“I have some dyslexia, so sometimes I mix things up,” says senior Kira Sears, her voice wavering. Her brown eyes open and shut sporadically as she processes her surroundings.
The graduating Elmhurst College English major has faced many challenges getting to her final semester of college. Four years and a couple of majors later, Sears finally feels like she has found herself.
Oddly enough, the subject hardest for her to master ended up being her favorite.
“Writing was just something I liked to do, but it was always a love-hate relationship,” she admits, a smile pulling on her upper lip. But her face is quickly drawn back into a frown when she hiccups slightly. Suddenly, it reminds her of the struggle.
“The worst thing about writing was typing everything out, and then realizing things were always spelled or worded wrong no matter how much I tried to fix them,” she says quietly.
After she began taking classes in the English department and got to know the professors at EC, Sears started to gain confidence in her writing. The classes she took with Dr. Tuck Lively and Dr. Wiginton pushed her to write more and write better.
Her brown leather-bound notebook is full of doodles. She undoes the metal clasps gently, looping her pencil out and waving it across the page. She draws the scenes she has already written. She imagines how her characters look.
“It clears my mind if I can’t decide what to write,” she says sheepishly, covering her book. Her manicured hand lays protectively on the binding.
At a certain point, Sears realized that writing and art were the perfect formula for her expression.
That’s why she picked up a minor in art alongside her writing-intensive English major. She has plans of becoming an art therapist and helping people with learning difficulties to focus and destress.
“The stories in my head wanted to come out, and this change was the best way to make that happen,” she says easily, the hiccups in her voice subsiding. One of the challenges Sears faces is a speech impediment that causes her to hiccup intermittently, disrupting her speech.
“No one at EC has really confronted me about my learning disability,” she confesses, her eyes instantaneously beginning to water. “I don’t really bring it up because people don’t ask.”
The subject is difficult to discuss. Even though she feels comfortable at EC, Sears still inevitably feels the blood rushing to her face when her hiccups arise in class.
“But then I see the teacher, and I already know they have the idea [that I’m struggling], and then they give me this nod, and I feel like it’s okay to keep going. I just have to remind myself to take a deep breath, and then it smoothes itself out,” she breathes now, her voice stabilizing.
Classmates don’t see Sears’ disability as a barrier, though.
“I’ve had a few different classes with Kira. She’s always willing to help give others suggestions or ideas during writing workshops,” says senior Ansebel Du Toit. The two worked on a group project together for their senior capstone. “As a person, she’s always been really nice. I love her sense of humor,” she gushes.
Senior classmate Brandon De Jesus doesn’t know Sears in the classroom, but he is familiar with her easy going personality. He and Sears share a love of video games and movies.
“She’s a big fan of Kingdom Hearts,” he says. “We are both into different types of Japanese anime and video games.”
Sears is a big fan of Disney, anime and obscure movies. She dubs herself a “movie whiz” and stores a hard drive full of movie lines in her brain. Her recent internship with a company that promotes video game releases and offers reviews to gamers has been both fun and instrumental in developing her writing skills and getting her closer to her goal of being a professional writer.
Sears has discovered that success is always an option, as long as she continues to push herself.
In the fall, she is headed to Antioch University in Los Angeles, California to earn her Master’s in Fine Arts and Writing. Sears credits her professors at EC for setting her up with the skills to be successful in graduate school.
But she often finds herself thinking about where she started and wishing that she had dove into her interests much sooner.
“I wish I could go back and stress less about if all of this is the right choice. With English majors, people say ‘that’s nice,’ and they give you this idea that you need a fall-back option. But I wish I didn’t let that discourage me in the beginning. I’m glad I kept going,” she says determinedly.
There’s no telling how far she will go.