|Self Portrait: Arches National Park, Utah|
Oftentimes I am asked, why do I rock climb? Why do I love the outdoors so much? To understand, one must know my childhood pillow.
My entire life I’ve never fit in. I can’t argue with it. It’s the story of my life. I was born deaf so arguably one could say I didn’t fit in a hearing school, hearing social events, or even a hearing family. Against the odds, we made it work. It wasn’t easy. There were many moments of laughter of overcoming the trials. But it wasn’t all joy. I dreaded school. I dreaded classrooms where we had to listen to the teacher and other students, raise our hands (or just blurt out) for comments on previous comments that were orally expressed. Everything seemed lost in the sea of sound I was slowly drowning in. I felt a gasp of fresh air during the classes where we spent time reading or copying notes from a PowerPoint or chalkboard. My hands were occupied instead of the constant frustration welling the invisible tears inside me, that only my pillow would know.
After a long hard day in school, the internal agony would not stop. I had to endure hours of ballet practice at my church. I could hear the music but I could not understand the chattering and laughter of my fellow ballerinas. The teacher’s instructions would be lost on me. The teacher would have to waste long moments working with me individually, in front of the entire class, further driving my embarrassment. My body didn’t match the prescribed movements or chime in sync with a rhythm in a music I could not understand, a frustration to be released as tears on my pillow.
School and church were the two circles of life. Ballet was in the church. And so were all of my jobs and my parents jobs. Church is supposed to be a place of refreshment and renewal. For me, it was a constant source of irritation. No matter how hard I tried to explain, no one seemed to understand that I only heard sounds, not comprehension of words. I’ve spent hours upon hours fighting the urge to nod off, drowning again in a sea of sound roaring around me in Sunday School or during the services or in the hallways. When later I failed to summarize the sermon or Sunday School message, I was chided. I was accused of drifting away spiritually and being rebellious against God.
This only led to real anger and perceived rebellion. I yearned for someone to just take my hand and say, “It’s ok. I love you. I understand’. Instead, I was labelled. Immature they called me.
I worked hard in school to suppress the tears raining inside of me, to prove everything wrong. Homework was my outlet, my escape. I attacked it with furious passion, oftentimes creating more work for myself than really necessary.
So why do I rock and ice climb and pursue alpine adventures? Why do I love the outdoors so much? My love traces back to the dampness of my childhood pillow. The trees, flowers, and animals do not need to express themselves orally. The rock and ice allows me to create my own movements to my own tune. The trail provides a peaceful sanctuary.
I become me. No labels. No false accusations I do not have the courage to fight.
And at night my pillow is dry :-)
This was written about 2 years ago. Since then, I have been blessed to be a part of three amazing communities: The Deaf community, the climbing community, and the Church community where I have found a loving group of Deaf and hearing people to share the joys and trials of life! Thank you! I love you all!