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I will never forget the day I found myself.
I must ask you to pardon this lengthy post. I want you to understand my story, so you will know the background before reading my future posts.
At age 3, my mom began to notice that I was not responding to sounds like I had before. Over the next few years, my mom took me to various doctors, all of whom brushed off her concerns after a simple conversation with me, and told her I simply had “selective hearing” or “mother-deafness“. I was finally diagnosed, at age 6, with a sensory neural, progressive hearing loss. Upon hearing the news, my mother began tearing up. The doctor patted her gently on the shoulder and said “don’t worry Janet, although she will probably never graduate from high school, she is a cute little thing and will be okay“. At that moment, a fire was lit in my moms heart and she made it her mission to prove that doctor wrong.
I did fairly well throughout elementary school. I felt quite special when I was able to make the other kids jealous by telling them that my hearing aids were actually mini radios that played music in my ears all day long. Once I hit middle school, that story no longer held credibility and I began hiding my hearing aids and my hearing loss as well as I could. My peers thought I was stuck up and uninterested. I let them think that because I was too ashamed to let them know that, in reality, I could not hear them.
Over the course of the next two years my confidence and self-esteem plummeted. I felt isolated and alone. Most days I would return home from school in tears. My hearing was deteriorating rapidly and I was failing my classes. A sign language interpreter could have helped, except that doctors had told my parents not to allow me to learn sign, saying if they did, I would stop talking. Assuming the doctors knew better than they did, they followed that misguided advice and sign language was never learned.
Finally, at the end of eighth grade, as a last resort, my parents reluctantly agreed to take me to visit the school for the Deaf which was located in Gooding, Idaho, 2 hours away.
I will never forget the moment I walked into that crowded cafeteria on campus. I had no idea what to expect. What I saw astounded me; a room FULL of kids like me. But there was one critical difference, they were smiling and laughing. Those who wore hearing aids exposed them comfortably, as though they were an afterthought. I will never forget all the hands moving, the beauty of sign language took my breath away.
I immediately turned to my parents and whispered “I need to go to the bathroom, NOW“. When I finally found a bathroom, I rushed to the mirror. I looked myself in the eyes as an awestruck smile crept over my face, and for the first time I reached up and pulled my hair gently into a ponytail at the back of my head. I made sure my hearing aids were fully visible before I came out of that bathroom and strode confidently back down the hall. My parents barely recognized the young girl who approached them.
That was the day I finally found Tara.