By Jenny Wierschem
When Anthony Raneri—lead singer, guitarist, and lyricist for the punk band Bayside—was doing a Facebook Live chat with some of the band’s more than 200,000 followers on the social media site, he could finally, publicly, put a name to what used to undermine his confidence: He told his fans he has dyslexia.
“Fans were just kind of rapidly asking questions [in the chat], and I’m trying to keep up and I can’t. For me, it’s nice that I can go back to ‘I can’t keep up. I’m dyslexic. It’s OK. I just don’t read that fast,’” says Raneri. “There was a time in my life where not being able to keep up, I was like, ‘Why can’t I keep up? I must be dumb. I must be whatever.’ And now I know, I’m not dumb. Born different, that’s all.”
Raneri, 35, was diagnosed with dyslexia four years ago after he saw a documentary that motivated him to be tested for the learning disorder. While watching the film, he says he was struck by how much of himself he saw in the frustrations described by people in the film and the tricks and adaptations they developed.
“I could just never really figure out why all through school, I would have to read things, and I would read a page, two pages, three pages and have no idea what I just read. Kind of going through the motion. Even now in my adult life, I read children’s books to my daughter every night at bed, and when I read out loud, I stumble over words. I especially have a hard time reading out loud,” says Raneri.
While attending public school in New York City, Raneri quickly found that it was easier to memorize content. He also describes developing a “gift of gab” and ability to use words for “dancing around things, articulating things,” born of a need to problem solve under pressure.
While these skills translated into successes in his adult life, they weren’t enough to get him through school. He dropped out of high school, recalling a sense that the educational system had already decided who he was by age 11. “It destroyed my confidence enough to a point where I quit school. I didn’t feel like I could keep up,” he says. “You know, I quit high school because I just thought that I wasn’t learning. And luckily that didn’t destroy me, but I’m sure there are a lot of people who aren’t as lucky.”
Raneri’s band, Bayside, formed in 2000, and has since released seven albums, the most recent being 2016’s Vacancy. The band regularly tours the United States and abroad. Raneri considers himself fortunate that he gets to do what he loves for a living.
Even though he has written and performed music for two decades, the confidence boost Raneri received from being diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult was an important one for him. He hopes that, today, greater awareness is helping young students to be diagnosed earlier, and he personally wants to encourage children and teens who might be experiencing the same types of things he did.
“The reason it matters is because I felt stupid when I was a kid. And as a performer, I know how important confidence is, and that goes for business, it goes for anything you do in life. If you don’t believe you can do it, nobody else is going to believe you can do it,” he says.
Despite these setbacks, Raneri says he was able to use his mind in his own way and to develop skills to succeed.
“A big part of why I wanted to get involved and be able to talk to younger kids who are affected is because I’ve become pretty successful. I’m invested in real estate, and I really understand business, but not only that I’m a professional writer. I have been for almost 20 years,” he says. “I write words for a living, but I have a hard time reading. I think if that doesn’t show anybody anything, then I don’t know what would.”
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