Tag Archives: grad school

no_asl

I often times speak out against how frustrating it can be to have people see my cochlear implants and automatically assume that I sign. This is annoying but an easy mistake for people who are not familiar with the difference between lowercase d deaf and capital D Deaf to make. What is infuriating to me is when I tell people that I don’t sign and they don’t listen and insist on trying to sign to me anyway, such as what recently happened to me at Human Village.

I’m realizing more and more as I talk to different hearing adults that they just simply don’t understand why I don’t sign and how I can still communicate with others without sign language. People are especially confused by how I managed to get through school and to survive in a hearing world without sign language. I want to use this blog post to try to clear up some of the confusion.

Here are 5 reasons why I never learned sign language. As you read through my reasons I ask that you remember that I am and have always been mainstreamed. I am lowercase d deaf meaning that I have significant hearing loss but I live in a hearing world. I have never been a part of the capital D Deaf community. I support Deaf culture and sign language and the capital D Deaf community, but this is not my world. My experiences are unique to me just as someone else’s are unique to them. What worked for me isn’t right for everyone and vice versa.

1. It Wasn’t Practical.

I was first introduced to sign language when I was five and in the process of enrolling in kindergarten at Oakview Elementary School. My speech teacher, Mrs. Smeltz, offered to teach me sign language. My parents asked me if I wanted to learn it. They were very supportive of it but ultimately allowed me to make my own decision. I decided against it because it didn’t interest me, mainly because I didn’t know anyone that spoke sign language. It seemed to me at the time that learning it would be a waste of time and not worth the effort because I wouldn’t really have anyone to sign to. My parents would have had to learn sign language in order for me to sign with them and any friends or loved ones or honestly anyone I’d want to communicate with would need to learn how to sign in order to talk to me. It seemed much easier for me to learn how to communicate in spoken English and to learn strategies on how to exist in the hearing world than it was to have everyone I wanted to talk to learn sign language.

2. Nobody Cares About Sign Language (Except the Deaf Community).

If you are capital D Deaf, you care about sign language. It’s very, very, very important to you. Sign language is your world, and I get that and support it.

But I’m not capital D Deaf. I am lowercase d deaf living with hearing loss in a hearing world where most people don’t really care about sign language. Some people might choose to study it for fun or as a hobby, but a lot of people don’t really take it seriously.

Unfortunately, this can make learning it very difficult, especially if you try to learn it later in life like I did.

I tried to take ASL in college as an elective at Rowan University, but at the time I was enrolled in undergraduate studies (September 2010 – December 2012), it wasn’t an option. I remember asking about this before and they said they weren’t offering because they didn’t have the money/funding for it and there wasn’t an interest. This is no longer the case…ASL is seen as being almost trendy now and there are classes (which I’ll get into in a later point), but that was unfortunately not the case when I was an undergraduate student there. One of the biggest problems with how people view sign language is they see it as a hobby rather than as an actual language. This is a problem because people lose interest in hobbies and pass them off to the side to forget about when they get bored. Languages on the other hand are seen as essential communication skills needed to survive in the world. ASL sadly is not viewed in this light by people outside of the capital D Deaf community.

I to enroll in a non-credit course at Gloucester County Community College multiple times to learn ASL. It was always cancelled though due to low enrollment. They couldn’t get enough people to sign up for it as a non-credit class to make enough money to pay the instructor I guess. People will enroll in ASL if they can get college credit. It’s often seen as an “easy” and “fun” class to take for credit. But when people aren’t getting something out of it for themselves (they don’t see learning ASL as being important, especially since many of them don’t know anyone who is capital D Deaf…), they don’t see a point in learning it.

3. Learning Sign Language Was Too Expensive.

I know what you’re thinking.

“This isn’t true.”

“My best friend’s cousin’s dog sitter is fluent in sign language and could teach you for free…”

“There’s YouTube!”

“Blah blah blah insert random noise/nonsense here.”

Okay, first of all when the concept of sign language was first introduced to me back in/around 1995, there was no YouTube.

As stated in my previous point, I didn’t want to learn sign language as a kid and could you blame me? A five year old usually has better things to do or other interests…

As mentioned in my last point, the non-credit courses were constantly cancelled due to low enrollment. These did cost money and at one point my family and I shelled out a few hundred dollars so the whole family could learn it together, but it ended up being refunded to us all after the course was cancelled.

The non-credit courses were about all that I could afford. With Rowan not offering ASL courses for credit my other option would be to take the classes at a local community college for credit but it wouldn’t be covered by my financial aid/loan and I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on a class that wouldn’t even count towards my degree.

Another issue with learning sign language for free – while people definitely mean well, the people offering to teach it often are not fluent or experienced in sign language. They may know the basics and a few sentences here and there but not enough to really hold full conversations in sign language, which makes it not entirely practical. Those who are really fluent and certified to teach sign language typically want to be paid for their services so they teach the college classes which I already stated I couldn’t afford to take. This isn’t true for everyone of course, but it is true in a majority of cases.

4. Learning Sign Language Wasn’t Worth the Trouble.

For some unknown reason, learning sign language was designed to be the toughest subject I could ever study or learn. I have been working to teach myself German recently and it has been a much, much, much easier experience than learning sign language which is just ironic.

Here’s a list of some things I think are easier to learn for me than sign language:

  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Amish quilt-making
  • Homemade cheese
  • Calculus
  • Quantum Physics
  • Flying an airplane

I’m serious. This has been made to be impossible for me to learn.

Backing up a bit, remember how I said that Rowan University *did* in fact get an ASL course after I finished my undergraduate studies?

Well, I tried to enroll in it as an elective as a graduate student. I tried to make my case that this course would be perfect for my graduate research since my Master’s thesis was a memoir on my cochlear implant/deaf experiences. The writing department and professors such as Dr. Drew Kopp were so supportive of this and really tried to advocate on my behalf to make this happen.

But it always comes down to one person who has a little bit too much power and is the final decision maker…

I don’t know who that one person is, but if you’re that person and you’re reading this now – just know I’m glaring at you from my computer screen. Yep. Glaring. Mad hard glare.

So here’s the shortened version of what actually happened:

Since I was a graduate student, under Rowan University’s policies I was not permitted to receive graduate level credit for what was an undergraduate class. I would need to do something more to have the work qualify as graduate-level work.

Okay, that makes sense, right? No problem. I was planning to use this course for my research for my MA thesis anyway. I would take the course as a form of an independent study and keep a research journal and check in with Dr. Kopp who would be my adviser of the project. I just finished taking his Core II course where I had to keep a research journal as I conducted research for my MA thesis anyway. This would be essentially a continuation of the work we’ve already started together.

But that one person who I am glaring at through my computer right now said that wasn’t enough.

Instead I needed a detailed description of what exactly I’d be studying and using for my research. I needed to create a very, very, very detailed research proposal about how I’d be studying students. I needed to explain what I’d ask students, who would participate, how their data would be used, and so forth. It was so much more than what I had intended to do. I wanted to learn the language, not how students used their experiences or what they thought of the course or whatever, but if it got me into the classes, I was willing to comply.

But of course it wasn’t that easy. Nothing in life is ever that easy – I had to submit a research proposal to the IRB and have it approved.

