Archive for the ‘Garrett Hildebrand’ Category

Time to Conclude Year One

May 8, 2009

It’s all coming to a wrap and in ways that seem a blur each time I remind myself of where I was at with my life a year ago.

I am sitting at my desk at the moment, my Benson Hall dorm room with bare naked walls and just my bags on the floor with things for summer break, and I’m putting together this final blog for my first year at Gallaudet.  I can’t say I have one single regret for how it has all come together and how it has all played out.  I’m actually really, really satisfied with the decision I made to come here.  I have begun to draft, design, decorate, and don my life once again, and that is the outcome I feel one is given the opportunity to create when they find their identity removed from being in jeopardy of being lost.  I could feel that happening back in Arizona.  I could sense that I no longer knew who I was or where I was going; “tomorrow” became the most intimidating concept when it should be the most wonderful concern.  And the “present” had become something that felt more like a curse than a gift.  No one should allow themselves to live in a way that robs them of their gusto for living life.  When a life reaches that point it should be the call for action, and that is what I did in my case.  And now I’m getting ready for a summer break again at 27 years old.  This is awesome!  I have to give tremendous thanks to my Vocational Rehabilitation counselor, Sharon Schira-Layton, back in Arizona because after I transferred from my previous VR counselor (I qualified for VR support when I lost my hearing in the right ear at age 22) Sharon unselfishly took me under her wing to help provide me the tools I needed.  She is Deaf and a former graduate of Gallaudet so it was a good thing she was available to me when I lost my hearing.  She found me a Deaf ASL tutor after I indicated that I thought it would be good for me to learn the language.  Then she put the idea on the table for coming to Gallaudet, like I mentioned in a previous blog.  Had she not been so proactive and slightly aggressive in aiding me to act and get on with my life as a deafened person I am not sure I would be where I am right now.

The experiences out here have allowed me to see more clearly where I fit in the grand picture of things and to assert my presence.  Every day I am able to have conversations with people in which I’m not struggling to hear them and I can’t say enough for how incredibly relieving that is when your past involves sooo much expended energy to communicate this way.  After a while it led to a reaction on my part of backing off from conversations only because of how exhausted they made me.  Albeit my eyes were weary in the beginning when ASL assaulted them with its blur of hand and body movements but with enough time I grew to tolerate and then enjoy the language.  Making the choice to attend a university where a more user-friendly language for a person without reliable hearing is the common way of communicating is allowing me to turn my attention to other things rather than the constant berating concern “how am I going to talk with that person?”, etc.  It all has me excited for this next Fall semester when I already can see the package of things I want to be involved with.  Feels like I really started to gain my momentum here at around the time of the First Year Study Tour to Costa Rica over the Spring Break.  Sometimes things just happen when you are ready and you really don’t have much control over that.  Of course, you can force your way into and through things, and I have extensive experience in trying that.  But I think I’ve found that approach tends to only leave you feeling like you are repeatedly pushing against the wall of an inflated rubber jumping castle not actually getting anywhere in the process.  I’m planning to work with Green Gallaudet next Fall, as well as, write for a department on campus, work as an English and Biology tutor at TIP, put together a couple community service projects, and possibly play either or both soccer and baseball.  And my efforts so far garnered me some end of the semester gifts that are each completely unexpected:  a $25 gift certificate to the Bison Bookstore (perfect to use tomorrow to pick up things for the road trip West), a Purple Communications Netbook (their alpha phase mini notebook with their P3 technology that Honor’s Program and other well achieved students were referred to receive, and a Canon digital camera to use for when I continue to write for GBlog next Fall and can then add photos to support the stories.  Who’d have thought it all work out like this?!  Yet the best part of it all is the friends and contacts I have made since July 2008.  They all have me looking forward to another couple years here and getting to know a lot of people while learning a language from them and also stacking up those life experiences.

Let the summer begin!

