Coffee Talk

2019 Reflections

Another year gone by, and the end of a decade in our lives. So many things have happened in the world from the Arab Spring in 2011 to Trump’s election in 2016, and to finishing out the decade with a strong economy. The effects of these changes are felt to a greater or lesser extent.

Market in the Occulus, New York City

Reflecting up on the last decade, it has been a personal adventure. The beginning of 2010, I was living in Madrid, a city that has saved my life in many ways. It allowed me the freedom to discover myself and try new hobbies, without the constant judgment of the people I went to school with. It put me in touch with new people who became my lifelong friends, and who shared similar passions to mine, allowing me to grow and expand my horizons. It gave my purpose, and healed my scars. After a short time in Poland, I returned to the US, where I found a job that has given me stability, and security.

This year alone, the job has challenged me and brought me the greatest joy–four months overseas in Poland. It was tough because things didn’t necessarily go the way that they should have–the processes were not efficient, organized, and done in a way to give the people in Poland the comfort they needed to do their job. Yet, I prevailed when others had failed. At the same time, it had been one of my greatest pleasures, working in a country I absolutely love, and respect–and one in which I have always been accepted as one of the crowd, despite my hearing loss. The time spent abroad allowed me to travel and photograph more, two passions that have never left me since I was a young girl. Over 6,000 photographs across five countries, and six cities were taken. Countless stories ready to be shared with you about the beauty, the challenges, and the accessibility of these places within these trips.

And because there was so much to experience, and problems that needed to be solved, work became overwhelming, so blogging took a backseat to everything else. I continued to photograph in order to have something to accompany the pieces I’d write, but I’d become paralyzed by the words on the screen. They’d never sounded fluid and great as I’d wish them to be, which was a shocker for me. I’m a writer in my day job, for goodness’ sake, and I keep journals, so it should be second nature for me to share this information with you.

It took me some time to come to terms that the problem isn’t the writing or the topic. It’s that the writing isn’t from the soul and the heart. I’ve been afraid to open up in my blog, to show any level of vulnerability because I’ve been taught that my disability is nothing to talk about, that it should be hushed, and never mentioned. It’s been a topic that has been avoided throughout my life, because of the desire to be raised “normal,” and I’ve internalized this lesson. I’ve approached my hearing loss with shame, and just recently had been told:

“Why do you bring this up? It’s not a defining feature of you. You haven’t been taught this way–so what are you doing? Seeking attention? Want others to feel sorry for yourself?”

The words, spoken by someone close to me, stung. They were said with– what I perceived to be–a malicious and disgusted tone, and while it would be easy to walk away from this person, I’ve never been one to take the easy way out. I believe solving problems comes from knowing the truth, and the source of those problems, not just shutting people out. Still, those words have resulted in me shutting down something that is so fundamental to me, and doubting myself.

It’s not my intent for people to feel sorry for me. I do not want the sympathy and the sadness, because the truth is I am living my best life. I love the way that my world sounds with and without my hearing aids. I love that I get to travel and photograph, and I know I am lucky that I have the ability to do everything. I am grateful for those who have helped me to get here, no matter their intentions.

My purpose with this blog is for people who are hard of hearing and deaf to realize that they too can travel and experience the world. It’s to take those experiences that I’ve had and make the best decisions for their trip, wherever that is, and to give them the tools to make it through the flights and transportation without stress. You don’t need to hear the world to experience it like everyone else–and why would you want to experience it the same way, anyway? Some of the most meaningful connections that I’ve had during my travels had nothing to do with language, but with respect towards life around me, and immersing myself in the cultural norms and customs.

At the same time, I would also like to share my experiences as a hard of hearing person, so that individuals can get an idea of what is happening and how it seems from my perspective. The thing is, I don’t think any two hard of hearing people are quite alike–we have different levels of hearing loss, and some hear things differently than others.

So, without further ado, I’d like say that in 2020, I will release my entries from my four-month trip to Poland as well as the side trips I’ve taken, with tips, anecdotes and thoughts. Amongst those, I will also release some entries on books because I’m an avid reader and it keeps my sanity on those long and short flights. I will try to mix them up with trips from 2020, but most importantly, I want the entries to be written from the heart, with inspiration and honesty. That said, if you have any questions or tips about being a hard of hearing individual, I want to hear from you!

Lastly, but perhaps the most important: Thank you for those who have followed and read my entries. I appreciate that you have read my pieces, no matter how bad they may have been or how good they were. Thank you for giving me a voice to share something that is important, not just to me, but also a lot of people out there.

What were your reflections upon 2019 and the last decade?
What are your goals for 2020?
Please comment below!

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