My Long Journey to the Answer

My Long Journey to the Answer

Posted on February 22, 2015

6 comments 2211 Views

Part 1 - Learning assessment at 62 years old

By Carol Dennis

Carol DennisSeveral months ago, I went through an emotional and eye-opening experience writing an article about the Education Evaluation Center at TRI. Learning that there is a place filled with kind, wonderful, knowledgeable people who can help a person find out why life can sometimes feel like an unsolvable puzzle, I couldn’t help wondering if they might find an answer for me.

I tried to stay objective as I wrote the article and professional as I interviewed people who had gone through the assessments, but in the back of my mind, little lights kept coming on. “That sounds like me,” I kept thinking. There were tears as I wrote about other people finding their way – getting answers – and getting solutions. The tears were not just because the stories were touching (and they were), but because I felt cheated that no one had looked for answers as I struggled through school, quit college, and limited my career options.

Then it occurred to me, I’m a grownup now, and I can look for the answers myself. I made an appointment to go through the assessment process.

The first step was a brief interview so the EEC staff could get an idea of what areas of my skills, challenges and experiences to explore further. Next came a questionnaire to fill out, actually two questionnaires – one for me and one for someone who knows me well. That one went to my spouse.

Carol in third grade

During the initial interview and filling out the questionnaire, I reflected back on when I first started feeling like I didn’t get the same “instructions for life” book everyone else seemed to have. I remember in third grade, I first realized I wasn’t keeping up with reading. There was this projection at the front of the room and a light would travel from left to right revealing words as it passed. Everyone seemed to be able to follow the light and read the paragraph – everyone but me. But there was no one to tell – and I don’t remember anyone asking - so I just pretended.

Carol in Middle School

In eighth grade, one of my teachers assigned a book report due the following week. I knew I would not be able to finish reading the book by then. I told her I was reading a different book, and asked if I could do a report on that book instead. She said yes. Great! But, you see, I had lied. I wasn’t reading a different book. So, I spent the week writing a plot, character descriptions, even a critique of the writing style and a biography of the fictitious author. The book was called Jesse, written by Bill Kramer (and I still remember almost everything about it). After I gave my report, a lot of the other kids in class said they had heard of the book. I got a good grade and used the same book in eleventh grade for another report.

I don’t know how I got away with not reading through high school. I’m told I have a fairly high IQ, and I consider myself a very good listener, with a good memory. So I faked it pretty well - until I got to college.

I lasted just over two years in college. My first year, I was degree seeking, but took mostly electives. In my second year, I became non-degree seeking and took mostly theater classes and a few psychology classes. I knew I wouldn’t get through all the required classes for a degree – English and Math, so why bother trying. When the opportunity came to leave college, move to New York City and pursue a career in acting, I jumped at it. I did pretty well for about 10 years, but as it became clear that making a living that way was probably not in my future, I felt trapped. What else did I know how to do?

I have actually had a series of wonderful careers, which included coordinating part of the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and I love my work at TRI, writing and producing educational videos and web content. Still, all these years later, I have some pretty big “what-ifs” haunting me.

Tomorrow morning, I go to the EEC offices for a full day of tests and assessments. I’m nervous about what we will discover, and excited to finally get some answers. At 62 years old, I’d still like to know what my options are. I have some long hidden dreams that I might like to pursue, and maybe 15 or 20 years to pursue them. That part of my journey just might start tomorrow.

I’ll write again after I’ve gone through the assessments. I’ll let you know what it was like and what we learned. I’d like to settle the “what-ifs” by asking “what now.” Stay tuned.

Click here to read Part 2 - Assessment Day!


Really looking forward to hearing what your experience is. This is a great post. I especially like that you've made me want to check back to hear about the outcome!

Posted Feb 23, 2015 by Amber

Thanks for sharing Carol! You have highlighted one of the EEC's great strengths, providing hope for people to achieve their dreams at any age.

Robyn Lopez Melton

Posted Feb 23, 2015 by Robyn Lopez Melton

Fascinating and very brave of you to seek your "truth" at this time in your life!

Posted Feb 27, 2015 by Vickie

Thanks for the comments. This has been a very emotional experience and it's great to feel your support. Please check out the next installment.

Carol Dennis

Posted Mar 1, 2015 by Carol Dennis

As a parent, I volunteered to help students in my children's high school with reading and was amazed not only by their struggle but how clever they were at ways to avoid reading and to cover up their mistakes and lack of ability. It makes me angry that we let children snowball all through elementary school and on into upper grades when it is often too late to make a significant difference. This is, of course, one of the reasons I became so interested in executive function and early childhood. We need to make a difference early so children are not put in a position to be ashamed when they have deficits that could have been addressed.

Patricia  Blasco

Posted Mar 9, 2015 by Patricia Blasco

I applaud your forthrightness and willingness to talk about a situation that most people would try to hide. I also thoroughly enjoy your engaging writing style and connections to people's feelings; you write in a way that makes us care about things that matter. I am eagerly looking forward to Part 3 of your blog, Carol.

Bonnie Morihara

Posted Mar 18, 2015 by Bonnie Morihara

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