Turning Points: Don’t Underestimate The Mindset of a Ten Year Old

Genevieve Olson & archery

Written: May 2019

Revised and edited: April 2020


I’m Genevieve.

Though I may be a seventeen-year-old girl in high school, I’d like to think that I’m a lot more than that.

I value the art of storytelling and being vulnerable with others. Because I find so much value in my own story, (which I plan to tell pieces of over time.) I love listening to other people tell me theirs.

Some of you might know me already. If you do, there’s probably a chance that you’ve categorized me as the ‘mature-for-her-age’ kind of person. I’ve been told that I’m smart. I’ve been told that I’m “going” places in life. I’ve been told that I “will do great things”. You know what I find interesting though? When an adult says this to me, it’s a compliment based on their observations. When a student says this to me, it’s (usually) a judgment based on comparison; there’s the implication that it’s somehow “unreachable” or  “unachievable”. That I’m somehow “gifted” with an ability that they so passionately loathe. Oh, Genevieve? She’s going to do SUCH great things. She’ll probably find the cure to cancer and live in a big rich house, driving her fancy-rich car, with her fancy-rich husband and her fancy-rich kids and they’ll all live happily ever after THE END.


Well, in that case, I have a confession to make. The only reason I “look” like I know what I’m doing, is because I work my ass off around the clock. If I didn’t have such a high EQ, I’d never pass a single class. (And that goes for all students.) If I relied on my IQ to take me places, I would become the next big character in the Amelia Bedelia series. Another confession that I have to make is that I LOVE to give up. Ever since I was a kid, I found things more difficult than other kids—-partly because I made it more difficult.  I thought that if it didn’t magically happen on the first try at the snap of my fingers, that there was NO way in HELL that I could ever change. I was convinced that I was incapable of everything. I stubbornly wanted it to stay that way just so I could have something to be sad about. Yeah, I was fun at sleepovers.

Like all amazing leaders, we don’t just become the amazing, disciplined, hard-workers straight from birth. That’s why I love stories. For some people, their motivational “turning point” isn’t until high school or college. (or maybe even later in life.) Mine? Fourth grade. Rule of thumb: never underestimate the mindset of a ten-year-old. You’ll be schooled if you do otherwise. (No pun intended.) Normally no one really thinks about their elementary years. I, however, remember my elementary years the same way a 50-year-old remembers their college years.

I was born in a foreign country, weighed 2.2 lbs, suffered from malnutrition, didn’t speak a word of English, and was mentally delayed a year and a half. I have horrific eye sight (I was born almost blind.) and I have ADD. The odds were not in my favor to begin with. My lack of motivation and will-to-care wasn’t helpful. Believe it or not, but this introvert was a Chatty Kathy in elementary school. I was very shy, but you could hear my voice yelling at my friends on the playground from the attendance office. I was pulled out of class twice a day for the ELL program. (English Language Learners, a form of Special Ed) I was very social but could care less about academics.

How’s that for the girl who’s ”going to cure cancer?”

Now, okay. I am talking about elementary school here, but you’d be surprised how smart and determined my generation was. My struggles got worse as first and second grade flew by. It wasn’t until third grade that something changed in me. I was transferring to a new school within the district. I was the newbie. (Which was not a concept I was foreign to.) As the newbie, my struggles stood out amongst the other students. I had taken two years of summer school and had started going to a tutor once a week. I had also begun taking my ADD meds each morning. I was eight. I still didn’t know how to ride a bike or swim. I didn’t know how to tie my shoelaces or put my hair in a ponytail. I thought “thumb” was pronounced “fum” and  “funeral” was pronounced “thuneral”. I just recently realized that “archive” wasn’t pronounced “arch-ive” and was as actually “ark-ive”. My handwriting looked like hieroglyphics and my reading sounded like a YouTube video that stopped to load and alternated between play and pause.