Advertisements

Close to “Home”

May 7, 2009

When I was a kid I used to travel solo by plane to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to then ride with my grandparents to Lancaster, PA, where I would stay for roughly 8 to 10 weeks with them.  This meant that every year close to ¼ of the 12 months were spent for me on the East coast, and we would almost each visit make a trip to Hampton, Virginia, to stay with my uncle and his family.  I grew up with very fond affinity for the East coast and its dampness, its spread of green grasses, its soft trees, and my favorite, the squirrels.  The reason I mention my yearly visits to the East coast is because that is how I fell in love with the Philadelphia Phillies.  In the mid- and late-80s, and the early-90s, there was no professional baseball team in Arizona; people were mostly fans of the Chicago Cubs (Tucson has a strong connection with the Cubs after many Chicago residents setup camp in desert a 30 or so years ago) or the LA Dodgers.  My trips to Pennsylvania brought me in contact with an amazing team in the Phillies.  Because they are Eastern Pennsylvania’s team us in Lancaster were able to watch every single game, home or away, on the television.  Those games became heaven for me as I sat there next to either my Granny or my Poppop and we three would watch together in total joy.

The connection this has for me with Gallaudet is that this previous Major League Baseball season the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series and I was able to be very close to the action in a proximity sense (couldn’t afford to travel to Philly).  Also, because of where Gallaudet is located the university enrolls many more students from the East and Midwest than it does from the West or South, so one finds more fans of teams from areas related to the higher enrollment.  I’ve been able to meet about a dozen Philadelphia sports fans, some are all about baseball, others football, and fans of basketball and hockey from there.  A small group of us formed and gathered almost daily to watch the Phillies climb to the top, using the MLB.com account I had or catching the games televised when the Washington Nationals played against the Phils.  I deeply enjoyed and looked forward to this time with my newfound friends.  And one of the great things about live sports is that it is something to divert attention to and can allow for new forming bonds between people to build gradually and over something shared; the stress to say the right things or to impress or to insure you are using a language correctly all of these diminish or become lessened at least.

So for my first semester back in college and it being at a place using another language, baseball brought forth something to make the adjustment less difficult and instead more exciting.  I was able attend four games at the Nationals stadium when the Phillies were in town to play.  These are all experiences I couldn’t have, or at least not very often, while out West (have seen the Phillies at Petco Park in San Diego and Chase Park in Phoenix, but only once each and separated by years).  It’s also impressive to me that the timing was so right for when I became deaf, would orchestrate a decision process for how to handle the deafness, and then enroll and join Gallaudet only to find I’m in a perfect place for feeling close to my favorite team.  I had periodically thought about ways to temporarily leave Arizona for the East coast, to see it, to experience it, and to possibly reconnect with places I’d long since left.  Never thought it would be the onset of deafness that would provide that opportunity but, you know, if the thing that is going to bring you somewhere turns out to be deafness that is not the worst of things that can happen to a person.  Thankfully, for this disability, there lies the option of socializing with an entire community that shares familiarity with your predicament.

Well, the Phillies are on TV right now in a game versus the New York Mets.  I’m going to continue watching them as I try to memorize material for two exams tomorrow.  If you are a student considering a future in college, believe me, watching sports and studying do not mix well!!  But some things are just too irresistible to pass up.  😀

Homecoming Weekend

May 6, 2009

Last semester towards the end of October is Gallaudet’s Homecoming event.  My friend, Christi, flew in for the weekend to join in the fun.  A brief tangent note for a second…This girl, Christi, essentially led my blind-self into the Deaf community, and by “blind” I of course do not mean literally blind but rather completely in the dark as for how to help me put the ASL skills I was beginning to tackle to use a social manner; because without the social aspect how are you going to use this language of ASL.  She really is a good friend now and the oddest part of our friendship is how we met, which was in March last year upon the grapevine that began at my mother’s workplace that grew to reach Christi and since we first met we’ve been thrilled about meeting one another.  So, she flies out here to DC and the event has a home football game full of foods and mingling, then there’s the Friday night Ball on the roof of Club Ibiza nearby campus, and finally the Bash party held in the receiving dock on campus.  The whole weekend was a good time filled with meeting people, parties, excellent weather, pictures galore, annndddd…..bumping into my Brittany.

