Chris

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I’m hearing. Being able to hear things, being able to be involved with the hearing crowd, communicating with ease and be able to listen to the radio while cooking dinner in the kitchen. I will never be able to experience those things, however do I regret it? I proudly say no, because I’m deaf for a reason. I feel I will never have the confidence level I have now without the help of being a deaf individual.

Fredrick Douglass once said, “Without struggle, there’s no progress.” Just like any other deaf individual, I had my own share of struggle in terms of communication, especially with the hearing population. My passion for sports contributed me to participate in all kinds of sports for the thrill of the action, even today. I was involved with baseball, football, basketball, cross-country, volleyball and soccer. With the exception of volleyball, I was placed with hearing athletes and teammates and not once have I felt comfortable communicating with them. Sure, I have the verbal skills to keep the line of communication open, however I’ve always had to struggle to be part of the group.

When I was playing football at Hinsdale South High School, although I am 6’4″ and 210 lbs, the position I played was nose guard for the sole reason of being close to the football so I can see the ball snapped in my own eyes. However the physical aspect was brutalizing in that I kept being beaten, although I never gave up. I felt I could use my speed to help the team because I was one of the fastest players on the team and I asked the coach if I could switch to another position like safety or linebacker or maybe tight end. The response I got from my coach, “You can’t because you are deaf and cannot hear audibles.” I was crushed and couldn’t argue with him because I was taught to respect the coach and comply to his requests. The most painful thing I ever felt was standing on the sideline as a senior as a 3rd string nose guard watching the seniors playing football under the eyes of our classmates and parents while my talents go waste. Instead I played junior varsity games on Mondays. Do I regret it? The answer is no because I benefited from that experience.

Before I got my cochlear implant, I grew up with the total communication philosophy from kindergarten to 12. My parents encouraged, or should I say felt, that my primary communication is spoken English and sign language was my secondary language. I learned how to read lips, use auditory skills, and attended speech therapy. I learned so much because I wanted to speak fluently, so I can play sports while my social life was sign language because I felt like a human being associated with my deaf peers. Then, when I went to National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, NY for college, I was skilled in verbal however my signing was below average. Culture Shock is the best definition I can describe in my first year of college being exposed to American Sign Language and the deaf community. I was so behind in signing that my roommate suggested I take off my hearing aid so I am forced to use my eyes to improve my reception skills. After a year of not wearing hearing aid, my signing improved, in addition, I made friends for a lifetime. After I left NTID, I resumed wearing my hearing aid and now I have the ability to switch my spoken English and American Sign Language anytime I wish.

Unfortunately my stay at NTID was a brief one after two years because I wanted to become a teacher and NTID did not have the program I was looking for. I chose Arizona State University as my next destination for college, graduating with a Physical Education degree. At ASU, I got the mixture of interacting with hearing and deaf people in the college level. I understood my dad’s vision why speaking was so important because that’s what the hearing world is like. I am grateful my motivation in speaking helped me landing a job of a lifetim, as a PE teacher at Fry Elementary School in Naperville, part of District 204. Surrounded by hearing students, my goal as a PE teacher is to educate the importance of healthy lifestyle, lifetime activities and fitness, at the same time demonstrate my actions as a deaf individual, hoping it impact our students in the long run when they meet any other deaf people in their lifetime.

This is my 4th year teaching. I recently got cochlear implant and the transition from hearing aid to cochlear implant is smooth, because I was prepared for the change largely thanks to my excellent verbal skills. Now, my co-workers could tell the difference with my speaking, auditory and grammar since I got the cochlear implant. Please take note, I am still a deaf individual and I still have my own share of struggles, even with cochlear implant, especially socializing with hearing people when everyone is talking at the same time or in loud environment. That’s why I eat lunch in the office catching up with my work most of the time.

One thing I promised myself when I was lying in the operation room is that once I get cochlear implant, I will be active in the deaf community maintaining my primary language, American Sign Language, and be loyal to my deaf peers. Even without cochlear implant, I am a deaf gentleman.

Now do you think I regret being deaf? The lord work in mysterious ways.

Again, Fredrick Douglass’ statement, “Without struggle, there’s no progress” proved to be true for most of us.

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