There's a discrepancy between what I want to do and what I do. I want to travel but I stay home. I want to be busier but I don't make an effort to be active. I want to exercise more but I hang out on the couch. And the list goes on.
I look around and it seems like the people around me - and even those younger than me - are doing so much more. They're fit. They have souvenirs from around the world. They volunteer and are active in their communities. What's separating me, I wonder, from these people?
The only thing I can come up with is fear. I used to say (okay, I still do) that I couldn't do (fill in the blank) because of the hearing aids. But that excuse flies out the window every time I meet someone who has some kind of hearing loss but has still accomplished so much. So the hearing aids are not a good excuse. The truth is that I'm afraid. I've always been a people-pleaser and I've always wanted nothing more to fit in. I worry a lot about what other people think of me and I hold my reputation dear.
When I was in third grade, I was going to a school that heavily promoted the arts. There were always plays and such to try out for. Drama and dance classes were a regular staple of our curriculum. So it wasn't unusual to me one day when our music teacher walked into our classroom. I don't remember having an interpreter at that moment, which is weird. I always had one in the classroom, so I'm not sure why she was MIA. Anyway, the music teacher was an old lady and difficult to understand. She spoke a few words and then asked the class a question. I looked around and all of my friends had their hands raised, so I raised my hand, too, even though I had no idea what was going on.
Now, I don't really remember the details. I just remember figuring out that she had asked something about who wanted to audition for something or the other and I was mortified. I knew I couldn't sing. I still wasn't sure what was expected of me. So I raised my hand and asked to go to the bathroom. I made a beeline for the nearest stall and burst into tears. My nine-year-old mind didn't know that there was a simple fix to the whole thing - if I had just asked my friends why we were raising our hands, I could have avoided the embarrassment. But as it was, I hadn't yet learned that, nor had I learned that it was okay to backtrack and say, "Never mind, I don't want to do this." So I thought that I was now stuck, that I would be forced to do something - even though I didn't know what it was! I didn't want to do the wrong thing and look like a fool in front of my classmates. I just wanted out but I didn't want to look dumb doing it.
I knew I had to get back to the classroom so I wiped my tears off the best I could and left. Right at that time, one of the Deaf Ed teachers (I was mainstreamed at a public school but there was a Deaf Education program there. I wasn't heavily involved in it, but I knew all the teachers) was herding her small class to the bathrooms and asked me what was wrong. I guess those tears didn't wipe away as easily as I thought! Somehow she helped me get everything straightened out and life was good again.
But I never forgot that panic of not knowing what was going on or what was expected of me, or the fear of looking silly when I tried to participate without knowing the "rules." And I think that same panic fuels a lot of my decisions now. I want to travel, but because my friends are poor :p, my only option is to travel alone and I worry about that. I worry about safety, first of all. But mostly I worry about not speaking the language or not hearing flight announcements or not understanding a tour guide, etc. I want to be busier, to volunteer my time with kids, but what if? What if I can't understand them? What if I make a mistake because I misheard the instructions? I want to be more active - the gym is boring, though, so I'm brainstorming other ways to get some exercise in. I was thinking of taking a dance class. I used to like that when I was a kid. But suppose I look silly because I did the wrong move because I didn't hear the instructor? Or I mess up the steps because I missed the number of beats?
When I break down all the reasons why I don't do things, they're exhausting. Fear wears me out - and wears me down. My hearing aids don't make me less of a person, but fear does. And I don't want to live like that. I don't really want to spend the rest of my life on the couch because I'm afraid of what is out there. What if I don't travel? Or volunteer or dance? I would regret that more. I don't think anyone would think any less of me for trying.