Friday, August 9, 2013

From Bitter to *Better*

All of you know by now, that I have a deep love and respect for the deaf community. This wasn't always the case, though. Honestly, I used to despise everything to do with deaf people - their attitudes, their community, their culture, and even sign language! Thankfully, this changed. You could say I had my "ears" opened. (haha, bad pun...)

So, to back up. While I was in grade school, I absolutely loved music. I was constantly practicing and working to become a better musician. My teachers were telling me how much potential I had, and I believed them. It was as though there was a whole world of possibilities just waiting for me. I felt like I could only move up from there. I could do anything I wanted to with music and nothing was going to hold me back...
                                    Or so I thought.
It was around this time that we had it confirmed that I inherited a hearing loss - and not just any old hearing loss. No, you see, it's either go big or go home with me. I hit the jackpot! There was an ultimate guarantee that I would one day become completely deaf - and there was no stopping it... You can probably guess that I became a tad bitter... Not that you would have realized this, had you known me then. I didn't let on. What's the point in that? I didn't want anyone's pity. No sireee, I went on about my life as usual, but with an internal war waging within me. Why was I so upset? DUH - my life felt like it suddenly got turned upside down!

You know the board game "Chutes and Ladders"? How you move your piece and you can either move up up up on a ladder or fall down down down a chute? Well, I felt like my whole life was that game. At first there were only ladders. I had so much potential to move up. I just had to keep climbing and so long as I did that, I could do anything; be anything. I was invincible, without a care in the world. My marvelous future was just up at the top of that ladder. I could almost see it... But then suddenly, that ladder began to shake and I was tossed down on a chute. I twisted, grasped, and tried to claw my way back up... But there was no stopping it. I was sliding down. I was going deaf whether I wanted to or not. And it felt like I would never see that ladder - or any ladder, for that matter - again in my life...

A bit melodramatic?? Well, what 13 year old girl isn't melodramatic?!  :P

Anyway, it was a hard time for me... I was just so upset. I couldn't figure out why this happened. I spent so many  nights praying. Just praying to ask "Why? Why me? Why did you have to do this to me? I had so much potential, so much I could have done. Why did you have to take it all away?" You can probably guess that I wasn't getting an answer. But I just kept asking over and over and over again. My life went on, but I still wasn't getting any answers. This didn't change for about 2 years. I was in highschool, seeing my older sister go off to college, and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. So, I decided to stop asking "Why?" and to begin asking a different question.
            I accepted that I was going deaf and that I couldn't prevent it...I acknowledged this in prayer and asked, "Where do I go from here?". And what do you know, I got my answer right away. All those times... I was just asking the wrong question! Fun fact: when you ask the right question, you get your answer pretty quickly! At least, I sure did. I knew right away what I had to do:
 1. Keep working with music. It just wouldn't be right to let go of something I had worked so hard on and loved so much! 
2. Learn American Sign Language... 

So I did both of those. And let me be honest - I was doing what I knew I should, but I wasn't happy about it. I didn't want to learn sign language! If I was learning it for the fun of it, then I'm sure I wouldn't have minded. But that wasn't the case. I was learning it because I knew that one day, I would have to use it. While I had accepted that I would become deaf, I still wasn't necessarily happy about it! This made me really dislike a lot of the girls in my highschool ASL class. They were all so happy and sunshiney. All "yay deaf culture" and "I love deaf people!"... Ugh. I wanted to throw rocks at them.
                                             (OK. Slight exageration.)
Honestly though, it was just annoying to me. I couldn't help but wonder what sort of attitude they would have if they were going deaf as well... I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have been quite so perky! More importantly, I really did not like deaf people, their attitudes, their culture, their community,or even their language. I wanted nothing to do with them... This was probably because I knew that I would become like them, I had no choice in the matter. That really scared me. I was dreading the days when I would be completely deaf and it was easier to pretend that it wasn't going to happen than it was to prepare for it.

Anyway, so I kept this attitude for quite a while and it didn't change until I went to college. 

My freshman year up there, I was in an ASL class. My teacher was this very funny deaf man who made me into his pet student because I was the only one of his students who had a hearing loss. I didn't want to be his pet student, but there was nothing I could do about it! So I dealt with it... Then, later in the semester, Thomas S. Monson came to give a devotional at the school. Everyone on campus was going crazy! People were camping out just so they could line up by the doors to get a seat close to him! It was nuts. I thought they were all psychos. You see, I did not plan on going... Yeah, go ahead and judge me :P lol. But there was no way I was going to  deal with all that craziness when I could just listen to the devotional online later. 