It took me several weeks that summer to put together my application for the research proposal. There were so many parts and it needed to be as detailed and specific as possible. I also realized I would need to hire an intern to help me with my research along with a videographer to film students. I would also need permission from the students. There were so many different loopholes and approvals I would need. Dr. Kopp worked with me every step of the way to help me in writing down the steps and just what I would need. We didn’t submit the application until the last minute when we were confident we had covered all of our bases.

I think I worked harder and longer on that application that I did in most of my graduate level courses combined.

And yet, the application was STILL denied for many, many, many different reasons. The overall theme was that they needed more specific information and more approvals from people involved.

I was tired and getting burned out and the class wasn’t even approved yet, let alone started.

After having my application rejected I decided not to move forward and just accept that I wasn’t going to learn ASL that semester (or even study people who would learn it). I accepted my next point…

5. I Wasn’t Meant to Learn Sign Language.

God’s ways are better than mine. Every time I tried to learn sign language he put roadblocks in my path that prevented me from learning it. Sometimes this seemed extreme, as was the case with the hardships I faced trying to take the ASL course in grad school. He simply did not want me to learn it. I will never know exactly why he didn’t want me to learn it until I am face to face with him in heaven and have a chance to actually ask him, but I do have a few theories.

Have I had learned sign language, my life would be very different. I may not have been mainstreamed like I am today and I may not have accomplished all that I have. I know that these is controversial and this statement may infuriate anyone from the capital D Deaf community who may be reading this, but you can’t deny the fact that it’s true:

Not being able to interact in the hearing world will hold you back in society. Is it right? No, it’s not. But it is the truth. 

If I learned sign language from an early age and made it my dominate language and chose to become a part of capital D Deaf culture, I may not have been as prepared for the “real” world because my communication skills may not have been as good. I wouldn’t have had to rely on lipreading as much and I wouldn’t have learned ways to navigate the hearing world because I wouldn’t have had to. I probably wouldn’t have went to mainstream school, let alone college, and wouldn’t have had the same experiences and may not have had as many job opportunities.

I know it’s not right, but the world is designed to operate for people who can hear and while it’s discrimination, employers get away with it. Most employers don’t want to hire someone who can’t hear, especially if they need a lot of accommodations such as sign language interpreters. These things cost money and people don’t want to have to pay for it and if employers aren’t the ones responsible for paying for it (ex – if health insurance or disability services cover it…I admit I’m not entirely sure how this works) it still won’t change the fact that employers will view it as a hassle that they may not want to deal with. Meetings will take longer, phone calls may go on unanswered, and work days may be less productive. Again, I’m not at all saying I agree with this. It’s horrible and it should not be this way, but you can’t deny the fact that this is how the world operates and even anti-discrimination laws can’t change the way people think and feel – that’s something only God can change.

If you want to get ahead in life, you need to be able to sell yourself and adapt to the outside world, knowing that a majority of people exist in a hearing world. This is similar to how a majority of the world speaks English (and most of the US). If immigrants want to get ahead and make a future for themselves in America, it is very wise for them to learn the language. We can and should support them by trying to speak their native language or becoming familiar with it and offer translators, but at the same time it is easy for them (and perhaps more practical) to learn our language then having all of our people try to learn theirs.

Have I had learned sign language, I may not have ever gotten cochlear implants. I know that this isn’t the right path for everyone to take, but it was the right path for me. My cochlear implants have opened a whole new world of opportunity for me and greatly improved my quality of life. If I had sign language then getting cochlear implants wouldn’t have mattered or been a priority for me and I would’ve missed out on so many amazing experiences (not to mention sounds!)

And yes, I did try to learn sign language post-cochlear implants. I am not sure why God still doesn’t want me to learn it, but I even have my theories about that, too. I am still training my brain to hear sounds and I imagine I will for the rest of my life since there’s always something new to hear. My hearing is fantastic now and “almost” perfect, but it will never be natural. I will always need a minute to think about and process what I am hearing. I’m never going to “just hear” – my body is not capable of that. If I would’ve learned and became fluent in sign language I may not have had the need to work so hard at hearing the sounds and training my ears post-cochlear implants. Simply put, I may have gotten lazy with my training and rehab.

Sign language is important and should never go away. I understand the point oralists were trying to make way back when and I agree that being able to communicate in a hearing world without sign language will help the deaf to advance in society. However, sign language is a tool or a strategy that works better for some than for others. For some people they may be the son or daughter of Deaf parents born into the capital D Deaf culture where sign language makes the most sense for them to use. For others like myself, lipreading and cochlear implants are better tools to help prepare us for the hearing world we choose to live in.

There are some people who absolutely need sign language, but I am not one of those people and I shouldn’t be made to feel bad or wrong about my decisions. As a child I was able to get by in school and society through lipreading, sitting in the front of class, reading a lot of books and text to gather messages, and relying on others to lend me their ears when in need. As I got older, cochlear implants gave me nearly perfect hearing. In either case, I managed without sign language and I regret nothing. I was still able to live a happy and fulfilling life and never felt cut off from communication.

Everyone has their own communication preferences, especially those who are living with hearing loss. It is important to remember that no two people are exactly the same and just because some individuals with hearing loss sign, doesn’t mean that they all do and it’s perfectly fine if you choose to sign or not to sign. It’s a personal decision and you should never feel the need to apologize for the way you wish to be spoken to. People should respect your decision and if they don’t understand it, they should take the time to ask questions and educate themselves so that they can learn rather than judging, speaking for or on behalf of someone else, or flat out ignoring someone’s requests or communication preferences.

 

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Hey guys! Long time, no blog! I have been a little bit more active on my other blog, KimErskine.WordPress.com lately. Feel free to check that out if you get a chance. It has a lot of book reviews if you’re into that kind of thing!

There is one big thing that has happened since I last blogged on here…

I graduated with a Master’s in Writing degree from Rowan University! I technically graduated in December of 2018, but since Rowan only does commencements in the spring I had to wait until this coming semester for commencement. I technically could’ve walked last spring, but it didn’t feel right to me to walk when I still had two more courses to come back and take in the fall, so I waited.

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Attending graduation ceremonies with cochlear implants was a very different experience then my graduations prior with just hearing aids, which is what I’ll be focusing on in this blog today.

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My original graduation cap worn in the main ceremony. Lend Me Your Ears: My Journey as a deaf Girl in a Hearing World was the name of my Master’s thesis/book.

 

My commencement ceremonies at Rowan University took place on Saturday, May 11, 2019 and Wednesday, May 15, 2019. The first ceremony was an all-college University ceremony that included literally everyone – all majors, undergraduates, graduates, etc. This was naturally a huge and informal ceremony that took place on the University’s football field. The ceremony on Wednesday was for my department – the College of Communications and Creative Arts – and was the more formal ceremony where my name was called to receive my degree.

The first ceremony was a bit of a disaster. Since I was graduating with my Master’s degree, I wanted to look a bit nicer and get more dressed up than I did for my Bachelor’s degree. This resulted in me making a special appointment to see my hairdresser to get my hair curled before commencement, buying a few new dresses, and a new pair of shoes.

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My first dress for the main college ceremony and my freshly curled hair. 

