Life’s Good.

Ooookay. HI EVERYONE! I’m back, I am sorry for the unexpected hiatus. Life has been crazy with a capital K lately. Spring semester is picking up steam and all aspects of my life that I once considered so normal and second nature before winter break are slowwwly becoming familiar again. It’s amazing what some apple cider, tons of sugary desserts, and presents can do to your memory of how to be a independent student. Really amazing.

Anyways. Where do I even start? SO many things have gone down in the past two weeks.

I guess I’ll start by addressing academics and hearing impairment and what that means for me.

Before every semester starts, I like to give all of my professors a heads up that I’m coming their way this semester. I shoot off a brief but explanatory email about my impairment, what it means to them, what it means to me, and I reiterate that I am a highly, if not fully, functioning student that is looking forward to the semester. The usual. What I think is most important about these introductory emails is that they know that I take full and complete responsibility for my hearing. I ask for repeated clarification if I missed something, I go to office hours. I sit in the front. The whole enchilada. What I think is also important is that they see my enthusiasm for learning. They see that I am an ambitious student that isn’t going to hide behind the hearing loss if things do not go well.

If I have learned anything in my 15 years of education, it is that teachers WANT TO HELP. Even when it appears that they don’t, more often than not, that is derived from a general misunderstanding about what hearing impairment is and the extent to which hearing impairments affect students like me. I have learned to be upfront, open, and clear about my disability. When I remove the mystery from my disability, it is like a lightbulb goes off in the professor/teacher’s head. Like I said in an earlier blog post, everyone has something. When I share with my teachers my something, they think of their own something and they understand how these somethings can be an obstacle. They understand, period. It was just about the coolest thing ever when I emailed a professor last semester, and he came back with a response almost immediately about how he had a speech impediment and how he was able to succeed, and how he has faith in my ability to succeed. Little things like that really make or break the difference in my academic experience.

Another thing I would recommend to all hearing impaired people out there is to REGISTER with your school’s disability services and programs office. There are various names at different schools across the country but they all variate on the terms disability, service, office, programs. Do a google search. Just do it. Even if you don’t register with them, you know exactly where you can find an entire office full of people on campus whose jobs consist of supporting you throughout your time at school.

With these two pieces of advice aside, let’s talk fun.

I am involved in two groups on campus that give me an incredible sense of belonging. The first of those groups is the Wellness Advocate group. We are student volunteers hand selected by the professional staff at the USC Office for Wellness and Health Promotion (which is run out of our student health center). Because we operate on a calendar year, a whole new class of Wellness Advocates have just been added to our tight knit family. We had two days of training this Friday and Saturday. Though these training sessions were long, they were filled with support, love, enthusiasm, excitement, of course, new friendships. My love for my fellow Wellness Advocates, old and new, simply cannot be put into words. I feel like I have known these people forever. As you can probably see, I am still riding on that high from training. What were we training for, you may ask? As WAs (as we call ourselves), we provide 3 workshops of Mindful Meditation, Mindful Movement, and Mindful Sex (a peer-led consent workshop — sorry, it’s not quite what it sounds like). Each workshop is unique and different, and they take a while to master. Thus, our training consisted of everyone really stepping up to the plate and delivering their true, open selves in the name of wellbeing and health promotion here at USC. I am continually amazed at the depth of ideas, backgrounds, and knowledge that my fellow WAs present and I am SO honored to be a part of the program.

The second group that I am involved in ties in a little more closely with this blog, and I believe I mentioned this group earlier. It is actually a registered nonprofit group here in California, but it all started with the student-run club component that I am involved in. It is called Ending All Roads to Silence (acronym: EARS. How cute? So cute). This Saturday night we are putting on our annual benefit concert and guess who was in charge of organizing the whole shebang? Yours truly. Not only did I need to reserve the location the minute school started in AUGUST for January, but I also needed to set up the artists that wanted to perform, procure some goodies for our raffle, and coordinate for a special limited edition milkshake to be sold during the week of the concert on behalf of our club. I should probably mention, I had NEVER done anything like this before!

