It takes 9 months for a baby to be born. Coincidently, 9 months lapsed before I was able to hear again. Like a baby, I felt useless because the basic things I needed to be taught again. What I knew prior to hearing again was non-existent to me. It was like being reborn at the age of 7. The beauty of this was that, like a baby, I possessed raw potential just waiting to be discovered.
All I ever wanted was to fit in with the other kids. No one else had a hearing aid, and the one I had was so clearly visible. I had to endure my fair share of finger pointing and glaring eyes. Today I am able to understand that a child has a very curious mind, but I was a child myself then. Their curiosity reminded me that I am not “one of them”. Consequences might not be very well understood by children, but rejection they can comprehend in an instant. For this reason I never wanted to leave my mother’s side. I would take my hearing aid off to seem normal and fit in. That did not last long because fitting in meant not being able to hear, and I wanted to hear. Fitting in with the crowd can block the blessings specifically meant for you.
School was the best part of my life. It was the only place, apart from home, where I felt accepted and felt I had purpose. I was everyone’s deaf friend. In order to make life easier for myself, I knew I would need to depend on those around me for certain things. I still do. It was then that l learned something that has since formed part of my character – always treat people with kindness and compassion. I needed to make a decision that I’m not going to let the absence of hearing stop me from enjoying myself and doing what it is my heart burns for. In primary school I did all the sports I could lay my hands on. I excelled at athletics and always had a late start when it came to swimming. I’d only jump in the pool when I could see the smoke from the starting gun after it has fired. I played the piano and violin despite being tone-deaf. Rugby proved to be the turning point in my life. I was allowed to play rugby for a few months in grade 4, with the hearing aid on. I was heartbroken when I had to stop because rugby was all I ever cared about. Seven years of begging worked only when I made the decision to play without the hearing aid, 100% deaf, and when I told my parents I would stop if I don’t make the 1st team. On the day of my first match in 2011, I came on as a reserve for the 1st team and since then started every game for the Union High School 1st XV until the end of my school career. I’ve learned that sometimes the only limits that exists are the ones we create.
When the time for university came, I knew it would be a difficult transition. I didn’t want to go from a place where it took me long enough to feel I belong, to a place where it will be the “finger pointing” and “eyes glaring” all over again. The transition was indeed difficult, but not for the reason I anticipated. School was able to make me forget at times that I’m deaf or walk around with a hearing aid. University always found a way of reminding me. Extra hearing devices are needed in order to hear in lectures, and there is only so much they can do. When the hearing aid acts up it would take days to get it fixed, but the clock has never stopped ticking. The pressure builds up because this is your future that’s at stake. My parents won’t be around forever and I know well my hearing comes at a cost.
When I think about this, I realise that I am lucky enough to even have had a Cochlear implant. But there are thousands who are deaf and can’t afford a Cochlea implant. I never had the opportunity to learn sign language because it was only months before I could hear again. There are those who have been deaf for a great amount of time but still don’t have the opportunity to learn sign language. There are those who have burning desires, wishing it would burn through the circumstances created by deafness. There are potential that needs nurturing to grow, but deafness seems to be the spoiled soil hindering that. There are fingers pointed at the ears of the young ones with hearing disabilities who are discouraged because the fingers are pointed right past the greatness they possess. Then there are those who only long for communication, acceptance and love.