I drove by a childcare center the other day, memories roiled up in my mind and brought back my first experience with discrimination.
It was my 16th birthday. I was thrilled to finally be old enough to go out and get a part-time job. I loved working with children, so my goal was to work at a daycare center.
I felt extremely nervous when I walked into my first prospective place of employment. The smell of sweaty, playful kids flooded my nose as I asked to speak with the manager. A friendly employee lead me to an office and asked me to wait while she located the boss.
After a few moments, a woman came in, barely making eye contact with me, and began speaking quickly as she dug through her file cabinet looking for an employment application. I interrupted her as kindly as possible and explained that I am not able to hear well and needed to read her lips when she spoke. Her body tense up as she stopped digging and turned to look at me for the first time. She examined me closely, spending extra time on my ears, then asked “if you cannot hear, how can you take care of children?“.
I still haven’t forgotten the shock and pain that coursed through my body when I heard those words. I quickly composed myself and gently explained that my other senses worked extra well and that being the oldest of 6 children, I was quite capable of caring for youngsters (oh if I could only have had the nerve to say what I REALLY wanted to say…). Awkward silence followed my words as she eyed me skeptically, unconvinced. She then asked “are you available to come in the evenings, after the children go home to clean the bathrooms?”
Rest assured, I declined the job proposal. I would love to go back there and show her a picture of my 5 beautiful, healthy bilingual children.
Today is my one week milestone since having my cochlear implant activated, and I have to say that silence is bliss. The noise and confusion is crushing. Not to say that I haven’t experienced some touching discoveries and moments of celebration, but at this point I will say that the frustration definitely outweighs the blessings. If I ever knew it, I had forgotten the world is so loud and noisy. I had no idea that I am so noisy!
I keep hearing this sound that NEVER goes away, no matter how quite the environment is. Honestly, it seems to get louder as my surroundings get quieter.. I thought it was something wrong with my implant or processor, imagine my surprise when I finally realized that what I was hearing was my own breathing… I never would have thought.
Another shocking discovery: how loud I am at meal times. I have to turn my implant off to eat! I sent out an apology to my family and friends and thanked them for all these years they have put up with my crunching and smacking. That is unconditional love at it’s finest. I was also blown away with how much noise I make when I walk! (Maybe I need to see a podiatrist or something.)
Another discovery: clocks make a sound when the hands move. And credit card machine buttons beep when you push on them! The first time I turned on a water faucet, I must have jumped at least a foot into the air! I can finally hear my turn signal clicking when I forget to turn it off after a lane change. I used to love rolling down the windows when I drove, but now the volume just overwhelms me.
Some of my favorite new sounds are kisses and nail clippers! My little guy must be getting so tired of all my kisses, what a delightful sound!
I am pushing forward. This journey is certainly not for the faint of heart.
I am going to be honest, everything sounds TERRIBLE!!! My brain is constantly being bombarded by pings, beeps, squeaks and chirps. Everyone around me sounds like aliens, yet they look at me expectantly, like I am supposed to understand this foreign code. I cannot hear ANY of my comfortable low sounds. I am very, very thankful that I was warned before activation that things would sound like this, otherwise I would be feeling deeply disappointed. Crowded, noisy places make me feel like grabbing my head and dropping to the ground. By the end of the day, my brain seriously HURTS. I want to take my processor out SO bad, but I know that in order for things to start making sense, I gotta push through the terrible noise. Even in what seems like a quiet room, there are so many sounds. I do not know what the sounds are though, so I cannot make sense of them. I am not giving up! I know that eventually I WILL make sense of all this! Onward..