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?

The Flip Side

Earpluggers! We have survived. I’m not going to say it was the smoothest ride ever — there were some casualties to be had, for sure. Nonetheless, we have arrived at our desired destination: “the flip side.”

Ah yes, winter break.

Three and a half-ish weeks of glorious freedom filled with Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years, and other winter holidays galore.

This year’s winter break is perhaps one of the most exciting for me. The parental unit had prepared three separate surprise trips for my sister and I, and at the time of writing this, we have just returned back from our first surprise trip. Drum roll, please.

It was an overnight stay at DISNEYLAND and CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE.

This was me the whole way there: 

(yes, I am 19).

I love Disneyland as much as the next person. Wait, that is a lie. I love Disneyland probably a little more than the next person because my love for Disneyland is somewhat unhealthy. However, trips to Disneyland are no walk in the park (pun totally intended).

My go-to move when heading to amusement parks is to use wig tape to securely fasten my cochlear to my head. Now, I know Disneyland isn’t exactly known for its fast rides, but I always veer on the side of caution because you never know what will happen on those rides! The wig tape ensures that even when/if the magnet falls off, the cochlear will remain attached to me. I don’t tend to need wig tape on my hearing aid, particularly because of the hearing aid mold that secures the device to my ear. Now, there is no excuse for us not to ride the big roller coasters, unless of course, you’re scared?

The issue of background noise, though, is one that is not particularly solvable. But, ever since I received my cochlear implant, my experiences in amusement parks has drastically improved. I no longer have to do this awkward sideways-twisty walk to ensure that I have a visual on the whoever is speaking while we’re weaving through the crowds. With the implant, I am able to pick up speech simply by being in the immediate vicinity of the source of sound (just like everyone else).

Hearing the music and voiceovers on rides is also a relatively new experience for me. It all makes so much sense now! I could hear the creepy dude in the Haunted Mansion, I could hear all the lyrics to It’s a Small World and the yo-ho yo-ho it’s a pirate’s life for me songs. Most importantly, I have recently become aware of the fact that a lot of announcements made in the parks are made in English and Spanish, so back when it all sounded like another language to me, 50% of it actually was!

One thing I have not figured out how to crack is how to wear those cute little Mickey Mouse ears without displacing my implant. Somebody, anybody — if you have figured it out, how? HOW??

Okay. Well, I better get off the internet and go back to enjoying the Flip Side. And I better get to packing. Surprise Trip #2 is happening at some undisclosed point in the foreseeable future at some undisclosed location. My whereabouts will be entirely unknown until I am whereabout I will be.

If you don’t hear from me, send help. Please.