My favorite store to shop at is Burlington. I always get great deals on name brand clothing there and I am kind of obsessed with buying shoes. They have never let me down before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything, right?

I should’ve known better when I saw the label name was Chinese Laundry, but the shoes were cute and actually comfortable which is a rarity for dress shoes, so I shelled out $25 and bought them.

This was my first mistake.

Upon arriving in D-lot at Rowan University I quickly discovered I was not in the right area. I walked all around by the parking lots and football field asking for directions on where to go. Most of the people were a bit less than helpful and said something along the lines of “Somewhere by the engineering building – Masters’ are in the front” or simply “I don’t know”. With so many people around, this took awhile to find.

My shoes unfortunately did not make it for the full journey.

I was walking pretty fast because I wanted to get where I needed to be before everyone started walking in. Right as I just about found the right spot I tumbled down onto the ground, scraping my knee and dropping everything in my hands in the most ungraceful way imaginable.

When I fell, my right cochlear implant processor flew off and my left one on my dominate ear was bumped so the magnet came off. I couldn’t hear and was trying not to panic over losing my cochlears. Fortunately, I was able to find them both rather quickly and to put them on. A girl I never saw before came running to my rescue as several other strangers stared at the scene I was creating. The girl offered me a hair tie for help. Confused, I thanked her and said I was fine.

Then I tried to stand up, only to realize the strap on my shoe was broken. The girl was offering me her hair tie in an attempt to try to “fix” my broken shoe by creating some kind of a band with it. It probably wouldn’t have worked anyway, but was still a nice gesture. Hey, she tried, right?

Embarrassed, I tried to keep my cool and tell myself I could just rip it off and wear my shoes as strap less sandals, no big deal.

But when I looked down I noticed that strap also was broken. The entire shoe has fallen apart in every way imaginable and was completely unwearable.

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My broken graduation shoes…worn for less than a half hour total before completely falling apart. 

My mom who went with my dad and boyfriend to find their seats sent me a text to make sure I found where I needed to go. The text read, “Are you okay?”

“No. My shoes broke.” I wrote back as I tried to hold back tears.

Not long after I was reunited with my parents and boyfriend. Mom offered to take me home, saying I didn’t have to go through with the ceremony. It would be starting in just a few minutes so going home and getting a new pair of shoes was not an option. “No, I have to do this. I can’t miss my graduation,” I said.

Then my mom looked down at her feet and took her shoes off. “If you can fit in these they are yours,” she said. She was about two sizes smaller than me so I wasn’t sure if would work, but I was desperate.

Fortunately, I was able to get the shoes on. They were very tight, but better than no shoes. My mom attended the rest of my graduation ceremony barefoot and I think this is the moment I truly realized what a mother’s love was.

I would like to say the rest of the University ceremony was smooth sailing, but that would be a lie.

I was worried about how I was going to wear my cap with my cochlear implants. Hats don’t usually work for me because they knock my cochlears off. I tested it prior to the ceremony and found that I could place the magnets over top of the cap and it would stay in place.

However, as my shoes proved – just because something worked at home didn’t mean it was still going to work at commencement.

My right cochlear was fine but my left one would not stay in place. I spent a majority of the commencement ceremony fidgeting and trying to fix it. Another challenge I had is that I had a ton of bobby pins in my hair to keep my cap in place. Naturally, bobby pins are made of metal which tends to get stuck to the magnet. Even when I had my cochlear positioned correctly it would often still give me trouble by sticking to the bobby pins and limiting my ability to hear.

There were multiple times throughout the ceremony where we were asked to rise then sit down, rise and sit down. At one point our commencement speaker, Shaun T (AKA the guy who created Insanity) asked us to do a bunch of these like dance movements. On a normal day in normal circumstances this would be no big deal. However, the chairs at commencement were so tightly packed together that you literally couldn’t move without touching someone. The people on my sides kept accidentally bumping into me and even the slightest touch caused my cochlear to fall off or get bumped out of place.

By the end of the ceremony I was so annoyed by constantly adjusting my cochlear that I decided to just completely take it off and use my non-dominate right ear to get by.

This solved all problems with the main ceremony then, right?

WRONG!

The main University ceremony ended with a literal bang as confetti was shot at the students from the stage. Confetti is fun and festive, so no big deal right? Wrong again. The problem with the confetti is that it was REALLY LOUD. Think confetti party poppers…it was like that. Since I was graduating with a Master’s degree I sat in the very first row closest to the stage. When the confetti shot out it scared the crap out of me but also physically hurt me.

The thing with cochlear implants is that while it took me from about 0% – 93% total hearing, it is still not natural hearing and it never will be. The way I use sound involves a lot of brain power as my brain needs to process what it is hearing before I hear it. This is why after a loud and noisy day working in the city I often come home so exhausted. The confetti was so incredibly loud and unexpected that my brain struggled to process it and it physically hurt me.

I really wish the University could have some how warned us about the confetti and how loud it would be ahead of time. The way the stage was designed you couldn’t tell there was confetti inside of it ready to be shot out. Had I have known ahead of time I could’ve prepared for it by taking both of my cochlear implant processors off so I wouldn’t hear it and be affected by it.

The University ceremony was  a bit of a hot mess and a disaster. I was certainly glad for it to end and to have a drink afterwards. Lord knows I needed it!

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You say “cheers!”, we say “shoes!”

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Chocolate pretzel martini from Riverwinds. Very much needed after the day I had!

The one good thing about all of my troubles with the main University ceremony is that it prepared me for and made me even more excited for my college ceremony that took place a few days later. This one went MUCH more smoothly. I chose to wear my fancy baby pink silver glitter converse sneakers and I packed an extra pair of Converse in the car just in case. I have had dozens of pairs of Converse over the years and they have never failed me. This time fortunately was no different.

The volunteers this time around were generally much more helpful and happier to be there which made me all the more excited and helped me to find where I needed to go more quickly. Given all of the trouble I had with the first ceremony, I decided to redesign my cap for the second one to say “Not today, Satan!”. Many people commented on how much they loved that and asked to take pictures.

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My new graduation cap worn for the college ceremony. After all of the trouble with the University ceremony this updated was much needed!

My graduating friends were all present for this ceremony as well, so it was a lot more fun and I wasn’t alone. We all had fun catching up and taking pictures with each other prior to the start of the ceremony.

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Since I had so much trouble with my cap with the first ceremony, I changed the position and placed my magnets inside of the cap rather than outside of it. My cap fit snuggly and was secured with bobby pins that were away from the magnets. This secured everything in place. I never once had to readjust my cochlears during the ceremony. I was able to just enjoy the ceremony.

I enjoyed Trymaine Lee’s speech far more than Shaun T’s. This could just be because he didn’t make me move and I related more to him being a journalist. Also, the fact that I wasn’t fidgeting with my cochlear implant the entire time certainly helped.

I have no memory of previous graduation speakers. I remember that Steven Sweeney spoke at my last graduation. I remember finding most of my previous graduation ceremonies to be boring because I couldn’t hear them.

