(QUICK NOTE: I apologize for it seems I have uploaded my 4 previous Gallaudet blogs to a personal WordPress page rather than gallaudetblog like we are supposed to)
Hello. My name is Garrett Hildebrand. I entered Gallaudet University this past Fall 2008 semester, transferring from Arizona, where I have lived since I was born there in 1981. I am currently a junior majoring in Biology and considering a minor in Art. Some of my other interests include writing, racquetball, watching films, reading whatever I can get my hands and eyes on, and my big passion lie with soccer. I am a professional massage therapist, having graduated from the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts in 2007; being in school and juggling a couple present injuries have me stepping down from frequent work in this field and, instead, practicing it on occasion when time opens up. I continue to keep up with the field of massage therapy, though, and intend to allow it to always supplement my array of interests as well as income.
To get right into a pervading theme among the draw which assembles the student body here, I have come to Gallaudet deafened late in life. There are not many students at GU that I find who share what has brought me here, and that is a near-complete hearing loss in one’s mid-20s. I grew up surrounded by a very common trait in life and that is to live with the sense of hearing. Yet by age 12 I knew that something had gone awry when tinnitus (phantom sound in the ear/head) began to blare in my right ear. It was from that point on in my life that I became aware of having a hearing condition(s) rather than a hearing sense. This continued through middle school and high school years without much addendum to the status of whatever hearing ability had been compromised. But at age 22 this ability to hear underwent the first of two traumatic losses with what the doctors’ money-bought opinion labeled for my right ear as a “sudden sensorineural idiopathic hearing loss”–loosely translated this means “sudden loss of hearing for which a cause is unknown”. At age 25, 5 weeks prior to completion of the year long 1000-hour massage therapy education, my left ear was impacted by the same event and with the same diagnosis. With the tinnitus at the level it has reached (and hopefully peaked) by my present age of 27, the loss of my sense of hearing is greater in perception than the 90 dB right and 60 dB left that the graphical printout says I now have.
So, why choose a move to Washington, D.C., and the enrollment in a university where my native language is of secondary use and the primary language is one I barely could use? Well, in short, I found out pretty quickly in the months following my deafness just how marginalizing and suffocatingly lonely hearing loss can wrench a person’s life into becoming. I feel I have often been a person of action, with plenty of deep thought to boot, but still someone who will make the moves he feels at a particular moment will best benefit him in whatever the current pursuit. Following the first sudden loss of hearing there was a looong stretch of time spent sort of wallowing and waiting for things to be fixed; whether that meant my hearing be returned to me or the new state of affairs be put into a gear that made the ride smooth instead of a painstaking grind and struggle this I am not sure about. This means that when the second round of hearing loss hit me I really took the blow and responded with a series of decisive maneuvers towards renovating my life as it was within the realm of communication and language. To continue on with an almost stubborn persistence of dependence upon vocal and aural use for exchange just felt like it brought on the heaviest sense of doom in looking at my future and seeing endless struggle with something that I had once known to be effortless.
To my good fortune, the timing for becoming deaf came when I was already receiving support from Vocational Rehabilitation in Tucson, sparing me the process of tests and applications and waiting that one would go through after a life-altering trauma (I qualified for VR support following very headstrong efforts on my part to receive aid after I’d incurred the unilateral deafness, causing a status of “bilaterally deaf” to gain me further support without inquiry or debate). A counselor who is Deaf and a former graduate of Gallaudet became my newly assigned vocation guide, and in one of our earlier meetings she suggested the idea of coming here to renew collegiate pursuits that I’d since put on hold. I took a quick look at my actively declining social life, my strain in communication at work and school (both of present and past), my affected mood—I mean, I just took one huge comprehensive sweeping glance over all that constituted for my daily living and I emailed the counselor within an hour of leaving her office to tell her, “Yes!”, I want to go. I want to go.
Did I run? Did I make a mature move towards self-betterment? Would ASL be the language that could unlock doors and resolve the crime of putting one too many passions behind them? Has one life been lived and retired from, and I now begin a new one? Are communication complications to now be a thing of my past? Each of these questions and others has had some time spent partially answered, but the truth is that I have not seen far enough into this chasm that cuts deep into my relationship with life to have reached confident conclusions. Gallaudet has thus far provided me with exposure to a world of individuals all proactively doing something about their predicament in life—that “something” is stepping over and purposely overstepping boundaries the world has managed to build up around the collective body of peoples along the spectrum of fully without hearing to those hard of hearing. The weight that a deficiency in hearing ability placed upon me lead me to hoist the burden outside the university classroom in a personal interpretation that said if I couldn’t do it the way I had always known then it couldn’t be done. Why come to Gallaudet? Not only am I here to prove to myself I can get a college degree and advance onward with it, but also to prove to myself that I can handle the changes it takes to live with a loss of the sense that I’d formerly known and used to bind myself to the interactive force which plays between all people.