Growing up, I always knew there was something different about me and how my mind worked. I struggled to tie my shoes until I was eleven years old. To this day I cannot properly hold a pen or scissors. Nobody understood what was wrong with me, not even my teachers.
Eventually I found out I have dyslexia. That makes it hard for me to read and write both words and numbers, and my motor skills are still a little clumsy. While my memory is that of an elephant’s when it comes to past experiences and faces, I struggle to recall sequences and information that I personally have not experienced or am just learning about.
But I have also discovered ways to cope, to overcome, and to achieve. And I’ve found inspiration.
Much of that inspiration comes from the late Judge Jeffrey H. Gallet.
Despite severe dyslexia, as well as dyscalculia (difficulties making mathematical calculations) and dysgraphia (problems with writing), Judge Gallet co-founded a Manhattan-based law firm, authored five books and dozens of articles, and served as a family court judge and a federal bankruptcy judge for the Southern District of New York.
Judge Gallet died in 2001, at the age of 58.
In 1996, he recalled his schooldays and the pain of being misunderstood during those years.
“Everyone at school said that I was lazy or stupid or both,” he said. “After a while I began to believe them. Sometimes, I just gave up. I couldn’t write, spell, or read, or answer questions quickly. I didn’t even know which hand to put over my heart when we recited the Pledge of Allegiance.”
He also talked about how the insecurity of his school days never left him.
“Having failed English courses in both high school and college, I finally learned how to write. But, today, with five books and over thirty articles to my credit, I still suffer from terrible writer’s block and an irrational fear that I am about to make a fool of myself every time I sit down to write. The fear and the frustration have left such a lasting mark on me that I can never forget how it was. I can never fully believe it will not be that way again.”
Even as an adult, Judge Gallet said he still had to look at his watch to tell his right hand from his left. Yet he became a great lawyer and jurist, and a powerful advocate for those with learning disabilities.
Judge Gallet’s life deeply inspired me to follow my dreams of becoming an attorney and advocate for people with learning disabilities. I still have a long way to go. But now I feel like I am making real progress.
I thank the FCPA Blog for giving me a chance to tell my story.
And I wish everyone a healthy and happy 2018.
Maggie McGaharan is a junior at Flagler College double majoring in political science and economics and minoring in pre-law. She’s the president of Flagler College’s pre-law chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, the largest co-ed professional law fraternity in the United States.