For a current update on my cochlear implant experience, go to: http://withinearshotbc.blogspot.com
High School was no less different, other than I struggled in team sports. I played girls soccer one year and found the gap in communication too great for me. I can't remember a word I understood out there in the wide field. I did do some cheerleading for the football team with my peers, and that was about it for a "team sport." I chose to stick with individual sports, my passion being snow and water skiing. I had a nice circle of friends, a supportive family and patient teachers and that kept me happy throughout. I thought I would become a hairdresser when I left high school, but during the first year of training, I found the sound quality of the environment unbearable. The running water, the whirring from the hairdryer, and all the usual noise amplified by the hard floors and mirrors made my days taxing. It was impossible to communicate with the client. I dropped out. Unsure of my career path, I took on a desk job in an office for two years.
I shall not forget the day my mom came to me with some news. By this time she was working as an administrator at the oral deaf school. She passed on a message from the director asking me to come see him for a job opportunity. The doors opened for me and I was back at my old school, happily working as a teacher assistant. I was approached by a member of Self Help and Hard of Hearing organization (SHHH) to consider starting a social group with the alumni for friendship and support. I arranged guided day trips cross-country skiing, rock-climbing, hiking and biking. The school opened up a room for monthly get-togethers to watch closed-captioned films. The access to movie captioning was limited, but we did a lot of socializing! It was a fun time. However, I was not putting in enough hours in a day to pay the bills. I sought out employment at Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming. Upon learning I had a “hearing impairment”; the human resources department offered me a job working as a housekeeper so that I would socialize in sign language with fellow deaf workers. That posed a problem for me, as I didn't know how to sign! Instead they put me in the staff cafeteria with hearing co-workers, where I cooked, served grub, Buffalo wings and washed dishes for fellow employees in the Park. It was a wonderful time in the wild, as I met avid hiker friends and we did unforgettable backpacking treks through the summer.
Once back home, I sought the US Bank for work. In its bid to allow access to employment for persons with disability, the company provided a free training course. Seeking more hours and benefits than what I could get working at the school, I applied, became trained and worked as a customer service teller. A late-deafened woman trained me, and we also worked at the same branch. That job challenged us both, as it required us to hone our lip-reading skills every day. One important thing for us was to have a sign at our pod, alerting customers to look at our faces to communicate. Most of our customers were very patient and kind with us, but there were a few that avoided us all together – they seemed afraid of the posted sign! After two years I got restless and chose to make a big move. My cousin from Canada, who I am close to, shared that she needed a roommate. I offered that I was willing to uproot and move north to Vancouver, BC to live with her. Eager for adventure, a new job awaiting me in Vancouver, I said goodbye to the familiar and moved back to the country (but not the town), where I was born.
My family remained, and still live in Portland while I have made my life home in BC. It is a 5 hour drive south to visit my family, for that I am grateful it is not too far a distance. The girls and I see them every year, during holidays. We remain close by email and instant messaging. I have a bilateral phone headset, which helps me to hear them but long distance costs and anxiety on my part when I am struggling to hear what is being said, keep me from using it consistently. (I often fall back on my children to interpret for me, but this is not something they are keen to do. I empathize.)
I worked in the bank working in various departments before I married and became pregnant with our first and second child. I took ten years off work to care for the family and to fix up our two homes and garden. My BTE's (behind the ear hearing aids) provided sufficient with my skills at lip-reading. Having the children was good speech therapy for me, as I was constantly communicating with them, reading to them daily as my mother did with me and my siblings. These days my girls assist me when I am speaking a word incorrectly. They are excellent students, avid readers and have been playing piano since their early years. They are learning different instruments such as guitar, base clarinet and saxophone. I tried learning piano along with the kids when they were at the pre-school level, but they moved ahead too fast and I couldn’t keep up. That was okay, as I was distracted in training for marathons and triathlons for a few years.
I took on part time employment at the Main Library downtown obtaining steady Friday hours in the Accounting dept. I did some full-time contract work. I enjoyed the time conversing with adults and started rethinking what I wanted to do with my life outside of home. At that time, I also became aware that I had more challenges to face… the city of Vancouver was becoming very multicultural. The ability to understand the variety of european and asian accents became daunting. Desiring to seek work in the world of the deaf and hard of hearing, I looked into hearing loss organizations and joined the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA). I applied at the Vancouver Oral Centre, a deaf school for very young children, and viola! I had a job there. For two years, I worked in the mainstream part of the program assisting the teacher in dealing with children who were making a transition into the hearing schools. The mainstream portable eventually had to close, and I was crushed with the news: I was laid off.