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Find Those Who Love You for Who You Are by Tracey Costes



My TS story will always be linked to a birthday. Have you ever had a birthday where, due to things out of your control, it doesn’t go as planned? Well, that’s happened on a few of my birthdays, most notably on my 16th birthday. While it may seem disrespectful to my fellow butterflies, this birthday is currently categorized in my mind as my worst birthday, because there isn’t any birthday present quite like being told you have Turner syndrome (TS).


It just so happened that as a child my yearly check-ups were scheduled right around my birthday. During this check-up, my pediatrician noted I hadn’t had my 1st period yet. I had been diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disorder (NLD) as a toddler, but no other apparent symptoms of TS. The delayed menstruation forced her to put it together with the NLD. She ordered a blood test that confirmed I have TS and I had to do all the tests associated with a new diagnosis. I had wanted to adopt children even before the diagnosis, but upon being told I couldn’t have biological children because of TS, I still cried.


I thought I had come to terms with having an NLD and being different from others. Things should have been the same, now there was simply an answer, but it felt like what confidence I now had was immediately shattered upon having to navigate a new diagnosis. Things that should have now been making sense didn’t, and I didn’t know how to make sense of the sadness and pain I was going through. It felt almost like I had been betrayed.


I’ve never been good with major changes; I’ve slowly gotten a little better with minor changes and inconveniences, but I’m still working on those, too. So, at first, I vehemently shied away from the TS community. I didn’t want to hear anything about TS. It pretty much took years before I started engaging with the Turner Syndrome Society of the United States (TSSUS) at all and when I do, it can still be very sporadic.

At 20, after community college, I went away to University to achieve my dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher. Like in high school, I stumbled across an extrovert who led my more introverted self to a great group of friends. She pushed me to try things that were just out of my comfort zone. I was already in the aspiring educators club and a couple of dance clubs, but she also convinced me to add my services as an aspiring educator to her capstone as part of a club that had a launch project. Part of the project was to bring science lessons to other young students to get them inspired and excited for science.


I learned that I actually could handle a lot of responsibility, earned us 2nd place in the STEM engagement portion of the project, and I helped with a launch vehicle that was launched into the air. And even before helping my rocket science friends, I had studied abroad in France for a month.


My ultimate life dream since learning about my French heritage, was to try living in France as a teacher. Unfortunately, our launch competition did not end as planned due to Covid. That spring, after a lot of waiting and hardship in finding one, I landed a student teaching position. It was remote due to Covid and I unfortunately ended up needing to find another student teaching position after winter break.


Fortunately, after a few weeks I did! I flourished in this position and in the spring found out I had been accepted by a program to teach English to French Elementary students for 8 months. (October-May). They wanted the students to have some time to adjust to the new school year before introducing another teacher to the mix, and I still don’t know why I had to leave in May, but c’est la vie! I was achieving my dreams after all!


I applied for a 2nd year, but was unfortunately not asked to come back, so instead of trying to continue to work and live there, I now have a bit of a complicated relationship with France.


But it made me realize two of the big points of my story:


  • I have in fact defied all the odds by graduating college, having two bachelor’s degrees and my teaching certificate (with honors by the way).

  • I am brave enough to live in another country by myself to achieve my dream which many people would be terrified to do. This is something I’m very proud of.

 

In fact, if I hadn’t come back to New Jersey (where my mom and sister had recently moved) I wouldn’t have been a one-on-one paraprofessional and met my boyfriend. I am now a co-teacher in a kindergarten classroom, (basically my dream job) and have my own apartment. I still really struggle with my self-confidence, so it is great to see all my fellow butterflies posting reminders of how tenacious and warrior-level fierce we really are! I only hope my story is inspirational to someone else.


My last piece of advice echoes some of the other stories here in saying to find those who love you for who you are. It was hard to believe it was truly worth it after hearing it and being patient for so long, but I did find my tribe, and when I’m willing to ask for help, they really do lift me up and encourage me to try and be my best self.


I always know my mom and family (including my HS and college best friends) will always be there for me and so will my boyfriend who thinks I’m smart, beautiful, and wonderful, and loves me for the resilient butterfly I am. I just recently turned 27 and while 16 may or may not always be my worst birthday, I’m in a pretty good place in my life and 27 was without a doubt my best birthday yet!

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