In fact, I was never really involved in extracurriculars to the extent that I am now. I think a lot of that has to do with growing up and understanding how to be a good student and a good citizen. But I also think a lot of it has to do with confidence. I know I have said this a million times, so get ready to count a million and one: I feel that this confidence came from my cochlear implant. I am not afraid to make phone calls and make things happen in the way I was so afraid of doing earlier. I was worried that if I shouldered too much responsibility, my disability would cause me to trip up and fall down, with the responsibility tumbling down after me. Nowadays, I feel very different. Mistakes are human nature. If they are made, you fix it. Be as clear about your disability as possible, put on your big girl pants, and GO DO. Suffice to say, my hearing impairment has not caused ANY issues in either EARS or WAs. What’s more, I am looking to get even MORE involved! I feel I have so much to give, and I’ve got a couple of missed years of involvement, so I am simply itching to get my hands even dirtier. That sounded much better in my head and ten times worse in text than it did out loud, but you get my flow.

So that’s all I have for you today. I know, “ALL? That was long.” I know. Sorry. I just love sharing. Life’s good, ya know?


So You Think You Can’t Dance?

Hello Earpluggers!

This past Tuesday, I finally finally finally got to do an activity I haven’t done in two years.

What is it?


Don’t get me wrong, I have danced at parties and shimmied around my room just as much, if not more than the next person. But what I have been itching to do is really dance. Dance like triple pirouette calypso roll to the ground bruised knees, sore body type dance. The kind I did in high school.

But wait! You exclaim. Dance? Aren’t you deaf?

Well sure, I reply, but what of it?

From an outsider’s perspective, I can see how this is a little bit oxymoronic. A deaf dancer? A blind painter? A paralyzed athlete? These types of people are not so common, but they DO exist. I can’t speak for the painter or the athlete (is dance a sport, though? Let’s save that can of worms for another day), I can certainly speak for myself, and here’s what I’ve got to say about this.

There are things a person CAN do, and things a person WON’T do. You’ll notice instead of saying “can’t” I said “won’t.” You may see where this is going.

Perhaps we can chalk this attitude up to a series of dance teachers who pushed me during every class and every private lesson to perform feats of dance with my own body I never before thought possible. Perhaps it is my disability, teaching me resilience. Either way, I feel that there is nothing a person cannot do if they really, truly, completely set their mind to it. I once heard the saying “if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

For me, there was a will. Granted, my first love was soccer. Then it was horseback riding. But once I realized that what I truly loved to do was groove to a great beat, I enrolled in dance classes.

But how? You may ask, still confused.

Here’s how. Prior to my implant, I really could not hear much when it came to music. I relied on the heavy downbeats and vibration of the bass in the floor to keep me on cue. I also would double, triple memorize the eight counts, and often times, those counts were the only thing I had to go off of. Accents in the music were all but lost on me.

It was hard, but it was doable. I found a way to pursue my passion without being held back by any disability.

Since my cochlear implant, my ability to hear music has made leaps and strides (pun SO intended), and my love for dance only grew. Now, I can hear accents in the music, lyrics, bass, downbeat, upbeat, sidebeat — well you get the point. If for some reason I don’t hear it, if someone points it out to me, I will pick up on it.

In fact, my biggest problem isn’t so much hearing the music as it is keeping the implant on my head. The force of a piroutte (turn) or a head roll is enough to send my implant flying across the room. Again, I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I used double sided wig tape to secure the implant to my head, I wore an ear mold to anchor it to my ear, and I used a giant hair clip to fasten the magnet to my hair. It is complicated and it is slightly insane, but it works! With this crazy solution making, I was able to dance on my high school’s song team (also known as a pom dance team at other schools). I got to perform at basketball and football games, pep rallies, shows, open houses, and more. I loved every single second of it.

