They Think I CANT. I Know I CAN.
By: Amanda McDonough (Deaf Advocate, Motivational Speaker, and Author of “Ready to be Heard”)
Like most children, when I was born my parents told me I could become anything I wanted to be. After I was diagnosed with hearing loss, at four years old, I started hearing the word “can’t” a lot. It came from doctors, teacher, adults, kids, family members, and family friends. All of a sudden, the world’s expectations of what I could achieve with my life had decreased seemingly overnight. People seemed to believe that having “hearing loss” had somehow lowered my drive, intelligence, and ability to learn. At first, I believed them. I thought of myself as lesser than my peers. My self-esteem dropped. The social kid I once was started retracting into her self a little bit more with each missed sentence, each confused smile, and each uttering of the word “what?” as I failed again and again to keep up in conversations with my peers.
Every six months, my mother would take me back to the audiologist, who would lead me into that tiny grey metal box of a room and shut me in for my hearing tests. A room that felt more like a prison than anything. Over and over again I would take the same tests, repeat the same words “airplane, baseball, hot dog…” as they faded into oblivion, and chase the impossible beeps with my finger on a buzzer. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how hard I “studied,” each time I failed. I hated the feeling of “failing” more than anything. So, even though I had no control over how well I did in that little grey room, I realized I had 100% control over how I reacted to it, and how I behaved and viewed the world outside of that room. In that moment, I decided to stop being the “victim” of my story and become the “hero.”
I knew in my heart that being hard of hearing didn’t completely define who I was, what I was interested in, or what I was passionate about. Being hard of hearing was something about me, just like having brown hair is something about me. It was a contributing factor to my personality but didn’t need to define every decision and moment of my life.
I started dedicating myself more to my studies. I realized that if I kept the teacher on my “good hearing side,” studied, payed attention in class, asked questions, and read the material I could get A’s. Sure, it looked easier for everyone else, but each “A” on my report card made me feel more powerful and more in control of my own life and destiny. It wasn’t easy, this was back in the early 1990’s when parents of children with hearing loss didn’t have the resources, support, and information they do now. My parents were on their own. Therefore, I didn’t have full access to the language and information being taught to me in my mainstream school, but I had an unstoppable work ethic and had banished any memory or thoughts of the word “can’t” from my mind. I knew “I CAN.”
I ended up becoming a straight A student. Even as my hearing continued to decrease as I grew older, the work ethic I developed as a kid kept my grades and my resolve strong. I had less than 50% of the hearing left in each of my ears in high school and I still managed to graduate 8th in my class.
In college, I finally lost the last of my usable hearing and became undeniably physically deaf. Even though I wasn’t emotionally ready to accept my deafness, I still kept working towards my goal of graduating from college. I obtained real-time captioners in my classes, attended tutoring, and put in hours of work into even my easiest classes.
By 2012, I was 100% deaf in both ears as I walked down the aisle with my head held high during my college graduation to receive the two college degrees I had finished in four short years with a 3.15 GPA.
All because I knew I CAN.
The moral of my story: Never let others tell you what you are capable of. You get to decide your own path. You get to be the hero of your own story. No matter what your obstacles are in life, you CAN.
For more information on Amanda: Ready to Be Heard