Trymaine spoke about his experiences as a journalist and how growing up he was taught to always believe that he was somebody – something he instilled in the minds of the graduates as he had them complete the phrase, “I AM Somebody!” As a deaf individual, growing up and even to this day I was often told that I wouldn’t amount to anything. I always had the support of my parents of course, but my classmates would say things like “You’ll be lucky to be a 7-11 worker.” I never forgot these words and have dedicated my life to proving these individuals wrong and I think that is largely why Trymaine’s speech resonated so much with me.

This ceremony went smoothly all around including at the end. I was prepared for confetti this time around, but very happy that there was none (my ears/brain says “Thank YOU!”, Rowan).

After the ceremony I had the challenge of finding my family and boyfriend in the crowd of people. I actually called my mom to try to find her – something I never could’ve done in the past since I couldn’t hear on the phone!

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While my combined graduations had their downs and then ups, it’s an experience I wouldn’t change for the world. I don’t think I would have ever went back to school to get my MA in Writing had it not been for my cochlear implants and I know I couldn’t have succeeded and managed to graduate with a 4.0 if it weren’t for them. God opened my ears to hear and in doing so, he opened many doors to my future, too.

Next step……………………………………………………………………………………………….to be determined.


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Image Credits: Anime Next

Hi guys! For those of you who don’t know, I’m in my second year of the MA in Writing program at Rowan University. What this means is I am now taking Seminar I and beginning the bulk of work on my 30,000-word MA project, which of course is my memoir detailing my cochlear implant experience. I already have two drafts of my novel, plus this blog here, under my belt so now comes the fun (or not-so-fun, depending on how you look at it…) part of revising.

I have a general map of the table of contents and the material I want to include in my final novel. The general table of contents at the moment looks much like this:

1. I’m not THAT Special: The Argument Against Special Education
2. Confessions of a Deaf Girl in Corporate World
3. A Life Changing Homework Assignment
4. Everything in God’s Perfect Timing
5. The Last Day as a Def, Deaf Girl
6. The Christmas Song
7. The Most Magical Place on Earth With the Most Magical, Bionic Ears, on Earth.
8. Maybe Two is Better Than One
9. Epilogue: It’s Not Over Yet.

Some of these chapters are going to be arguably easier than other ones to write. I am particularly having trouble with Chapter 1. In my first two drafts I wrote several chapters on my experience growing up in public schools in the hearing world and fighting for my rights to take standard college-level and honors/AP courses as a deaf student. I am realizing now I don’t need ALL of that material, but rather than I should be focusing on maybe just one specific memory, but I’m not sure which memory is worth focusing on. I think this is an area where I really need the help of my second reader, Professor Julia Chang, for advice.

Rather than delaying my progress and work on this project as I consider what to do with Chapter 1 I thought it made more sense to kind of write my third draft out of order by choosing the memories I know I want to write and have a vivid memory of already.

I decided to begin with my favorite post-cochlear implant memory…the trip I took to Smithville with Larry on Day 4 post-cochlear implant activation. Check out the link to my original post for reference, and read the re-write down below. I hope you all like it as much as I did.

Please note: Larry and I have been broken up for two years now and have not said a word to each other since hanging up on each other and calling it quits. We are not on good terms or any terms at all. This lovely memory was just that – a lovely memory that exists only in past and that’s all I’d like to say about that. Everything I said is 100% truth. I write about Larry in order to tell my story and my story only.

Chapter 6: The Christmas Song

On day four of post-cochlear implant activation, all of the little pieces began to click. It was like the newly implanted electrodes and magnets finally learned how their relationship was supposed to work to connect the dots from the sound in my ear drum to the processing unit in my brain. Mom suddenly didn’t sound like Minnie Mouse anymore (okay, well not as much anyway) and some songs were beginning to actually sound like songs, and not just random noise. I knew I still had a long way to go and many new sounds left to discover and learn, but things were finally beginning to sound ALMOST normal, whatever that meant.

I had plans to see Larry for what would be our first date in over a month and I couldn’t have been more excited. Our silent games of cards and Nintendo were nice, but I was itching to get out of my house and to finally have a little alone time with Larry. Plus, I couldn’t help but consider the big question on everyone’s mind – How would Larry’s voice sound to me now that I’d actually be able to hear it?

Larry picked me up at around 6pm in his trusty old, beat up green truck. I was never a big fan of the truck, but for the first time in my life I was thrilled by the sight of that truck because I knew what it meant: I was finally going somewhere. Alone. With Larry. At last.

“I’m here.” read the latest text on my Android phone, but I already knew and had the door wide open before the message even came through. I mapped out his route and knew exactly when to expect him at my condo and watched him pull up. I was excited to see him, but I really couldn’t wait to finally hear him.

He looked so handsome. For once, he actually made an effort and traded in his faded, worn out t-shirts and dirty jeans for a nice collared shirt and a pair of jeans that at least didn’t have any dirt on them (so what if they were a little faded?). The smell of his British Sterling cologne was intoxicating.

“Hi angel!” He said, “Can you hear me?”

I smiled from ear to ear. I could actually hear him without having to ask him to repeat himself for once. I was too excited to speak, so I just smiled and nodded.

“That looks so cool. It’s blue, my favorite color!” he exclaimed.

“Yeah I know. I wanted the red one but they stopped making it so blue was my second choice.” I said.

“So, where do you wanna go?” he asked.

“Did you get the thing I sent you on Facebook?” I asked.

“Which one?” he asked.

“Smithville,” I said.

“Yeah. Did you wanna do that or Longwood Gardens?” he asked.

“I was kinda leaning towards Smithville. Longwood Gardens is expensive and the tickets are timed and if you’re late you’ll miss it and they don’t refund you.” I explained.

“How much is Smithville?” he asked.

“I think it’s free unless you like buy stuff there.” I said, “but it’s not too far is it?”

“Where that at?” he asked.

“Galloway. I think it’s like at the shore but not the shore. Like before you get to the actual shore,” I tried to explain.

“Wait, what?” he asked.

“I don’t drive. I dunno. GPS it!” I said.

Larry pulled out his phone and looked it up. “Okay I remember this. I went with my grandparents and cousins as a kid. It’s not too bad.” he said.

“Where are you guys off to?” My mom said as she came out from her bedroom.

“Smithville” Larry said.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“It’s like this little village or something. Some of my friends went and it sounded cool. I think they have a lot of Christmasy things. I want to hear a lot of noise!” I exclaimed.

“Well okay then,” my mom smiled. “I’ll let you guys get on your way.”

****************************************************

“Your voice is beautiful,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I meant it or if I was just saying it because of how in love I was and how happy I was to finally be able to hear him speak and to have a conversation that existed outside of writing down notes or texting each other. It’s been a rough month as far as communication went.

“Thank you,” Larry said, as we both laughed together.

“This is weird. I know. But I can hear now.” I said.

“What do I sound like?” he asked.

“Pretty much the same.” I said, “But your voice is a little deeper.”

“I got a Spotify playlist,” Larry said. “Do you want to hook it up?”

“Sure,” I said. “What do you got on here?”

“Take a look.” he said as he handed me his phone and pulled out of the parking lot.

I scrolled down the list searching frantically for a familiar song. Celtic music. Scottish music. What in the world? Only my boyfriend would have music this weird on Spotify…I thought.

