If it were not for my family, friends and other people in my life, I would have been a different person. I was born three months premature, having to take antibiotics that eventually gave me severe-profound hearing loss. From the very start, I had a physical disability.
The best part about the beginning of the recognition of my disability, was the fact that I wasn’t diagnosed with it until I was five. My teachers in kindergarten started questioning my upbringing and abilities when they noted that I wasn’t paying any attention to them. Perhaps kids were having fun, being rebels or perhaps he had a problem? As I look back on it today, I have a huge grin on my face. Not just for the fact that teachers found out that I had it, but for the memories that would never have been recorded into my dad’s 1990’s VHS tapes if I was diagnosed any sooner. I remember watching clips from his ancient tapes, of him recording me as a child, how I’d never listen to him….like all the other kids in the world. I’d be doing something, and he’d be trying to make a memory, yet I somehow made it better by ignoring him. Ironic right?
“Jeff, look at the camera! Dad is recording you! Say hi!”, my dad would blurt in Russian. I’d only look at him for a moment and look away. “Jeff! Jeffa!”, he got louder and louder to get my attention. Today, I could hear his frustration in those videos, but I never heard much back in the day. Yes, he did make memories from the simple things.
In the beginning, I had a hard time dealing with it; I had to go to speech classes because of the changes in speech that my hearing loss caused, learn how to lip read just in case I still couldn’t register some words, and learn the english vocabulary since I was born into the Russian language. My parents instantly invested in a pair of high powered hearing aids. In school, students who stared at me and were drooling from their mouths, constantly questioned me, “What are those things in your ears?” “Why are you wearing that?.” I came home somedays and told my parents of my frustrations about people constantly questioning me. I was taught to ignore them and just do what I was doing. That was learning, and moving on.
As school progressed, so did the typical life of a teenager. Just because I had a disability, didn’t mean I had rights. I didn’t have the right to whine, cry, -insert lame excuse-. We are all human beings. I was different by my flaw, but I wasn’t an alien. With the encouragement of my family, dedication of my amazing teachers I tried to put my problems behind me and pursue a future. I immersed my brain into education and tried to spread myself with athletics and giving back.
You could say I was trying to make for up my disability. Yes and no. I tried to be a well-rounded person, however I embraced my hearing loss. It made my accomplishments so much sweeter, but on a more important note, an inspirational factor.
What I’m trying to say here, is to not let anything hold you back. From the very start, I had an obstacle to tackle. I went right at it, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Sure, it was a lot of work, but I kept my chin up. I understand many of you have issues to deal with, perhaps some have many more or bigger ones….but nothing is impossible. I remember I was taking out the garbage one day, and I hated doing it ( a chore, of course), and I suddenly came up with a quote. “Everything in life is hard, you just have to make it easy.” Take your issues and try at least, to get over them. In fact, try to embrace them for the learning experience you may gain from them.
My track coach once said, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” How badly you want something, can be the ultimate factor in which you may receive it. I wanted to be successful, but I had to deal with my hearing issues. So I trained, immersed into education, etc.
On another note, I just want to say a thank you to everyone in my life. A thank you to my family, who exert unconditional love and had to possibly suffer with me; now we can celebrate. To the teachers who were suspicious. To all of my teachers. Really, it may seem like a lie because almost all students today seemingly despise school and their teachers. Seriously, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am now without the aid of my teachers. They didn’t just teach, they cared. Many of may not see it, many of the students may hate you for the lame homeworks or ridiculous tests or attitudes, but I guess with the loss of most of my hearing, my hidden sight increased. Thank you for picking on my hand. Thank you for helping me out when I was wrong. Thank you for excusing my absences. Thank you….
Thank you for trying.
Thank you everyone, and everything in my life. I really do appreciate it. This long note does not suffice.
— Jeffrey Grinberg (me)