So that was the plan. But then, a few days before the devotional, I got an email from my ASL teacher. He had reserved seating for the devotional, in the deaf section. Now, for anyone who doesn't know, the deaf section is in the very very front. It's about as close you can get to the speaker without sitting on the floor! Anyway, so it turns out that he had those seats, but couldn't make it to the devotional... So he emailed me and offered the seats to me! He didn't offer them to any of the other deaf people he knew or to anyone else on the class... Just to me. I was so shocked. I couldn't say no! I knew people who would do nearly anything for such good seats! So I accepted the offer and went... To be completely honest, I don't even remember what President Monson said at that devotional. What I do remember, is how kind a member of the deaf community was to me. How someone I barely knew - and who barely knew me - was willing to give me something so precious. It really touched me. He didn't need to know much about me. All he needed to know was that I would be like him - that I'd be deaf some day - and a part of his culture and world. The compassion he showed really changed me. It was as though he could just tell I wasn't thrilled about going deaf and took that opportunity to nudge me into the deaf community. He knew I couldn't refuse his offer for those seats. It was sneaky. Super sneaky! 
                                                  But it worked.

I tried to continue disliking deaf people after this... But I just couldn't! It was imposible. I was in their community and I couldn't bring myself to back out of it. So I kept learning ASL and continued learning about deaf culture. To my great surprise, I grew to love it! I came home from school in the spring and noticed that I was forgetting a lot of what i had learned. I missed signing :(
               But then I got my mission call in the mail, and it was just... Perfect. I got called on an American Sign Language mission! It was everything I didn't know I wanted, and I was thrilled.

If you had told me in highschool that I'd be going on ASL mission, I would have told you that you were on drugs. That there was no way I would ever be willing spend 18 months in the deaf community! But now... there's nowhere else I'd rather be.  :)

My whole life - the trial of having a hearing loss; being bitter, and then having a change of heart, growing to love the deaf community - has all been to prepare me for these next 18 months. If I hadn't gone through everything that I have, then I would never have developed this respect and love for the deaf people in the Great California San Fernando Mission. It makes sense to me now- it wasn't all for nothing. God was preparing me for the work He needed me to do. 

I finally have my answer to why this had to happen to me. It was so I could begin to love these people and show that love for them by serving a mission amongst them. I know that the trials I have gone through weren't pointless. No trials ever are. If we can just learn to stop asking "Why?" when things get tough, and start asking "Where do I go from here?", we'll learn that. God never leaves us to take on the world by ourselves. He is always there for his children, beckoning us to come unto Him. He will always be there to help us through our trials. 

It took me about 6 years to come to realize why I had go through everything that I did, so I can't guarantee that you'll come to understand your trials right away. But you don't have to be left in the dark. There is always a light. You just need to find it, and it will grow brighter and brighter as long as you let it.

I am forever indebted to that teacher of mine. His act of kindness truly changed me. A single act by just one man turned me into a new person. I am not the same girl I was. My "ears" have been opened (yup, there's that silly pun, again) and being Deaf has taken on a whole new meaning. I'm not afraid anymore because I know I won't be alone. I'll have a whole community, and whole new world to turn to. More importantly, I know that God  will never desert me. He will help me through all the hard times, as long as I remember to turn to him. 

I accepted that even though I have hearing loss, my life isn't over. I still have potential. 
I now realize now that I'm not sliding down a chute or even climbing up a ladder. I'm on a different path, a new road. It wasn't the one I had planned for myself, but it is the right one; the best one for me. I don't pretend that my trial is over, or that it will be easy from here on out - but at least I know that there is a reason behind it all. I am happy to be on this new road, instead of the one I had imagined for myself. This is where I'm meant to be.

 There's this quote: "I'm a Mormon. I know it. I live it. I love it". Well, I'm going to take that a step further - "I'm Deaf. I know it. I kinda have to live it, and because of the strength Christ has given me, I now love it."
                       I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I do know that I am closer to my Savior than I was before. I'm getting better. I know enough. I know all that I need to, and I'll get more answers and strength along the way.

                                        And that's good enough for me.  :)


  1. You are the best, You have and will continue to touch many lives for the better. Love You :)

  2. Wow! I was glued to reading your story. It was very inspiring. It helped me to know to not doubt our trials but trust in our father in heaven and move forward in faith and we will find the reasons and the whys of how we needed to go through it to put us on the path that far exceeded the plan we had for ourselves. And story's like yours touch others hearts to realize they're not alone in their trials. We cannot lose with God on our side. He will guide us every step of the way :)