Finally, I found something I recognized: “As Long As You Love Me” by the Backstreet Boys. Everyone told me that music was the hardest sound to learn after activation. Some people couldn’t ever learn it, but I was determined. Music still sounded terrible to me, but better than it did on day one at least. If I could find a song I was familiar with it didn’t sound too bad because I could use my memory to remember how it SHOULD sound and almost pretend that what I should have been hearing was what I was actually hearing. It’s like I was playing a game with my mind. Fake it until you make it, right? I just wanted to impress Larry with all of the things I could suddenly hear, even if I couldn’t understand them.

Larry knew that I love the Backstreet Boys. We sang “I Want It That Way” together on our first date at Nifty Fifties, but did he realize I’ve been listening to “As Long As Your Love Me” practically on repeat since I discovered it nearly twenty years ago? Did I even care? I began to sing along to the radio, “I don’t care who you are…where you’re from…what you did….as long as you love me…”

Larry joined me and we sang together in harmony, “Who you are…where you’re from…don’t care what you did…as long as you love me…” and it felt like he was singing directly to me, serenading me with his love. Larry’s always sung to me, but now that I could hear him and almost understand him, his voice sounded ten times sweeter.

When we arrived in Smithville I was immediately reminded of one of our first dates when we went to Wheaton Village. This was another cute, small village with mom and pop shops and crafts all over the place. Except there was SO much noise and it looked like Santa came through town and painted everything with Christmas cheer. There were lights everywhere I looked, a train going by every 10 minutes, and Christmas music constantly playing.

 

“Look at the lights!” I said.

“It’s a Christmas lights show,” Larry explained after reading the sign. “Want to watch?”

“Sure!” I said.

We watched as the Christmas trees lite up and flashed new colors every few seconds. Some were purple, others were blue or orange.

“Can you hear that?” Larry asked.

“Christmas music?” I guessed. It was an obvious answer; we were in Christmas town, after all.

“Yes.” he said.

“I can’t tell what song it is.” I admited, “But I know it’s Christmas music.

“It’s Rudolph.” He said as he began to hum the tune.

I nodded along, wondering if there were any songs I’d “get” that night. I haven’t really been able to understand any of the songs on the radio since we’ve arrived, but I was enjoying the sensation of hearing sounds and being able to at least tell there was some kind of music playing.

“Do you want to go in the shops?” I asked. The lights were cool, but I was ready to explore everything else.

“Ok. That one looks cool,” he said as he pointed to a native American shop. Larry has always been interested in Indians, just like me.

We entered the shop and looked around. “I always thought Native American art was beautiful.” I said as we admire the crafts. Larry walked by the hat rack and tried on a feathered headdress.

“Beautiful.” I said and we both laughed. He began to take it off. “No! I need a picture of it first.” I said.

“Okay, but no Facebook!” he says.

“You don’t know me very well,” I said. “Your grandmother will love this!”

We walk further in the back of the shop and Larry discovered an old-fashioned rack of CDs with a little machine that allowed you to play samples of the music. He read from the choices and pushed one of the buttons. “Indian music,” he said.  “Can you hear it?”

“I can.” I said. There weren’t any words, so it was easier to follow along.

“What do you hear?” he asked.

“Drums?” I guessed.

“Yes. What else?” he asked.

“Uhm. I want to say guitar?” I guessed.

“Mmhmm.” He said.

“I know there’s other stuff, too, but I am not sure what else it is.” I admitted. “I want to hear a flute.” I say.

“I don’t think we’re going to find that in Indian music.” he admitted, almost apologetically.

“It’s okay.” I said as I push another button.

Larry and I pushed every single button until we run out of songs. “The people in here must hate us.” I said, “Oh well I’m having fun.”

“That’s all that matters then.” Larry said.  “Love you.”

“Love you too.” I said. “Let’s go somewhere else.”

We made our way from shop to shop. Most of the shops were filled with homemade goods that we had no intention of ever buying, but it was fun to look at them all anyway.

“Check this out.” Larry said as he picked up a bell. “Can you hear it?”

I listened carefully, it’s a sound I’ve always wanted to hear but never could. “I can. Oh my god. I can.” I said. “Let me see it.”

I picked up the bell and held it to my ear, ringing it over and over again. Tears began to fill in my eyes. I can’t believe that I was really able to hear a bell. I may not have been able to hear everything clearly yet, but this was huge. I’ve never been able to hear high frequency sounds before and now I was clearly hearing one of the highest forms of high frequency sounds.

“There’s some more over here.” Larry said.

I walked over to the table where Larry was and carefully pick up each and every bell and rang it to my ear. They all sounded the same, but I had to ring them all just to be sure. I picked them up and placed them down carefully, being cautious not to break any of the glass or porcelain materials. The shop owner glared at me. Surely, she didn’t understand or appreciate this little routine.

“Let’s go somewhere I else,” I whispered to Larry. “I don’t think she likes us doing this.” I said as I glanced up at the shop owner.

“Great idea.” he said.

Our next stop was a little punk rock shop known simply as “Underground”. Underground didn’t look like any of the other shops we’ve been too. The outside of the building was green like all the other shops, but the bright red doors made it stand out. There were no handmade goods or bells or frilly things. Everything almost looked like it was dead and there was hundreds of thousands of old records everywhere you look and walls adorned with famous concert posters from heavy metal bands.

“I feel like I’m home!” I yelled over the heavy metal music blaring through the speakers.

“What? I CANNOT HEAR YOU!” Larry yelled back. He looked horrified.

“I LOVE THIS PLACE. IT REMINDS ME OF THAT RECORD STORE IN OCEAN CITY!” I said. I was pretty sure this was what heaven looked like, or at the very least, sounded like.

“I can’t do this – I’ll wait for you outside,” Larry said. I was afraid I may have broken my country boyfriend, but I’m in no hurry to leave. I was in my element, whether he chose to be a part of that or not. I nodded back and said, “I’ll just be a few minutes.”

I browsed through the stacks of records, but I didn’t recognize any of the names. This really is underground, I thought to myself. I reminiscenced on my middle school days back when I’d spend hours searching for local punk rock bands that no one has ever heard of, dedicating my life to being their little groupie, whether they wanted it or not (most of them didn’t). I focused on the songs blaring from the radio. I could feel all of the vibrations and could understand why Larry had to leave…it was LOUD! I had no idea what they were shouting through those speakers, but I didn’t mind. I was in pure bliss simply by the fact that I knew there was music playing, a feeling I hadn’t experienced in several years. Besides, wasn’t the point of heavy metal music to shout things in a mic and pair it with heavy drumming and guitars so no one knew what you were saying any way? “It’s screaming music. It’s not even music, they just scream,” my dad would always say. Like Larry, Dad never quite “got” the concept of heavy metal either.

I spent a few more minutes soaking in the entire experience and all of the sounds before spotting and purchasing an Edgar Allan Poe shirt. It wa a nod to my Bachelor’s degree in English, but also a little memento to help me to forever remember this moment.

“We better get going,” I said to Larry when I reunited with him outside of the shop. “It’s getting late and we still need to stop for dinner.”

“Okay, where to?” he asked.

“Up to you,” I said.

“How about Applebees?” he suggested. I never liked Applebees in the past because it was always too loud for me, but with my new bionic ears, I’m more than willing to give them another chance tonight.

