Through The Eyes

An Oakland Athletics site presented by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Finding Strength in my Weakness

By Chris Handy

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Never give up.

I learned to live by those words when I was diagnosed with dyslexia at nine years old. Imagine being the one kid in class that couldn’t read or speak properly. You just hope people won’t judge you or look at you differently.

I just wanted to be like everyone else.

But then I started to understand I wasn’t like everyone else. I understood that simple tasks such as reading and writing would take me longer than an average person to complete. I learned that I would have to put in double—and sometimes even triple—the work to get things done.

It wasn’t until I started seeing the positives within my own disability that things started to change. Sure, anyone can point to the negatives of being dyslexic, but if you really do some research, there are some benefits in there as well. My disability isn’t a crutch to lean on.

It’s my superpower.

A childhood fear

I wish I could say I’ve always felt that way.

But when you’re a kid, you don’t really know what’s happening. I just knew I wasn’t able to read, write or accomplish anything that required word comprehension. For whatever reason, I was always good at mathematics, but the other stuff just never stuck for me.

It was so frustrating.

There was also fear. I still remember the days of sitting at my desk and worrying that my teacher was going to call on me to read the next paragraph in front of the entire class. Whew, my palms are sweating right now just thinking about it.

As I got older, I started to make it a point to speak to my teachers beforehand about my disability and ask not to be called on to read. I didn’t want to be put on the spot, but I also knew it would probably take me half an hour just to read a paragraph. And well, that wouldn’t have been fun for anyone, right?

I’ve always compared dyslexia to reading a book. A normal person can gather what’s happening, visualize the story and come away with some sort of emotion. Their mind can basically give life to the words on the pages.

But my experience is the total opposite.

When I’m reading a book, I’m just reading individual words with no meaning behind them. It can be upsetting at times when I’m having problems comprehending what a word actually says. It has been a real struggle in life.

It’s still a struggle to this very day.

But over the years, I’ve also seen some benefits from my disability.

People with dyslexia usually have a more unique outlook on life, and their mind tends to work a bit differently than the average person’s. I’ve learned that I’m usually more creative than other people.
You have to be when having a disability—you know? Just find new ways to do things even if it takes longer.

If anything, I’d say it helped me become a better golfer. I’ve always been a bit more creative when it comes to practicing and analyzing my game.

It’s crazy to think my disability actually played a role in me getting a scholarship and coming to the United States to play college golf.

Journey to Oakland

Back in England, I knew nothing about college golf, much less Oakland University.

It wasn’t until I was competing in national tournaments that people started talking. That’s when I started hearing that most competing at my level joined a university in the United States.

But it wasn’t just about the sport for me. I also wanted to go to school and get a degree as well. Who would have thought I’d have a chance to do both at the same time?

There were several reasons why I said yes to Oakland.

Their scholarship offer definitely played a role in my decision, no question. I didn’t come from an affluent background, and it was important for me to find the best opportunity. But, even more importantly, there was something very special about the vibe.

Coach Nick Pumford and I instantly connected, and he was very open to allowing me to have certain freedom at practice, which enabled me to get better every day. I also liked the fact that both courses were on campus.

Not needing a car to commute to practice every single day was a load off my shoulders.

There’s also the fact that Oakland took an interest in me for what I could do—not what I couldn’t do. Professors don’t treat me any different from a normal student. I don’t get any sympathy or anything handed out to me.

I work with the disability services at the university, and they help me with exams and stuff. I’ll go into a different room and get double the time to do my work. There’s also someone in the room with me to help read the questions, if needed.

Overall, I’m just thankful to have those services available, but I’m even more grateful for my support group back at home. I’ve accepted the fact that study sessions are going to be significantly longer, and I’ll have to work extra hard to keep up my grades. But I also know I’d never accomplish anything in life if I just gave up.

If I give up now, my disability is a weakness and not a strength.

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But, even more importantly, there was something very special about the vibe. Coach Nick Pumford and I instantly connected, and he was very open to allowing me to have certain freedom at practice, which enabled me to get better every day.

My superpower

Nothing can stop you from accomplishing your goals.

I never thought I’d do good academically or even be functioning enough to get a job. I never believed I’d be able to live a normal life because everything was just so hard for me.

But I never gave up.

There are a bunch of people with dyslexia that have gone on to be successful in this world. Just knowing there are other people out there that have overcome the same challenges I face on a daily basis is so motivating.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I do know I want to continue on this amazing journey that I’m on. Of course, I’d love to turn professional and keep playing golf forever, but I’m also proud of myself for going to school and opening doors for other options as well.

The child version of myself would have never imagined I’d be standing here with a current 3.9 GPA and on the cusp of earning my MBA. If I could go back in time, I’d tell my younger self to be patient and stay the course.

You’ll get your red cape soon enough.

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