As we already know…. I am hearing impaired and I have lived in two different communities. I have had the opportunity to be part of two worlds, the deaf world and the hearing world. During the summer of 2010, I got the chance to experience something remarkable, an experience that has changed my perspective on life. I had the opportunity to try out for the women’s USA deaf Olympic soccer team. The tryouts were at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. I traveled there alone and roomed with twenty girls, with different levels of hearing disability. Some could only sign, some had cochlear implants, and others had hearing aids. All twenty of us, despite our hearing issues or our speech, shared a unique characteristic that most people do not share. For the first time in my life I met a woman who had chosen just to use sign language and be part of the deaf community. I became friends with a girl, Renee, who could not afford hearing aides or a cochlear implant, so she lived each day without hearing. Even though it was four days, the friendship I shared with Renee was unique and unforgettable.
When we played soccer I could not wear my hearing aides, and as a result I immediately felt isolated, as if I was in a different world. But I was in a different world; it was the deaf community, without any sound and the silence at times paralyzed and confused me. And in this world, the solution was clear—I could just be myself and not have to play any social games. So that weekend, on and off the soccer field, I took a small step and put my hair up, not caring what “those things are in my ear.”
Through my whole life I also have been part of the hearing world, so sharing these experiences with these deaf women athletes was amazing. I marveled at their way of communicating, through signing and facial expressions. I could remember asking myself everyday, how are they happy? Where does their happiness come from? Everyday we asked ourselves what does it mean to be happy and live a satisfying life. Does being a part of a community make us happy? In the end I think these woman athletes were happy because they were part of their own community. I sometimes felt pity for them, but they had formed their own community, with its own rules and support for each other. It was a beautiful experience and has made me see the beauty in the deaf world, and learn to accept my own disability. Life is filled with beauty, you are filled with beauty, be yourself, be happy, be confidence, because you are beautiful.