By September 3, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

The Only Thing to Fear is Fear Itself

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I’m headed back to school this fall. The first time in over thirty years. i’m terrified. Its not the balancing of work, and school, and family, I’m used to balancing life on the head of a pin. Its overcoming the fear of failure.

 

School has not been a good thing for me. Most of my education was physical and mental pain. Reading for me is very painful, its like being cut with razor blades. School didn’t teach me much and my success was limited. In my professional career I did learn how much you really don’t need to see to learn, I learned how to learn, and my success was profound.

 

Professionally I’ve done very cool things. I’ve stood on the point of the pinnacle of success in my career a coupled of times, being the best of the best sir. Achieving things globally that very few people get to achieve. i have not shared this kind of success in my education.

 

In the early years of my education I was blessed with teachers who went above and beyond to help me get established with the basics of reading and writing. As I’ve gone through life I’ve further developed these skills. I had nothing in the way of accommodations until grade nine. That’s not entirely true I was allowed to sit under the black board. Junior high was hell I was put into the “special” class, we didn’t do a lot but. Actually it was a real waste of my time. My parents didn’t advocate for me much what advocacy they did provide I ended when they had a teacher fired. The teacher was ignorant only and he was my friend, we played chess together. My teacher made the mistake of calling me Blind Bergum during role call. I was too young and stupid to take it as ignorance and escalated. In the process my friend was fired. I asked my parents never to help again. They didn’t.

 

In grade nine I bullied my parents into buying me a monocular. Amazing thing and amazing the impact it had. My marks improved by 30% across all of my classes. Except gym of course. I went from barely passing to being on the honour roll. Then we moved. In grade 3 we moved from a small northern Alberta town, Edson to a small thriving city Calgary. It was an adventure. I spent the next 6 years with the same classmates. I had a support system and just as important friends. When we moved in grade nine I went from a composite high school where I was thriving to a junior high school where I was plunked into drug culture and bullying. I did make friends and I worked to get my marks back up but I had lost my support system. I never really regained it through high school. I did learn the importance of a support system. At the time I wouldn’t have been able to verbalize the need of a support system and more importantly I learned how to build a new one.

 

In high school my counsellor told me to not expect too much out of a career or life. I can say in retrospect that I’ve done OK. I’ve done and achieved things that most “sighted” people would never dream of let alone understand. I’ve had a house and a car, I had a retirement until I divorced once, then twice. I’ve lived life. I don’t regret much as it has made me the person that I am. I remain a person with much to learn.

 

After I graduated from high school I went back for one more year to improve my marks. I ignored the obvious. I achieved 120% in music. I could sing, I still can I’ve just not done anything that I’ve wanted to do with it. Not entirely true. Before I worked at Microsoft I performed in a number of musical theatre presentations and a number of operas. Since I worked at Microsoft i’ve mostly sang anthems at hockey games. In my extra year of high school I improved my average by 20% and was able to get into university.

 

University was “hell” there is no other way to describe it. The application process was painful, especially when you can’t see the forms. Filling out the application form took a long time, I filled them out a hundred times. There were financial awards available and off to school I went. The University of Alberta in Edmonton had the programs and the reputation I wanted. At 17 I left home and moved to another city.

 

Somehow I scored an IBM typewriter in my journeys I was on cloud nine. The funding I secured required that I take a full course load. I wasn’t equipped or prepared for the onslaught of material I had to read. I had no infrastructure to magnify or enlarge my texts. In pushing forward I pushed myself physically to the ends of my capabilities. My eyes were bleeding from the eye strain. I tried for two year banging my head against the wall to try and get a different result.

 

Effectively paper is inaccessible to me. Any paper based medium: tests, quizzes, handout, textbooks, anything. Only in my professional career have I found ways to manage paper. I don’t. If you can’t send it to me in a soft copy format of some sort I generally won’t deal with it. Scanning any paper based text is time consuming and the infrastructure to do it expensive. I should have listened to my achievements, any creative or technical class I did very well in. Pure math or science was abysmal. In the end I left university. Humiliated bruised and battered I tried the following year at College. My rational was it would be easier. It wasn’t and I duplicated my result, a failure.

 

I am being unnecessarily hard on myself. I learned so much about myself during that time, my only regret was not following what I loved initially and not appreciating what I’d learned about myself and my disability.

 

Education for me has not been a thing I look on with any kind of joy. In my professional career I realized how much I love to learn and have learned how I learn. I thrive on new projects and doing things that people and organizations think are impossible. In the context of the impossible I’m your man.

 

My professional experience I hope has prepared me for returning to a post secondary environment. Although my professional career lacks on thing. In my professional experience when the issue of accommodation and getting help become too much. I’d go and get another job. In my upcoming education journey I want what the program has to offer. I now have to face my demons. I have to learn to build a bridge and ask others to do the same for our sheared respective success, and I have to have faith that I’m capable of achieving success in an educational setting.

 

I look at my upcoming experience with nothing short of abject terror. I hope I don’t get impatient and pull the rip cord and eject before I have the opportunity to achieve success. That is another fear. Running away and not facing my fear. Here’s hoping. God grant me the courage.

 

Posted in: Being Blind
Kyle Bergum

About the Author:

Kyle has ocular albinism and has been legally blind since birth. Kyle leads a very active live and is besides his professional career involved in many projects for persons who are different.

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