Sure, I had a disability that would seem, at first glance, to prevent me from participating in one of my absolute favorite activities, but the truth is, I knew that there was no way my heart and soul could be kept off a dance floor — and I acted accordingly. I believe that if anyone is compelled to, drawn to, lead to, dragged to any particular activity, no matter how crazy or far fetched it seems to that person, anything is possible. It takes guts, blood, sweat, tears, confidence, humbleness, resilience, perseverance, and more. I didn’t say success is a given, I said it was possible.

And possible, my friends, is where you start.

Curious to see what I look like when I dance? Can you guess which one I am? Check out this link. Then, come back to this page and scroll down for the answer. Also, thanks to my Song friend Sarah McVickar (who also appears in this video with me) for getting me to an empty dance room, and to Travell Johnson for some kick ass choreography.

(I’m the one in pink).

It’s Not Easy Being Easy

Calm yourselves, Earpluggers. This post has nothing to do with promiscuity.

This post has to do with confidence.

Just last night I was spending time with a friend’s family and the topic of this very blog came up. They commented on my candidness and how it was so amazing that I was willing to invite everyone and their uncle to learn about me and my story, particularly since it is a story that so many would hide.

At first I brushed it off. Whatever guys, aw shucks. It’s no big, it is what it is, I’m just being me.

But you know what? It’s not whatever. It’s not easy sharing this with everyone. Those of you who have come to know me through my blog have experienced an entirely different Shayna than those of you who have known me in person. In person, my hearing impairment doesn’t come up until later. At first I thought I did that because I was shy. Now, I realize I do things the way I do because I want people to know me for who I am before they know what I am. There is a huge difference between being shaped by my hearing impairment and being defined by my hearing impairment.

I take on the attitude that I have been shaped by my hearing impairment. My impairment has allowed me to mature and face adversity from a very early age. It is the reason for some of my favorite personality attributes — resilience, easy-goingness (that’s so not a word), and empathy. It has allowed me to develop a sense of humor, which I think is so essential for getting through the rough days. But most of all, my hearing impairment taught me to bring my guard down.

The truth is that everyone has something. Some people can’t walk, others can’t talk. Some people can’t see. Some people don’t have arms, or fingers. Then there are people who have “somethings” that aren’t so visible to the naked eye: mental disability, addictions, diseases, unstable family relationships . . . the list is endless. No matter the specific “something” you have, everyone else has their own unique “something.”We all have our flaws and these flaws make us human, but I think they also make us who we are. They shape us. I made this blog to try to show that they don’t necessarily define us. My hearing impairment has taught me that.

My “something” — my disability — is pretty hidden in our society. No one really knows how to react when I share my disability with them. The truth is that you don’t need to have a reaction. I am still as normal as they come. My hearing impairment is a part of who I am, but it is not all of who I am. If I were to let my hearing impairment define me, I would have aimed much lower. I would have cut myself a lot of slack. Maybe I wouldn’t have attempted honors and AP classes, maybe I would have gone to a different college. But I didn’t do that (thanks mom and dad for helping me push myself). I said, “okay. So I have this thing. Moving on.”

You can either let your “something” pull you down, or you can use your “something” to lift you up. I chose, I choose, and I will try to continue to choose, to let it lift me up.

My desire to share this outlook on life with you outweighs my urge to run in my bedroom, slam the door shut, hide under a pillow, and pretend that my impairment isn’t there. Even knowing all these things that I have gone on and on about in this post (about how everyone has “something”), I still have those moments before I blog where I think, “do I want everyone to know this?” These moments of self doubt explain my previous lackadaisical track record for inconsistent blogging. Yet . . . I came back, because every time I did ask myself that question, the answer was always yes, I do want people to know this. If it is at my own sake, then so be it. Better that I do it at my own sake than somebody else do it for me.

So, if you are still reading this (congratulations, you are amazing) — I just wanted you to know this: it isn’t easy for me to share my most vulnerable component of who I am with you, but I just really wanted you to know what hearing impairment is, what it means to me, and what it means to you. I wanted you to know how I used my impairment to get to where I am today if not to inspire you, then at least to entertain you for a while. After all, someone’s got to do it.

So . . . hello.