exhausted from putting up this wall and trying to do it all on my own, I was exhausted from putting on this mask and trying to be someone I wasn’t. I started to strive for perfection, and I thought that if I had it all put together on the outside no one would ever think there was something wrong with me on the inside. I tried to change everything, from the way I looked to the way I felt. I became obsessed with numbers on the top of a test paper, on a clothing tag or on the scale. My self worth became based on a number, and I thought I would never be anything more than that. There were times that I made myself so nervous before an exam that I would have to sit in the bathroom and just cry. I couldn’t eat anything before I sat down and it was starting to take a toll on me physically and mentally.
I was blessed enough to have the support of my family who advocated for me tirelessly and taught me that I deserved to be happy, healthy and successful. I started seeing a psychologist when I was in eighth grade. I remember being terrified to admit all of this--I felt that I had failed and that I would never be okay. I knew I was not proud of the person I was and if I wanted to make a change it was time for me to put in the work.
Each session I got stronger and I started to find my voice. I was no longer that shy little girl in the corner. I started to work on fixing relationships that I damaged when I pushed people away, and I started to realize that my coach was wrong. I didn’t need that “Old Chloe '' back. I would tell him that I didn’t need his definition of the old or new Chloe. I needed to be the Chloe that I was proud of, but more importantly, I would go back and tell that “Old Chloe'' that she would overcome all of these obstacles and failures and become someone who was better, braver and stronger.
As I continued to see my psychologist, she taught me how to make strong relationships, to enjoy all that life had to offer and to stop and smell the roses along the way. I started to make stronger connections with some of my teachers and realized that school didn’t have to be something I feared. My junior year I began to see a nutritionist and with her guidance, support and time I was able to learn that I not only deserved a lifestyle that was balanced, but one that was healthy and made me happy. She helped me value my health and to be proud of all the amazing things my body could do, and I learned that we must always take care of ourselves. I was slowly starting to realize that I was going to be okay and that I would find my way. It was all about seeing a bigger picture; often I didn’t see that big picture and I was ready to now.
Coming from a family of educators, I was never allowed to respond with anger or hatred. I was taught to keep marching forward and to use all of this pain and turn it into passion. After watching my family help children learn and grow, it was obvious to me that I wanted to be a part of that process. I saw how they were excellent at teaching reading, math and social studies, but I also watched them teach kindness, compassion and build a community right in the corner of their hallway. I started teaching swim lessons, lifeguarding and working with kids in early childhood. I saw how amazing it was to be a part of something bigger than myself and I realized that I had the power to help other young people be successful. I had finally found that passion, purpose and light that I was missing. I was able to go back and appreciate those teachers, tutors, coaches, friends and family who believed in me. I realized how lucky I was to have them not give up on me when I gave up on myself, for finding that something special in me where I saw nothing. I used to be ashamed of my visual perceptual problem, but now I look at it as a blessing in disguise. It has helped me find a career path with hopes to be a school psychologist and a mental health counselor with a private practice.
I would definitely say that it was a difficult road and still might be some days but I have found a beautiful destination of finding a path that has led me to my purpose for helping others. I want to teach others that they deserve a lifestyle where they can be happy, healthy and successful. I want my story to help heal someone else and to positively influence the world. One day I want someone to look at me and say, “Because of you I didn’t give up.”