Trade Offs

Letting go doesn’t mean giving up, but rather accepting that there are things that cannot be.
— Unknown

When I first lost my hearing, I used to say, “There’s almost nothing I wouldn’t sacrifice if someone told me it would get me my hearing back.”  I thought, “Want a leg?  Take it.”  “Never get married?  Ok.” “Work at McDonald’s forever?  Yes.”

Ten years on, though, that’s no longer true.  Not because I’m glad it happened – I still can’t bring myself to say that – but because it’s no longer the tragedy it was in the first two years.  Don’t misunderstand me: It is the great sadness of my life.  But having lived my life these last ten years and achieved a modicum of success – personally, educationally, and professionally – it’s clear to me that my early imagined sacrifices were born out of fear and uncertainty about what kind of life I could lead with a hearing impairment.

When my dad came down the day after I lost my hearing, I remember sitting across the table from him in a Taco Bell in Richmond, saying, “How will I ever get anyone to marry me now?”  I already knew that my loss would be permanent, and I really did believe that I was broken, that everyone would always see me that way, and that it probably meant no one would be willing to make the effort to get to know me.  I also thought I’d never be comfortable enough with myself again to let anyone get to know me.  As my world shrunk when friends disappeared or stopped trying, it only convinced me I was right.

Luckily, it turned out I was wrong. And I’m not just talking about David; I mean friends I made in law school and after, too.

So when the Genie comes and says, “You can have it all back – music, the rain, babies talking, singing, all of it – if you only give up David (or your law degree, or your leg, or anything else you value),” the answer will be no.  Because, as hard as it sometimes is, as sad as it sometimes makes me, this is who I am, this is my life, and it’s pretty great, all things considered.

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