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"This Hidden World I Embrace"

Categories: Learning Disabilities

Since she was diagnosed with dyslexia in fourth grade, Neena Holzman has blossomed into an original thinker and artist, recently finishing high school with a 3.8 unweighted GPA. In an extraordinary personal essay, she writes that "Dyslexia has expanded my world rather than constricted it." The man sitting three seats to my right has enveloped himself in the scratchy rumpled warmth of a bright yellow coat. His voice is the same—threadbare, comforting and yet jarring as he struggles to carry the melody of an old hymn.
Dyslexia has  expanded my world rather than constricted it.
The San Francisco bus moves with lurching exhaustion, heavily heaving out sputtering sighs of exasperated fumes. Sporadic swelling in the pavement makes my hand stutter, and I lose control of the meticulous lines that I am trying to connect to paper. Removing my pen from the notebook, I move onto the next subject: a woman reading a scrawny paperback edition of The History of Stone Carving. Her fingers are clubbed and hints of charcoal are snuggled in her cuticles. I begin to draw before looking back up. As she turns the crinkled pages, particles of purple fuzz fly off of her lint-covered jacket and onto the yellow paper before scampering into the crease between each half of the book.
 Untitled image by Neena Holzman
Dyslexia has compelled me to meticulously contemplate an environment full of an inexhaustible accumulation of detail. My world is a convex lens—an infinite quantity of possibilities that I need to reexamine countless times. My world is one that brims over with vibrant complexities, composed of miniscule cracks in teacups, dust in the light, and the need to understand the reasoning behind each word of Joyce’s “Dubliners.”I used to loathe my inability to quickly consume information and simultaneously gain a gratifying understanding. While others moved swiftly through ideas and observations I sat sifting through piles of information, existing in my endless curiosity. What my peers dismissed as simple, obvious and undeserving of deeper examination, I found fascinating and captivating. I loved reading Sherlock Holmes when I was little because he looked at the things that people deemed inconsequential, and proved that they were of monumental importance, no matter how unassuming at first glance.
 Attempting to amend my mind to perceive this world that society has simplified and flattened for me, I was left unsatisfied.
Driven by the belief that my need to comprehend layers of detail confined me to a contained and limited world, I tried to leave dyslexia behind and sustain existence at the same rapid velocity at which everyone else I knew could manage. But no matter how much I attempted to amend my mind so that I could perceive this world that society has simplified and flattened for me, I was left unsatisfied. When I move too fast, my world becomes a murky, indistinguishable accumulation of ideas, people, and feelings.
Gradually I have rejected this all too rapid approach. I have discovered that my need to explore the meaning and the ideas behind the details of life is stronger than the pressure to see as others do. Dyslexia has always expanded my world rather than constricted it. I want to delve deeper and unearth new fascinations with the things I learn, words I read, and ideas that I encounter. Dyslexia has shaped my ambitions by compelling me to choose a path that is more alive, less flat, and more complex than I ever felt was possible. As the bus makes a sudden stop, I look up. The woman closes her book and darts off onto the rainy street. My eyes catch sight of the raindrops that cascade down the window and I look down at my sketchbook, continuing to capture the complexities hidden in the world that I embrace. Neena Holzman plans to attend the University of Southern California's Roski School of Art as a freshman in September. The passages above come from an essay she submitted with her college applications.