It’s been said that middle school is the time when the real bullying begins. Not for this chica. Bullying is what pushed me to the edge. I was made fun of on a daily basis. It felt like I was a burden on the rest of the class who had to put up with it. That being said, I wasn’t a saint either. Trust me, you don’t want to know eight-year-old Genevieve. I was bossy, sassy, judgmental, untrustworthy, and sneaky. My only defense mechanism was to fight fire with fire. My sassy comebacks were just a mask to my fragile self-esteem. It got to the point where the laughing, name-calling, stealing, hair-pulling, was no longer sad-but infuriating. I was drawing the line.

For the first time, I had what we humans call motivation. I came home from school that day ready to work. My dad and stepmom were caught off guard. Out of the long list of things that I had given up on (or was afraid of.), the first one I wanted to accomplish was the hardest one. Not “eating broccoli” or “switching the knob on the bathtub to make the water come out of the shower spout” yes, I spent years taking baths to avoid the two seconds it took to turn the shower on because I didn’t like the sound it made. I went straight for the jugular and decided to go big or go home.

That day I started doing something I had never done before, ACTUALLY WORKING HARD.

I was breaking barriers.

Building the momentum.

…..and then I got tired.

I gave myself “little” breaks that turned into straight-up procrastination. But every morning when I arrived to school, I remembered what I was fighting for.

The summer was the hardest, but my parents weren’t letting me give up this time. In the past, they had always tried to help me to learn things, (like ride a bike) but you can’t force someone to do something if they truly don’t want to do it. Especially someone who was as bratty and stubborn as I was. But when it came to my education, my parents were in full-gear. (even when I wasn’t) My mom bought several educational workbooks for me to work in. I was going to my hour-long my tutoring session on Saturday mornings to work on my reading and writing. My stepmom had signed me up for the “fun” after-school math club where I stayed at school until 4:30. I spent an hour at the dinner table each night reading books to my dad. My mom would tape my spelling lists to the refrigerator and print out a second copy to have in the car so we could practice on the way to school. My stepdad sat at the table and helped me with my math problems when I had homework. It was a full team effort. In the summer, I focused on my tutoring and the homework my tutor would have me do. My mom would have me write out all my spelling words five times on a sheet of notebook paper before she’d check them. She would look over my writing and edit them with a red pen all authoritatively. (She was an elementary teacher for ten years so she didn’t mess around.) I knew what I wanted, but I needed some reminders here and there to keep me going.

The bullying hadn’t stopped, but my will to care did.

I entered fourth grade with my fists up, ready to go. I had different kids in my class and that helped. I had an easier time making friends and building up a support system. I was still getting pulled out of class for ELL, but now it was only twice a week. I was making slow and steady improvements. I was getting the help that I always had, but this time with the right mindset.

Spring of 2012, I got the message from my Special Ed teacher that I had improved well enough to graduate the program in the coming weeks. My parents and fourth-grade teacher were so proud. I took the MCA reading test two weeks later and scored into the blue, exceeding category. (Whereas the year before I was in the red, below expectations category.) I spent that summer crossing off the other things on that list. I learned how to swim, I learned how to ride a bike. I learned how to tie my shoelaces flawlessly and triple-loop my ponytails. No, I’m not afraid of turning on the shower and yes, I can swallow broccoli if I must. I entered fifth-grade feeling accomplished. I was on top of the world.

This photo was taken in during the Summer of 2011, the summer I was going into fourth-grade, the summer I discovered what hard work was. I love this picture because it’s the perfect illustration of what I was doing that summer. Aiming for success… I know it’s corny, but you’ve got to hand it to me.

Nine years later, I’m still aiming for that success every day. I still have my doubts and I still exhaust quickly. I’m not the warrior that I wish I was, but I’m always striving towards something greater. I’m always trying. I’m always giving it 100%. No, I’m not the “gifted” all-star-student. I’m a work in progress. I wasn’t born this way, I became this way. I learned what self-discipline required and applied it to my life. So no, I’m not a warrior. I’m not the queen of the jungle.

Well, at least not yet