Brittany and I began dating last semester the following couple weeks after HC weekend.  Both of us had these gut feelings about bumping into each other at Ball and really hitting it off.  The club was jam packed and while I waited for Christi to use the restroom I stood in the hallway caught in the mass of people moving from one side of the club to the other.  It was funny because several seconds after the moment I thought to myself, “Hope I bump into her tonight…”, here she came right behind our mutual friend, Mark, who actually kind of played a Cupid role in this.  A couple months later I found out she had had a similar thought of hoping to run into me right before she actually did.  The night played out with aplomb and I couldn’t have been more satisfied with the outcome:  Brittany let me give her my jacket once we were outside waiting for the coach to take us back to Gallaudet, where once we arrived she let me walk her to her room, gave me her number after we chatted a bit, and then I wished her safe travels home for the weekend and we went our separate ways.

No need to dive into deeper personal information about how things have transpired for what eventually became a real committed relationship, but I will say that the experience of being with someone who is Deaf has shown me things I often wished I could find with someone yet remained always just a wish.  Brittany and I communicate using ASL, yet she understands my background with English and my need to keep using it.  Sometimes she will SimCom with me, other times the communication will be more ASL, but regardless of which medium we are using to express with language she will maintain eye contact with me the whole time.  That is a wonderful thing when you’ve spent your last 10 years slowly discovering the rapid increase in need for people to look directly at you for communication to really work.  She’s allowed me to relax a bit when we go to a party or dinner or any other social get-together because now rather than struggling to hear in a dialogue with someone I can depend on signed communication, and it works like a charm.

I was never planning to meet someone and start a relationship with them out here.  You can’t plan these sorts of things they just happen, so it has happened and I’m happy to allow it to.  When you are a hearing person who suddenly one day finds him/her-self confronted with the suffocating isolation felt from loss of social inclusion, the fight to connect with people becomes stuck in your throat and aches to come out and be alleviated by someone else.  I don’t want to say this translates to being “saved” or “rescued” by a person because then they would become in debt to you.  No, rather, this is kindness and it understands, and it is connection.  After I became deaf the thing I missed more than music, more than dialogue in a movie, more the life’s orchestra of things all making sound together is connecting with people through language—talking and laughing all in this effortless flow that has a whole energy to itself.  When gone, man, I really knew what it was that was causing me to feel incomplete and withdrawn.  Before I met Brittany I was finding those social moments happening again but we all know that private time with someone you feel drawn to be around it reserves a place all of its own.

Living Among the Deaf

May 6, 2009

The Deaf are a different cultured people and cannot simply be lumped in with the ethnicity of their heritage or labeled the same as other peoples per the location of their birth and upbringing.  This is something I have noticed and had explained to me.  For nearly all considerations, for example, my girlfriend is from Minnesota and appears to be the same as any other Minnesotian.  But when a person is Deaf and is brought up living around other Deaf there are mannerisms and other behavior traits that are hard to overlook after some time is spent with this community.

Since arriving at Gallaudet I have tried to record some of my observations because it is very interesting to me and I would be wasting an opportunity to learn if I were to convince myself it is not worth noticing.  The following is going to layout things I’ve come to associate strongly with some of Deaf peoples’ traits/habits:

Here at Gallaudet University there are SOOO many HandiDogs.  Almost every time I go to the cafeteria or the Student Academic Center I will find a dog at an adjacent table or passing me in the hallways.  Now, mind you, these animals are on leashes.  I mentioned to my girlfriend this phenomenon of so many students on a college campus having pet dogs and she said it is something that has really developed in the few years since she entered Gallaudet.  People seem to learn of their rights to own a dog on a college campus and to be able to take it anywhere (other than the SAC Computer Lab) as long as they have the HandiDog license that the Deaf are privy too.  I think it’s a pretty cool deal.

