Limits. That stayed out of my vocabulary even though I first appeared in Harris Hospital in Fort Worth without hearing. My life became about proving I could do as well as anyone, if not better. This nurtured my competitive spirit, which worked for and against me in my life.
The phone had the honor of being the first limit. I didn’t have a teletypewriter (TTY) until the first job after college. I never considered the inability to follow TV programs a limit because I enjoyed cartoons and Sesame Street. Besides, I stayed out of the house always going to practice here and a game there as I played all kinds of sports.
Then I received my first closed-caption decoder at age 13. No more than 10 shows, if that, contained closed-captions. I think the first captioned program I ever caught was a James Bond movie. The first TV series I loved watching was Dynasty. I adored Joan Collins’ British accent (I still love seeing accents especially the British) — yes, I could lipread and recognize accents although I couldn’t place them all.
Today, the majority of national TV shows come with captions. Now I can choose what I want to watch. Back then, I’d watch anything that was captioned. I, of course, hope this will happen with videos and shows on the Internet. However, I’m a realist. I understand the problem of some folks being hobbyists and it would take a lot of time to caption longer videos. Videos under 10 minutes are easy to caption even I caption my videos.
Whenever someone sends me a link to a video or posts a video on a web site, I ignore it most of the time knowing it most likely won’t have subtitles or captions. I do catch the ones without words, but they don’t come along very often. A bill, HR 3101, is working to change this.
Often, I wonder how much more I could accomplish if I could hear. I’d be a better listener — rarely needing to ask people to repeat themselves or tell me what topic we’re discussing. I’d speak without a deaf accent avoiding the stares from young eyes thinking I’m strange or adult eyes thinking I’m not bright. I’d be able to go to networking events and conferences without a worry whether I’ll make the most out of my investment. I’d be able to make and receive phone calls. I’d be able to conduct phone interviews. I’d be able to attend online conferences.
But then I remember my being deaf compelled me to work harder. If I didn’t have that difference, would I have worked as hard? Maybe I would’ve resigned to living an average life as I would’ve felt I had no limit or anything to prove. Maybe I’d still be in a corporate job.
It took me years to learn that I may lead a better life as a deaf person than as a hearing person. After all, motivation can make a huge difference.
This is a contribution to the Group Writing Project What I Learned from Limits. You have until Sunday, October 12, to join in! I’d love to hear your thoughts (pun intended — but really I’d like to read your thoughts) on the topic. Thank you, Robert, for giving an idea for a post.