My Secret is Out, By Sophia Schlager, Age 14

Sophia greatpic I was born with a disability, but you wouldn’t notice it by looking at me. Not at first. Not even after talking to me for a little while. I look “normal”, I talk “normal”, I play sports, perform in shows, have friends, and go to a “normal” private school. But I am deaf. Underneath my long hair and behind my ears you will eventually see my cochlear implants, and you will notice my teachers wearing a FM system, (which looks like a really weird necklace), and you’d experience me asking you to look at me when you talk or to repeat what you said.

But I don’t hide the fact that I’m deaf. I’m not afraid of pulling my hair back or wearing it up in a ponytail, and I tell people about my hearing loss. I believe that it’s really important to be confident in your disability. Hiding it makes it seem worse to others, and the more relaxed and open you are about it, the more accepting people will be. They’ll be like “that’s really cool!” or “tell me more about it”. Your attitude changes people’s perspective. For example, when I started middle school, on the first day, I stood up in front of my whole grade and told them about my hearing loss. I treated it like it was no big deal, and made jokes, and I received lots of compliments! The “secret” was out, and I didn’t have to worry about asking for help in the future.

But it doesn’t mean it’s always been easy. I’ve always been open and relaxed, but have been surrounded by others trying to bring me down because of my hearing loss, or so I thought. As time went by, I realized that they were trying to bring me down because of my attitude towards it and my personality. But I was called a teacher’s pet because I would get extra help from teachers, and my classmates were jealous of how much more attention I got from teachers. People were really mean to me, and it was painful. I’ve had three surgeries just so I could hear, and then had 500+ hours of speech therapy just so I could talk “normally”.

As I get older, I’m realizing how lucky I am. There are many deaf people who never hear, and have to learn sign language, and live in a signing community. My parents didn’t choose that for me, and I’m glad that they didn’t. But I still struggle every day. What I hate the most is when I ask people to repeat what they said and either; they repeat what they say, and I STILL didn’t hear it, or they say “never mind”, or “forget it”. It makes me feel isolated and different and bummed out. Sometimes it is too much effort for people to go the extra mile. It makes me so sad and it’s hard to see that they aren’t’ the right people for me and I know that I must move on. It doesn’t make it any easier or less painful.

There are many times when I wish I wasn’t born deaf, but it has made me who I am. It is a harder life, but I have to embrace it and live life to the fullest. I am always going to have limited choices in life. I can’t be a waitress or a secretary or work in loud places where I have to hear well or do a lot of talking on the phone, because it’s hard to hear.

As I said before, there are times when I wish I wasn’t deaf, but then I think, who would I be if I wasn’t deaf? It’s really shaped me to be the person I am today. I suffered through elementary school, but it’s made me so much stronger and prepared to go onto the next phase of my life. And I have these amazing people who help me through the hard times, and face what the next day has to bring.

Frodo- “I wish the Ring had never come to me.”

Gandalf- “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”- Lord of the Rings

BTW, I am NOT a LOTR’s geek, I just like this quote!

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