Enter a bathroom following a Deaf person and sometimes you are going to find the faucet still running.  The first couple times this happened I read it as something a college student was doing absentmindedly or deliberately in resentment of authority, obligation, or something worth rejecting with attitude.  But the more it happened I started to take notice that something else was going on here.  Then it hit me:  should a Deaf person wash their hands or face and then turn for a paper towel, after drying off their mind may have already turned to the next thing and without an audible reminder that the water is still running maybe it just slips their mind they’ve yet to turn off the faucet.

Dorm life with the Deaf is interesting.  We can blare our music as loud as humanly possible and many people still are not going to be distracted by it.  Alarm clocks can be found blaring for hours and hours without a single person taking notice.  To check if someone is in the shower the Deaf can’t rely on hearing the water running in the shower stall so many will pull the first curtain open a bit to look for a towel on the wall.

An assumption I had before beginning to learn ASL t is that because the Deaf use subtitles and captions then their language must match the language that is used to broadcast subtitles and captions, namely, English.  Boy, was I ever wrong.

Finally, there is the very creative means of grabbing someone’s attention that you want.  The Deaf will hit a wooden floor if in the basketball gym, for example.  Or someone will pound a table if someone’s hand or elbow or torso is touching it but their eyes are elsewhere.  Sometimes it is fine to toss an object as the person depending on the scenario.  For example, if someone is standing on a concrete floor and no easily produced vibration will reach them then it is fine to toss something safe to touch them or to toss it through their visual field (which appears to be much broader than your average hearing person).  And light sources are used extensively.  I had no idea until I showed up at Gallaudet that there would be a light switch outside of every room to alert the tenants inside.  Mobile phone illumination can be used in darker setting by waving the device in a way to grab someone’s attention.

All of this is new to me and makes me realize there is going to be much more to come as time passes and I remain a part of the Deaf community.  It is really enlightening in a way to explore a way that others do things that suit themselves just fine and because of a new predicament you find yourself in these ways used by others can be adopted.  All of it really helps me out!

How Did You Become deaf?

May 6, 2009

(Yes, the ‘d’ in deaf was purposely put in lower case).  I am asked frequently how I became deaf.  Almost every time I meet a new Deaf person I’m asked this.  It feels like rights of passage at times.  I don’t mind, though.  We heal when we get it out and with all that has beset me there’s definitely been a lot that has built up inside of me over the years.  I’m given a chance to share that which has brought me here and we all know how good it feels to share our stories.

Most of the time I respond with, “Honestly, I don’t know how I became deaf.”  Sometimes the conversation will pursue more complete answers like, “Well, what sorts of things do you know you don’t have that caused your deafness?”  Well, I don’t have Meniere’s Disease, I don’t have any tumor growths, I have not have meningitis, my mother did not come down with Rubella while pregnant with me, I have not sustained a TBI (traumatic brain injury), I have not directly taken an ototoxic medicine (although, this one really could be the reason because of the quantity of meds we are administered in our lifetime yet do not have the potential threats to our health fully explained to us), I have never been a music with too much loud sound as the cause for my deafness, and I’ve never been around an explosive loud enough to cause the type of damage my ears have.  The things I next explain if the questioner is interested are those that could serve as possibilities to the reason I became deaf:  I had some significant falls as an infant and small boy, the doctors improperly removed tubes from my ears following one particular ear infection, I had many ear infections as a child, I was given and have into adulthood taken many different antibiotic medicines, and there was a stretch of time where I was sick with a high fever almost every time.  And I also grew up and played my whole life the game of soccer, which relies heavily on the use of the skull as a bony body part of moving and controlling the ball.

I also have theories on things of a more metaphysical nature, such as:  Reiki (the movement of blocked chi, or energy) practitioners have shared with me the concept of ways that humans can “block out” things they are afraid of or that heavily bother them and in doing so we can develop blockages of critical life energy, or chi, which runs within the blood (when you look at it from a Western point of view blood is the life force for all the cells sustenance so if cells within the ear do not receive blood, or in this case chi, their crucial metabolic needs are not met and can lead to cell death); using the belief of “soul travel” (which has a more formal name but I can’t recall this), a person’s soul has lived before and will continue to as they seek satisfaction in the way their life is lead, and in my case it could be that my soul was in a Deaf individual’s body in a previous life but did not reach a state of satisfaction and, therefore, my body was deafened in effort of affecting a different path to seek once again; and lastly, the idea that a heavenly, celetial deity reached the conclusion during my design phase that I should become deaf later in my life for any number of purposes, and so this was scripted into my fate.

