My first memories started to pop up around the time I was five years old. By that time the hearing implant was already a common part of my daily life, and so was my deafness. Before I got around to interacting with other students at school, I assumed that it was normal for people not to hear anything when sleeping, the period of time where I was unable to wear my hearing implant. I instinctively knew that the hearing implant itself wasn't normal as other people in my family weren't wearing one, but the deafness definitely was an aspect I thought was relatable at least with some of them. As it turns out, what people consider to be a common daily life largely depends on perspective. There can be cultural differences that alter one's look on life. There can be certain disabilities that makes one's outlook different than the others. There are many different factors that differ between people as they grow up, consequently influencing how they perceive life. It is only when society as a whole attempts to consolidate all those different outlooks into one ideal perspective and attempts to enforce that on other people.
This is what some people may call living the high dream or what. If someone is unable to meet society's expectations, that person gets dragged down or shunned by others. Of course this does not apply to everyone, but most people I've met with have gotten this feeling to some extent.
Let me tell you the answer I've received after living as a deaf person.
It does not matter how different you are or how you perform in the eyes of other people. That is because what makes you different is what makes you special or unique. No one has the right to change that or to mold you to fit their own image. In the end, the things you do differently is what defines you. That is why trying to fit with society, fixing our disabilities, or getting with the popular crowd is not always necessarily the "best" thing. Rather, doing things that you enjoy or things that are unique help to define you as a human being.
"That's quite a way of thinking" I remarked.
While James was telling his story, he had gotten off tangent, going so far to expose his thoughts on living life. As Rafel, as a normal human being, I was unable to understand what events James went through to reach this life philosophy. However, I knew that it held a lot of meaning to him.
"I want to try conversing with another deaf person," James spoke up. "I want to try sharing our experiences and seeing if we can learn from each other. "
"That's nice," I responded. In actuality, listening to James' story had helped me to realize that James was no different from any other normal human being. Sure, he might be hearing impaired, and his personality may be socially awkward, but he is a human being. To acknowledge him as a disabled person or as someone who does not have leader-like qualifications would be akin to stripping that person's right as a human. At least that was the feeling I got from James' story.
I first attended a small school in my kindergarten year. Strangely enough, with kids, you never know how they will react to new things. From what I've heard through other people, there were some kids that bullied fellow disabled kids, some kids that glorified disabled kids, some kids that isolated the disabled, and so on. I often heard many stories of disabled people experiencing hardships simply because they were different.
In that regards, I was relatively lucky. All the kids at school treated my disability with indifference. They completely ignored my hearing implants, thinking of me like any other normal human being. This environment in which I grew up was largely influential in shaping the way I am. Because no one discouraged my life, I was able to live freely as a normal person instead of one as a disabled. I think most other people can agree that how other people treat us is one of the biggest factors in how we decide to live our lives.
Also during the same year I first entered school, I got into the habit of reading books. Part of the appeal was the wide variety of worlds to explore, but a bigger reason was that you didn't need sounds to fully immerse oneself into books. Rather, oftentimes a lack of sound greatly improved the effect of the story one gets from reading a book. That way, even when the battery in the hearing implant would die out, or when I was unable to wear my implant, I wouldn't be deprived of reading books. As a deaf person, book reading was my biggest source of entertainment. I never got into the habit of listening to music, partially due to the lack of earphone support for implants, and I never understood the appeal of TV as the artificial implant hearing sometimes makes it difficult to under what other people say.
Predominantly, my parents were huge supporters. Despite being disabled myself, my parents affectionally treated me with care. They would be strict at times and caring at other times, but it was all to help me develop well. Not once did they ever mistreat me. They dedicated their love towards supporting my growth so that I could live like a normal human being, and not as a handicapped person. As a young child I may have been ungrateful for all of their persistence, but as I grow older, I start to realize the amount of love they had for me, and how lucky I am to have such amazing parents. Without them, my life would have been radically different than what you see today.
And just like that, I was able to become the person I am today. Purely because of my positive environment, my life wasn't as negative as other disabled peoples'. I want to share my experiences so that both disabled and normal people can realize what is important isn't how we treat others or how others are different from the norm – it's how we should live our lives to the best of our abilities. That's the answer I arrived at after living through the experience of a lucky deaf boy. I'm personally interested in what other people have to say.
And thus ended James' story. When he finished, he looked up to me with expectant eyes. I was unsure of whether he was asking for my response to his last sentence, whether he was waiting for my opinion on his story, or whether I would treat him differently after he laid his heart bare.
I decided to become friends with James. As long as the other fellow students are unable to view James as an equal, I decided to try and support James as a normal human being.
Cut to two years later, and I don't feel that I've regretted my decision. We're now getting ready to apply to colleges.
Apparently, James and I would be heading to different colleges. I got accepted into some of the more top-tier universities, while James opted for a more specialized institute.
Living with him for two years had been very insightful to say the least, and I can hope the same can be said for James. Perhaps, when he arrives at the institute, he'll be able to share his experiences with the fellow students there, and motivate others to view all people as equal human beings.
One can dream. One can doubt. One can fail. One can succeed.
How will you treat others? How will you live your life?