“Sounds good.” I said as we walked back to his trusty green truck.

It’s a long way from Galloway to Deptford. I was sure there must have been another Applebees in a closer town to us, but Deptford was all that either of us knew, and we didn’t mind spending some extra time together. It was our first night out in over a month, and with Larry on the road all the time as a truck driver, we knew that opportunities like tonight would be rare and far between in the months to come.

“I have something for you to listen to,” Larry said.

“Hm. What’s that?” I asked.

“Listen.” he said as he pushed play on a Spotify playlist on his phone.

I listened closely for a few seconds before realizing there were no words to the song.

“Instrumental?” I asked.

“Yes.” Larry admitted.

“Drums?” I questioned. I was confident that whatever I was hearing must be drums.

“What? No.” he said.

“I could swear I heard drums.” I said. I knew I was learning sounds, especially for instruments, but I didn’t trust Larry’s words at that moment. A drum was a drum was a drum. This was not a high frequency sound. I knew what a drum was. Or did I?

“Nope. It’s 100% bagpipes.” He said.

“Oh wow. That’s different.” I said. I was impressed that he remembered my love for bagpipes. I WAS Scottish and Irish after all. Bagpipes were what we did.

“Yeah, thought you’d appreciate it. I know you said you wanted them at your wedding when we get married.” He said.

“Yes I do. I always thought they were cool.” I admitted, “they sound beautiful but I could swear I heard drums. It’s weird.”

When we arrived at Applebees, we were quickly seated and a waitress asked us what we wanted to drink. For the first time since we’d started dating, I was able to answer, “Water, please.” without having to look at Larry for clarification. For the first time in years, I didn’t need someone to translate or repeat what the waiter asked because I was able to hear for myself.

The waitress took both of our orders and ran back into the kitchen. “I can hear!” I exclaimed. “I could actually hear the waitress and I can hear you and the TV and I can separate all of the noise and tell what is what.”

“You’re doing amazing,” he said. “I’m impressed.”

The waitress brought out our food and we continued to talk as I glanced up at the football games playing on the TV every couple of minutes and Larry played his Transport Empire game. Usually I yelled at him for playing his game throughout dinner, but tonight I didn’t mind. His stupid game made so much noise, but I never noticed it before. Tonight was the kind of night where even the most annoying sounds were a blessing, because it was all so new and I couldn’t believe not only what I was hearing, but the fact that I was hearing at all.

When we left Applebees and finally arrived back home, it was after 10. This may have seemed late for some people, but not for us. For us our first night together in a world of sound could have gone on forever, and we were in no hurry to watch it end.

Larry parked the car in the back lot, away from all of the houses and other cars so as to not disturb my elderly neighbors who may have been trying to sleep. “Let’s not go inside,” I said.

“Why? Mom asleep?” he asked.

“No…” I admitted. “I just want to talk.”

“About what?” he asked.

“I dunno. Can you sing to me?” I asked.

Larry knew exactly what I was asking for. I was asking for more noise. More sound. More of him and his voice and to experience him in a way that was still foreign to me. I wanted to learn what music REALLY sounded like. I wanted to learn his voice. I wanted this night with just the two of us to last forever.

He put his Spotify playlist on and we listened to each and every song. He moved our seats back so we could cuddle. I rested my head against his chest and felt his heartbeat as he sung along to the radio, holding me as tight as he could. He only stops singing every few minutes to kiss me above my eyes.

When the last song played, it was Brad Paisely’s “She’s Everything” and I could swear he was singing each and every line from the bottom of his heart directly to me.

“She’s a warm conversation that I wouldn’t miss for nothing…She’s a fighter when she’s mad and she’s a lover when she’s loving… And she’s everything I ever wanted and everything I need… I talk about her, I go on and on and on, ‘Cause she’s everything to me…” he sang and I felt exactly like I must have been the girl that Brad Paisley wrote his song about.

“Love you, Angel,” Larry whispered in my ear.

We fell asleep that night in his trusty, beat up green truck under a full night of stars to the sounds of Braid Paisley. Our own version of a Christmas song.

 

 

 


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Image Credits: QuotesGram.com

Hey guys! Merry Christmas Eve Eve! Today is a really special day for me because it’s the 1 year anniversary of being activated on my right ear. Hurrah!

I apologize for the lack of updates. I know I promised you guys back in like August that I’d post on what it’s like to teach with cochlear implants…and now it’s the end of December…sorry! Between working full time at Penn Medicine, teaching 3 times a week at Rowan, and taking two graduate courses towards my MA in Writing, I haven’t had much time for blogging. But the good news is that winter break is finally here giving me a little bit of free time to give you all an update!

Before I begin I just want to apologize ahead of time for any major typos in this post. My laptop is currently on life support and the R, Y, 7, and perhaps some other keys I’ve yet to discover are currently broken. I’m actually using an external keyboard to type most of this. I know I should be less stubborn and give in and buy a new laptop (my current one is about 7 years old, after all) but I just love this one so much I’m not quite ready to part with it (and to be honest I’m waiting to be able to use my leftover loan money for the Spring semester so I can purchase one from the bookstore with boro bucks…).

Well anyway where was I? Oh that’s right…teaching. What it’s like to teach with cochlear implants. As I mentioned in the past, this past fall semester was my first time EVER teaching. I taught a class of 18 (well, it was originally 18, turned into 17 when one of my students withdrew from the class) three times a week…Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. All of my students were freshman taking Intensive College Composition at Rowan University. This was a first-year writing class for Freshman with lower test scores on their SATS that needed an additional day of class each week for extra support.

I am currently in the process of earning my MA in Writing and I have no prior teaching experience. I am able to teach as part of my MA in Writing program through acceptance into the Teaching Experience Program (TEP) at Rowan University. When I first started teaching I was honestly terrified. I think I practiced my first-day lesson about 20,000 times before teaching my first class on Friday, September 2nd.

I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about how my students would react to my cochlear implants at first. Being silver and blue, they definitely stand out and are kind of hard to miss…something I’m proud of. I never wanted to hide my cochlear implants from the world and never tried to hide them on anything. However, I assumed most of my students had never seen cochlear implants, wouldn’t know what they were, and never been around a deaf individual. I felt kind of vulnerable on my first day of class. I wasn’t sure if my students would take me seriously if they knew I was deaf, but at the same time my deafness was something I was proud of and wanted to make known to my class.

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Here is a screenshot from my “First Day of Class” PowerPoint. I probably spent a little too much time talking about myself, but I was so nervous and they were so quiet!

While I did have a mini-lesson on rhetorical analysis for my first class, a majority of the first day was spent introducing myself to my class and going over the syllabus. I used this time to explain to my students about my deafness. It honestly felt kind of awkward. My students were SO QUIET on the first day. It felt a lot like “Bueller…Bueller…Bueller”. They just kind of starred blankly at me. I couldn’t get a feel for their reaction at all. Did they like me? Hate me? Find me and my deafness strange? I couldn’t tell at all. I felt strange talking about it though. I almost felt like I had to apologize for it like “Hey guys, sorry but you ended up with a graduate student who doesn’t really know what she’s doing right now and just so happens is also deaf.” I remember actually telling my students, “FYI…I CAN hear now so don’t think you can whisper and get away with because I will know!”I immediately regretted saying that…

My students probably forgot that I said that last statement immediately after I said it, but for some reason it really stuck with me. I felt like after I said it I HAD to hear my students and that asking them to repeat themselves would be like I was lying on contradicting myself and that it would cause my students to lose trust in me. Unfortunately, my students tend to mumble and speak softly on occasion, and this was especially true on the first day when all of my students were still really shy and fearful and not at all familiar with the college experience (they were freshman, after all). I found myself using coping strategies I used back when I was a camp counselor and couldn’t hear what kids were saying to me…I just smiled and said “Yeah” or something of that sort and moved on. Fortunately, this only happened once or twice on the first day.