I know the previous paragraph seems “out there” and it is.  But it is also a necessary process of grieving to make sense of what has happened and to do so in a way that satisfies you.  I attempted to grieve in ways that were not so healthy in the past and that too was part of the process; a part of a process that has got me to where I am now and where I am now is in a place that has me finding acceptance gradually each day.

In short, my reply to a questioner asking, “How did you become deaf?”, can sometimes take on a very stoic, realistic attitude of, “Life allowed it to happen.”  I am here now and that is what matters.  The past is the past and it serves me in special ways, but one of those ways is not as a carrot leading the mule.  This I have learned, just as I am learning the ways to someday capitalize that ‘d’.

DC: One Wet World

May 6, 2009

Being that I’m from the Sonoran Desert city of Tucson, Arizona, I find this D.C. weather to be a little ridiculous.  It is like living inside one of those misted patios we have back home except you have no control over when it gets misty.  It can be sunny all day on a Tuesday but beginning Wednesday afternoon the rain will come back and we’ll have four days of it.  It’s followed this pattern here since maybe end of September last year, and today has been no exception with water coming down or covering everything since Saturday night after the NBA Game 7.  Something different out here is the “you-gotta-be-kidding-me-that-is-lightning?!!” lightning; it’s like a flicker from a television late at night when someone forgets to turn it off and you see it flashing on the wall as you come down the hall towards the kitchen for a midnight snack.  These lightning bolts here are really weak compared to what I’ve seen all my years out in Tucson.  Out West, the bolts will shake everything around you when the electricity bursts right over your head.  Here, well, I kind of thought I was seeing one of those large promotional lights like the one they use in Batman movies.  Then a friend asked if I saw the lightning so I caught on.  It’s funny:  lightning without thunder does not feel complete to me, but I do not hear thunder as well these days as I have in the past.  If I put on the cochlear implant I well hear more than I would hear without it but it sounds a bit faint.  Recently we were at a fellow Gallaudetian’s house off campus and after the lightning flashed there came the sound of thunder about 4 seconds later.  I asked people in the room if anyone heard the thunder just then and no one else had heard it.

I’m left to wonder a bit at why the Deaf are able to feel satisfied in not hearing other things beyond spoken language.  I mean, I’m here struggling when I hear a sound with my muffled left ear and when I finally relate it with its source I feel foolish for mistaking, for example, a dog’s bark with traffic noise; there are some very odd associations that are created nowadays.  But the Deaf, many of them couldn’t be happier all the while missing out on a plethora of life’s sounds.  It befuddles me but then again I come from knowing sound and its millions of formed meanings whereas someone born deaf would have no comparison.  I suppose it will just take an unmeasurable amount of time before, when I hear a sound like thunder and it sounds wrapped in layers of cotton, I simply move along and think nothing more of it.  Curious:  would a Deaf person feel my anxiety, my frustrations, my struggle, and my separation in a relatively exact similar way should they suddenly have hearing and the need to make sense of that?

