Finding a career with hearing loss wasn’t always a straight path. There was another thing I considered: Journalism. A two-year stint on the high school newspaper, however, put terror in my heart. I missed out on chunks of information and couldn’t accurately quote the folks I was interviewing. I was sent out to report on the volleyball team and came back with literally nothing.
Then I was sent to a school meeting where my eyes played ping-pong with the conversations that flowed too rapidly for me to follow. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the meeting minutes and turned in a perfect article, but I decided that a career in journalism wasn’t for me; I couldn’t handle the heart palpations that resulted from the communication difficulties.
Further career exploration pointed me down the counseling path. I loved helping people and counseling seemed like a natural fit. Unfortunately, my heart wasn’t totally singing as I traipsed down the rehabilitation-counseling path, toward a government job pushing paperwork. I attempted to quit college three times, but a best friend kept me motivated until I could get the M.A. behind my name.
In the midst of this whole journey, and after tripping over a wake while barefoot water skiing as a teen, I went from hard of hearing to deaf. Little did I know, becoming deaf would turn out to be the biggest blessing of my life. I was introduced to deaf and hard-of-hearing people from all over, and my world opened up.
On my first job after college, I met a nurse at the local hospital. She worked in surgery and she was hard of hearing. Then I met deaf and hard-of-hearing doctors, vets, pharmacists, dentists, and more nurses; there were deaf and hard-of-hearing engineers, CEO’s, business owners, photographers, journalists, writers, pilots, race car drivers, professional athletes, musicians, firefighters, and policemen. The list didn’t stop.
“There will always be someone who has to be first. Someone has to blaze the way. Maybe it will be you. Or your child. Or a student you work with.”
If you look hard enough, you’ll likely find a deaf or hard-of-hearing person in just about every area of life. They’re out there breaking the barriers, chasing their passions, working in various occupations, building their career with hearing loss.
Let me tell you about a defining moment I experienced with a parent at one of my presentations a few years back. The parent stood up in the audience and shared a conversation that she’d had with her 5-year-old, who expressed a desire to become a firefighter when he grew up. The mom started to choke up. “I know there are some things he can’t do because of his hearing loss,” she said. Tears welled up in her eyes.
But I had news for that mom. I knew a volunteer firefighter from out east and, just a couple of towns over from where she lived, there was a full-time firefighter. Both of them deaf. The expression on her face: Priceless. Suddenly, the whole outlook for her child had changed.
There’s another lesson that I share with others: There will always be someone who has to be first. Someone has to blaze the way. Maybe it will be you. Or your child. Or a student you work with.
If you have a passion that burns deep inside of you, don’t hold back. Being deaf or hard of hearing means doing things differently, but it doesn’t mean you can’t pursue something you love to do. You will have to be innovative; you will have to be persistent; and you will have to step out of your comfort zone time and time again to accomplish whatever it is that fires you up inside.
Read more: Traveling with hearing loss
When I first went back to barefoot water skiing, I was both scared and excited. I was very much out of shape and overweight, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to communicate in a boat filled with people. To top it off, I was going back to a sport that had caused me to go from hard of hearing to deaf, due to a very rare gene in my family. There was some risk of losing the last bit of hearing I could utilize with hearing aids. In the two years of being back in the sport, however, I’ve discovered that passion outweighs everything; the world opens up when you follow your passion.
I’m raising three deaf and hard-of-hearing kids who are growing up in a world much different from my own when I was younger. They wear their hearing aids with pride and they don’t hide them. They can communicate with pretty much everyone in a variety of ways. They’re savvy with social media and technology, making connections with friends from all over. Most importantly, they’re growing up with deaf and hard-of-hearing people who are out there living their passions, loving their work, and accomplishing great things. They know there are no limits to what they can do.
I have a quote on the back of my business card, a quote (source unknown) that embodies the way I live my life: “When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible.”