As the semester went on my students and I quickly came to know each other and built up a strong sense of trust in each other. I would often tell my students they were like my children and I always meant that. I can’t begin to tell you what these kids meant to me. I wanted nothing more to see them succeed and nothing in the world was more heartbreaking to me than seeing a student who was not living up to their potential. By the third day of class I knew everyone’s names. By the 2nd full week I could give a little bit of biography or backstory on each of my students. I knew I was going to like teaching, but never expected to love it as much as I really did. I realized teaching was one of my biggest passions in life.

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As the semester progressed, I became so comfortable with my students and my deafness in the classroom that I even willingly shared this embarrassing photo with all of my students…

I became more comfortable with my deafness in the classroom as well as time went on. My students never questioned my cochlear implants or my deafness. They seemed intrigued by it, but they were very respectful of me and they didn’t seem to mind having a deaf professor at all. They were very accepting. I tried to use my deafness in my lesson plans wherever appropriate. For example, when introducing my students to the concept of Grit for their second project in which they had to join the conversation of Grit and connect it with their own personal lives, I shared my story of overcoming challenges as a deaf student prior to getting a cochlear implant. I explained how statistically most deaf children can’t read or write and how my initial elementary school tried to label me as being special needs even though I was very intelligent simply because I was deaf. I even shared with my students about how I challenged my senior seminar professor and filed a report against him for discrimination my last semester of undergrad. I used these experiences to show how I had grit – the passion and perseverance to overcome great challenges to succeed. This was one of my favorite lesson plans to teach. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my students more focused or attentive than they were that day. While my students didn’t question anything I told them about my personal story that day, it was clear that I had their full and undivided attention. They were hooked.

I want to use my deafness to inspire my students in my classroom. I want them to see that they can do anything they set their minds to, no matter how difficult it may seem. Whenever someone tells them they can’t do something, I want them to work twice as hard to prove that individual wrong.

I also want to teach my students to be loving and accepting of others and their differences. I want them to see my deafness not as a DIS-ability meaning “not abled”, but rather as meaning “differently abled”. I want them to realize that the deaf can do anything the hearing can do except hear. They can still succeed and have the same opportunities for success in life.

Lastly, as a professor I want to make sure I am giving my students every opportunity I can to see them succeed. I know what challenges I faced as a student not being able to hear in class (I didn’t get my cochlear implants until after I already graduated from undergrad). One way that I do this is by making sure I always air closed captioning on any video I play in class (I use videos when I teach a lot in class). I know it sounds like such a small gesture, but it can make a huge difference when it comes to learning. Remember, just because a student doesn’t come to you and tell you they have a hearing impairment doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Also, reading the captioning in addition to listening to the audio of videos can further help students to retain the information presented in the video and further enhance learning.

My first semester teaching Intensive College Composition I has definitely been a challenge, but it has been such a blessing. I had an amazing class of students who always kept me on my toes and I learned so much from each and every one of my students and I hope that they learned equally as much from me. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to teach them, something that prior to receiving my cochlear implants I never thought would’ve been a possibility. I am so excited to teach again in the spring and to see what my next class has in store for me!


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Image Credits: Matti Frost 

Hey guys! Long time, no talk! I can’t believe I haven’t updated this blog since April! Huge apologies for that — I’ve just been so incredibly busy these past few months – mainly with starting my new jobs! Starting a new job with a cochlear implant can be quite a different experience from back when I started new jobs without the ability to hear. This post will explain why.

First off, a little bit of background information. I left my old job at WebiMax at the end of April. I worked there for about 2 years and 7 or 8 months, so really close to 3 years. When I first started working at WebiMax I did not have my cochlear implants yet, so I relied solely on e-mails and instant messages to communicate. After getting my cochlear implant I saw my roles at WebiMax grow and with my new ability to hear on the phone and to hear audio like in YouTube videos, my usual duties became much easier to perform and I was promoted to Assistant Marketing Manager and later Digital Marketing Manager – SMO. I can’t really discuss why I decided to leave my old job other than to say I knew it was time and I needed a change.

Applying for New Jobs With a Cochlear Implant

I started to apply for a new job quickly after recovering from surgery with my 2nd cochlear implant. I think I got really serious about it in January. When I last counted, I sent out over 100 job applications from January – May. So, my ability to hear combined with my skills and experience didn’t make this process any easier. However, when I did interview for positions, I felt that it always went much smoother and I was a lot less anxious than I was three years prior when I interviewed for jobs before getting my cochlear implant. I think I interviewed with about 3 or 4 companies in person and did 2 or 3 phone interviews (that never went further from that) with different companies. I very rarely had to ask anyone to repeat themselves in these interviews which I think helped me a lot. I think sometimes people would look at me weird for my cochlear implants, but they very rarely asked about them (probably because legally they were afraid they couldn’t). I felt like my phone interviews were clumsy since I still didn’t have strong phone skills yet. I always wanted to try to avoid them, but most people wanted a phone interview before bringing me in, so I just kind of had to deal with it. During my first in-person interview with Penn Medicine, whom I accepted a job offer from (more on that later), I opened up about my cochlear implants to the second interviewer and shared my story and how I was writing a book about it. That’s something I normally didn’t do at interviews, but it felt right since I was interviewing to work with a medical company. The interviewer was very intrigued by my story and this helped me to open up more not just about that experience, but all of my work experiences in general.

 

The first offer…

I accepted my first job offer in the beginning of April to work as an SEO Marketing Strategist. There was a few strange things about working here. First off, I almost didn’t go to the job interview. Becker’s is located in Pennsauken, an area I wasn’t too familiar with – so we got really lost when my dad drove me there and I was frustrated and running late to the interview. I was still waiting to hear from Penn as well,  but the job did sound good. The people were incredibly friendly and I loved their advertisements and the tone they used and the way the company was a family business. I initially had a phone interview with HR which went extremely well and then the in-person interview also went well. However, someone else they interviewed had a bit more experience and they decided to hire her instead of me…

But it didn’t work out with the girl they initially hired, and less than 2 weeks after being told I didn’t get the job, I was contacted again and made an offer which I accepted immediately.

Working for Becker’s was pretty good. The people who work there are all some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Although my time at Becker’s was short, I was able to do many different things. For the first week or two I watched a lot of training videos on Google Analytics and SEO which were provided to us by a marketing partner. These videos were extremely helpful and I didn’t have to worry at all about whether or not they had caption because I could hear them perfectly with no issues.

