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?

Dance.

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.

https://vimeo.com/116429635

(I’m the one in pink).

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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.