So I’m the new girl on the block. I’ve only been going to HLAA-KC meetings since January. And then I took a hiatus to tend to bridesmaid duties over the summer. And if I had to be honest, there were a couple of meetings that I was just too shy to go to. But this fall has seen me a little more active with the chapter, and now I’m wondering what took me so long to come around… but I’m so glad I did!
I lost my hearing when I was four years old and even though my childhood was spent among interpreters, deaf education teachers and a few deaf and hard and hearing peers, the majority of my growing up years was spent in the hearing world. My sign language grew rusty and I found myself in that awkward place between D/deaf and hearing. I couldn’t claim either as my home and even something as simple as asking someone to repeat themselves or requesting accommodations in my college classes felt like a monumental task. I didn’t consider myself culturally Deaf but I didn’t know how to be hard of hearing among the hearing, either.
Fast forward a few years, to my mid-twenties. I had finally started coming to terms with my hearing loss and wanted to meet other people who would, I hope, get it. A friend told me about HLAA and encouraged me to go to one of their meetings. The first couple of meetings went smoothly, if uneventfully. Introverted as I am, it was a big deal for me just to walk into the room and even then, I would mostly sit, listen (and read – yay for CART!) to the speaker, chat with people for a few minutes and leave. But I grew just a little bit braver with each visit. I wasn’t afraid to ask for repetition – because everyone else was doing the same thing. I could read the CART text. Or I could read lips. Or write notes. Or sign… kind of. And I noticed that the tension – of asking, “What?” over and over again, of bluffing my way through conversations, of trying desperately to fill in the communication gaps – had dissolved. The playing field had been leveled; I was no longer the only one wandering in this no man’s land of hearing loss.
As I look back over the last few months with HLAA, of making new friends and learning about new technology and thinking about how to be a more effective communicator, one word comes to mind: Relief. It is a relief to be with people who understand the struggle of not belonging to any one world, of not being Deaf or hearing. Who make communicating easy and not burdensome. Who get it. Here, I belong.
On that note, we’d love to get to know you and talk to you about HLAA. I wanted to invite you to our lunch social this Saturday, Oct. 16, at noon at Fronteras Mexican Restaurant – 13415 S. Blackbob Rd., Olathe, KS. This is definitely one gathering I will not be missing (they had me at “Mexican!” ;-)) and I hope we’ll see you there!