One thing I had a hard time getting used to or adjusting to was that they didn’t use instant messaging like WebiMax did…everyone had a phone and they  called each other if they needed something. My phone used to give me really bad anxiety. I was always afraid  my boss would try to call  me and I wouldn’t hear it and he’d think I was ignoring him and I’d get in trouble. Sometimes I’d hear one of my co-workers phones go off and think it was mine and try to answer my phone only to realize it wasn’t ever ringing. I had a hard time deciphering between my phone ringing and my co-worker’s phone ringing. Once I even had a panic attack and emailed my boss saying “Hey I’m not ignoring you if you call me and I don’t answer, I just have trouble hearing it”. He was always very understanding.

My co-worker/office mate and I had cubicles right across from each other with a giant wall in between, so sometimes she’d try to talk to me through the wall even though we couldn’t see each other. This was great because I could hear her with no problem – something I never could’ve done prior to getting a cochlear implant. However, sometimes she’d be talking to someone else or on the phone and I’d mess up and answer her because I thought she was talking to me. I had a hard time knowing who she was talking to or when someone was talking to me. When someone was on the phone near me with a client I would also struggle to focus on my work. I’d hear their whole conversation and focus on that instead. Sometimes I wanted to take my cochlears off so I wouldn’t be distracted, but I was afraid that would make me look rude or that I’d end up missing something important when someone did need to talk to me.

In the short couple of months that I worked at Becker’s I was able to join in many meetings with vendors which was always neat. I loved seeing the new products they had to offer us and the people were usually very nice. I also met with some designers and other partners. Once we even took them out to lunch with us. I never had to ask anyone to repeat themselves and I could always hear everything – even when we talked in the restaurant which was kind of dark.

I was much more relaxed working at Becker’s probably than I was working at any other job I’ve ever had. I didn’t have to focus so hard to hear what people were saying. I could perform my job and hear everything just like everyone else.

I left my job at Becker’s in July. It was a very difficult decision to make, but The job at Penn was more in line with my career goals and interests and paid more, plus it would work better with my school schedule when I went back for my MA and taught in the fall.

 

Transitioning to Penn Medicine

While it was hard for me to leave my job at Becker’s and a bit of a risk (it was a great job with great people and they had to fill the position ASAP, so if things didn’t work out, there would be no turning back), I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing. SEO was a small part of what I do. The large part of what I do is writing and social media, which I didn’t have the opportunity to do at Becker’s, but it would be my main responsibilities at Penn.

After an offer was made which I gladly accepted after months of working out fine details and waiting, I had a lot of phone calls to make with many different people including my boss, human resources, and the people conducting my background check. Many of these phone calls took place in the car on my way home from working at Becker’s as I finished my  final two weeks. Despite the noise of the busy highways and traffic, I never struggled to hear anyone. This was a major accomplishment for me.

Before my first day on the job, I had to attend an all day orientation where there was probably 50 people or more in attendance. I had to do many group activities and ice breaker activities. In the past these would always be really difficult for me to participate in because I’d struggle to hear the person in charge of orientation and all of the people in the group. This was also taken place in a very large conference room where sometimes people speaking would be more than 50 feet away from me, but I could still hear every single word everyone said. It made it so I didn’t feel nervous or anxious at all.

I’ve now been at Penn for slightly more than 2 months and it has been a very fast paced but exciting journey. I know that I definitely made the right decision to leave Becker’s and take on this position. I am so happy where I’m at. I am still afraid of the phone, but it doesn’t matter too much. I’ve only had to use it for Sprinklr trainings and to call in for meetings, but that doesn’t happen too often. We usually just communicate through IM, e-mail, or in person.

I help out a lot with YouTube marketing. I watch the videos and update the titles and descriptions to be more SEO-friendly. I never have to worry about having someone else watch them for me and tell me what they’re about like I used to do when I worked as a social media marketer for WebiMax prior to getting my cochlear implants.

I am confident in my new role and feel really comfortable talking with my boss and my co-workers. I don’t get as anxious as I did at some jobs in the past. Sometimes I felt like my hearing held me back when I worked at WebiMax. Not holding me back career-wise, of course (I was promoted numerous times), but until I got my cochlear implant, I worked for over a year or 2 without being able to hear my co-workers and effectively communicate with them in-person which made me feel like I never knew what was going on and like I never got to know my co-workers too well or befriend them. When I finally did get my cochlear implants, it was like the friendship shipped have sailed – I mean they were people I’ve already know for a long time, just never got to really KNOW and it seemed like it was too late.

I get along really well with my new coworkers. I can be a very serious person and I’m a bit of a workaholic, but I have fun with them sometimes, too. Once in awhile I go out to lunch with one or more of them or go on a run for frozen yogurt or fruit smoothies or just Dunkin Donuts. It’s easier to make friends with them and to talk with them because I don’t have to ask them to repeat themselves a million in one times. I can pretty much always hear them and follow them.

I’ve also been enjoying working in Philly. There’s so many sounds that I am constantly exploring in this busy city. Everyday I’m made more aware of the wonderful gift the Lord has bestowed on me when he granted me my hearing. Commuting to and from work like I do now wouldn’t have been possible before. Every morning I have to buy my patco ticket, septa tokens, and listen to the overhead telling me where I’m at and when I’m at my stop. I order food from food trucks, nearby restaurants, and dunkin and never have any problems (septa being the exception…but my problems aren’t due to my hearing impairment, but that’s another story).

I think having my cochlears has definitely helped to open this door for me and aided in the success I’ve had so far. I’m excited to see where this takes me in the years to come.

What’s Next: Teaching.

Becker’s and now Penn are just the beginning.

Next stop? Teaching. This is so exciting for me. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was about 11 or 12 and worked for a summer camp, but I never thought it was a possibility. How could I possibly teach a class when I wouldn’t be able to hear my students and address their concerns and answer any of their questions? Even after receiving my cochlears, it didn’t seem possible. I couldn’t teach elementary school because that would mean going back to school to get teaching certification which would involve student teaching. Student teaching naturally takes place in the day, so I wouldn’t be able to keep my job and student teach. I couldn’t afford to give up my job. I also couldn’t become a professor and teach college level because I’d need to get an MA for that, something I couldn’t afford.

Or so I thought.

In March, I received an email from the Department of Writing Arts at Rowan about the TEP (Teaching Experience Program) available for select MA in Writing Students. Through this program I’d be able to teach as an adjunct professor (and get paid for it) while working towards my MA in Writing. My dream of becoming a teacher was suddenly a very real reality for me. I truly felt like God was calling me to do  this.

Long story short, I applied and was accepted.

I attended orientation for the TEP program a month ago for three days. It felt so good to be back on campus again. I got emotional walking past and listening to some of the sermons going on early in the morning before orientation began because it was the first time ever I could actually really hear them.

Orientation went very well and was so much fun. It was my first time ever being in class and being able to hear  both the professor and the students in the class. I felt so much more relaxed and less anxious. I got to know my classmates pretty well already and felt very comfortable and open, something I never felt before in the classroom.

I teach my first class on September 2nd and have classes later that week. I’m both excited and completely terrified to begin this next chapter in my life and to experience life as not just a student, but a graduate level student with bilateral cochlear implants.

Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for a post on what it’s like to be a teacher and a student with cochlear implants!