I’m dyslexic and sometimes I stutter, which is great when you’re in high school and people make fun of you because you’re different. “You stutter. You’re stupid.” They would say as if that defines all there is to me.
In 5th grade a teacher asked my mom if I was “retarded.” By the time I was in junior high going into freshmen year, I would just go along with it and say. “Yep, that’s me, the dumb one. Ha!” I guess, at least then, I felt I had some control as if I was choosing to make fun of myself instead of being bullied without consent.
I’m a sophomore now, and it was during p.e. class one day that everything started to change. Coach suggested I try out for girl’s wrestling. At first, I thought that might be the absolute worst thing I could do, because, unfortunately, when people think “girls’ wrestling” they don’t think “most popular.” But, that all changed when coach showed me video. Something connected deep inside like a puzzle piece you’ve been looking for so long finally met its match. It looked tough, and that made me like it even more. I like pushing myself, and I admit that part of me also wants to show everyone what I am really made of. That’s why I like the “Own It” and “Love the Tough” messages, because I can relate. The harder the sport is, the more I want it.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve done in my life!” I remember saying the first time I wrestled in practice. It just felt right. Just before my first match, I tripped and fell on the concrete on my way to the bus and got a concussion. WHAT?! My mind started playing tricks on me, telling me that maybe this wasn’t meant to be. Maybe this is a sign you shouldn’t do this. Regardless of the doubts, I pushed on, and at my first tournament I was matched up against one of my own teammates, and I won! I was so ecstatic until I saw my next opponent from another school, a 5’9” girl. I’m only 5’0”, and the doubts kept fluttering over my head like little nervous canaries. Like my voice my self-esteem was stuttering somewhere between confidence and chaos. The thought of people watching and judging always seemed to hold me back in the past. I’m still afraid that if I lose I will let people down, and they will be mad. All of this makes me feel weak and helpless, which is part of the reason, I suppose, and the reason I chose wrestling in the first place. I was wrestling two girls at once, one in front of me and one inside of me. The people who made fun of me in the past were now on my shoulder reminding me of my faults. Everything around me faded as the match began. I knew there was cheering, but I couldn’t hear it. I was completely zoned in, and that’s when it happened. I was tired of cowering to others, but more importantly to my own doubt. The naysayers on my shoulder became my motivation to overcome. My desire for being my best overcame my fear of the being the worst. It only took 2 minutes to pin her to the mat. As my arm was lifted into the air I could hear the cheers again. My team was jumping up and down. My mom was crying. But, it wasn’t over. I went on to win the entire tournament!
“You made history, you know?” My coach told me.
“How?” I asked.
“You’re the first girl from our school to win a wrestling tournament.” He replied.
So, my sophomore year started one way and is finishing very different. Maybe my stutter won’t go away completely, but my actions are speaking louder than ever. If you can relate to my doubts and struggles, my advice is to just push the haters out and let the supporters in. My coach believed in me, and that helped me believe in myself. It’s time for you to do the same. We all have someone to wrestle, and that someone is usually ourselves.
(Own It Stories are submitted by real people and edited into a final story with approval from original author.)