We Go to Minurva Ball 2009

May 6, 2009

Last night was a chance to do something I have not participated in since 2001 at Northern Arizona University.  My present girlfriend, Brittany Ellenbecker, is a member of Phi Kappa Zeta sorority and May 1, 2009, was the date for their annual Minurva Ball.  About a three weeks ago Brittany asked me to be her date while already knowing I would say “yes” because I’m her current beau.  Nonetheless, she wanted to have some fun with the whole ‘asking’ part to this event and she did it in unique fashion.  During this recent weekend sometime in early April Brittany text me to come over to Clerc dorm because she needed me for something.  Being the reliable boyfriend that I am I said I’d be over in a jiff.  I went up to 5th floor using the elevator that day and when I came out there was a large crafted invitation by the south-facing window to my left that read written in cherry blossom petals, “Garrett, MB?”  The funny part was that I did not know what ‘MB’ meant AND it was Easter Sunday (just remembered that) so I tried piecing things together like this ‘MB’ thing is related to Easter somehow.  Her dorm room door was open so I went in fully suspecting an in-your-face surprise of some kind, or that she was hiding herself for me to find instead of the customary decorated Easter eggs.  I hunted the room completely and couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary, including Brittany…haha.  So, I went back out in the hallway to have a look at that sign one more time and when I did I could see Brittany in the study room on her knees peeking out from the doorway.  Turns out she had been there the whole time stationed to catch my expression and reaction on camera when I stepped off the elevator to see this big sign addressing me.  Her plan wound up flopping some so I re-enacted the facial expression.  Never have had someone ask me to a formal dance in that fashion before.

Of course I told Brittany I’d go with her so yesterday was pretty much all about attending this formal ball.  Students here seem to all know about it and many of them get pretty excited at its happening.  I arrived at Brittany’s floor in Clerc around 5pm yesterday and it was jam-packed with females doing each other’s hair, putting on finishing touches of Maybelline, taking pictures; it was wild.  But it’s cool to see everyone involved with each other on such a connected, intimate level of friendship.  That is something I felt myself disconnected from as I was losing my hearing and to see it here and be part of it again is a great feeling.  I borrowed a shirt and tie from a friend in Kappa Gamma fraternity, had myself a Killian’s Irish Red 12”—kindly offered by my stunning date—and then it was time to board the charter bus.  We were not to know of where the event was being hosted until we arrived there.

The bus seemed to take us on an indirect route because, after passing the Washington Monument and Tidal Basin—home to the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s honorary namesake—we curved back east towards the Navy Yard district.  Brittany and I began to think maybe we were eating at a seafood restaurant and that dancing would be on a water-side patio or something.  But nope, the surprise was even better:  dinner and dancing on a ship called The Spirit.  There were three accessible levels and after an AWESOME dinner that required seconds the whole group went upstairs for pictures.  One thing I have noticed since being among the Deaf, and have commented on in the blogs written for the First Year Study Tour to Costa Rica, is that assembling people without the use of sound creates a whole new ballgame.  This being the case, Brittany and I took to a romantic panorama right away and watched the jets fly into and depart from Reagan Airport.  The moon was half-full and there were several smaller boats that went by, one of which was a party boat so everyone waved back and forth.  We eventually took an entire group shot meaning dates included and next just the “sisters” all in the picture.  The delayed time getting everyone together did not matter on this occasion, though, because the more time the better for being up top on a dinner boat with my girl and everyone in high spirits and laughing.

The night went on till the early morning once we got back to Gallaudet’s campus which was around midnight.  It was a great evening and one that I’m going to never forget, not with all the fun we had.  And to think that a year ago this month I was just finishing my last day at work in Tucson getting ready to have surgery on my ear for a cochlear implant, with next to ZERO of an idea for what the future held beyond that point.

Reflection On Choice

May 6, 2009

These final two weeks prior to this Spring ’09 term’s testing week host some interesting awards events of which I find myself being invited to attend. Last week—which I unfortunately missed out on because of staving off bronchitis—there was Awards Day, a ceremony at the Gallaudet University Kellog Hotel. I was presented an award for Excellence for my first year as well as one for my efforts in maintaining a 4.0 GPA and making the Dean’s List. This morning, Phi Alpha Pi Honorary Society held a 7am ceremony in the Student Academic Center and presented membership awards to this year’s inductees to the society.

The purpose behind my mentioning receiving these accolades is that I feel my chosen path of hard work to restore independent balance and personal drive to my life is being recognized in a healthy way, and I appreciate it. It was January of last year that I took on the task of learning American Sign Language, with mid-July 2008 being the time when I would begin using ASL on a daily basis. So I feel I prepared myself in a way that has appeared for months since that January time to have been a wise set of maneuvers. Goethe wrote a poem which speaks of providence and that once a man puts forth his mind and efforts towards something great assistance and rewards will he find. I discovered that poem at a bookstore while during the first trimester of a massage therapy education. It moved me forward back at that time when I was in big doubt over whether I was making the right decision to enroll for an education in that particular field. As it is now I have found myself experiencing a revival of that doubt at certain intervals throughout this ’08-’09 school year at Gallaudet. Doubt seems to be a significant theme when pursuing goals that are uncommon among your known social group. No one in my family is deaf, therefore, to come to Gallaudet, to take on developing ASL abilities, and to re-enroll in collegiate affairs has left me at times feeling boldly removed from those people who I feel shared commonness with me.

Yet, this morning I was given the chance of seeing some older deaf adults, including GU President Robert Davila. This type of encounter increases my spectrum of understanding as it parallels the spectrum of age among the Deaf community to which I’m still getting to know. Seeing successful Deaf individuals, seeing them use ASL, and feeling their encouragement all of it does wonders in fueling me along to continue what I’ve started. President Davila chatted some with us students, mentioning something he recently found out and that is China by 2020 will have more citizens whom speak English than those outside of China that consist of the whole English speaking populace. The second projection for 2020 he shared with us is that India will have more Honors level students by that time than all of America has in individuals with a student status. He placed emphasis on thanking us for appearing this morning and for putting forth the work and dedication to learning that we do.

During my days of heavy reflection lately it is a comment like that from this university’s active President that gives me a bit of a needed nudge for pressing on. I was able to learn of several students who did not show this morning to be honored and of them I know a couple individuals fairly well. Both are Deaf and have been since birth. How is this important to me? It is important because with the way things have gone in the last 15 or months I feel I’ve been bombarded by tremendous challenge but here I am waking up at 630am to attend yet another event that just might increase the luminance of my newly generated identity as a late-deafened adult. This identity restoration is a constant work in progress, and in the words of Jacques Lusseyran, is one for which I am convinced I will “…never have to go more than halfway and the universe [will] become the accomplice of all my wishes,” (tense change).

Introducing Myself

May 6, 2009

(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.

A Little Bit of Life With a CI

May 6, 2009

Sound to me now is a very conscious thing.  My brain is telling me when it is around and when it is not, and it is always hunting—craving—for the “feel” of it.  So, my Cochlear America’s implant has become my own personal backup generator to provide electrical processing of sound vibrations now that the main grid is in a permanent blackout.  Correction – my left ear “hears” but not well enough for my brain to comprehend the sounds with much meaning to them.  So I guess it is more like a blackout but with all the pool lights still functioning (get it?).  I can have spoken conversations with a hearing person that resembles ones in the past as long as I control the environment somewhat.  An example would be in doctor offices and I have been able to request a doctor to please look directly at me when s/he peaks; I must still combine sources of information.  Other times it could be that I’m with a fully capable hearing student here on campus and I can participate in the conversation with them while looking away every so often.  It’s nice to do that sometimes even if very seldom.

Some of the funnier things that happen with a CI involve the external magnet (on the coil).  The gauge for my CI magnet I am not sure about but I can tell you some the things I have stuck to my head so far:  key rings, paper clips, pens, metallic buttons, bottle caps, and other stuff.  Good party tricks.  Well, at least it is enjoyed among those persons not weary or in dislike of the presence of a CI, which I have learned is something that can be encountered every so often in the Deaf community.  Even funnier, though, is when I’m moving around there are metallic surfaces around me.  The other night I was packing things, going back and forth under my lofted bed every few minutes and if I stood up a bit too much, “Schtick!!”, the CI says back to me as it snaps off the side of my head when I move in a direction away from this metallic surface.  Sometimes I’ll get caught up in the esoteric weirdness to the situation:  CI processor resting on my right ear, cable from the processor to the magnetic coil that is now found stuck to both my head on one side of the coil and to the base of the bed frame on the coil’s other side, and then me caught listening to whatever sounds are picked up while knowing that when I move from this position the result will be like a telephone cable suddenly pulled from its wall jack.  Here is a question, Doc:  “What sort of signals is the bed getting in this arrangement?”