Do You Hear What I Hear?

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

From the first game of “broken telephone” in kindergarten, I knew I was different. Diagnosed with moderate hearing loss, I resorted to books and to my imaginary haven. I have had three-sentence Spanish conversations with Dora, casted spells in the echoing corridors of Hogwarts, and lulled the Holocaust refugee children to sleep. Middle school went on worriless and my mind soared happily.

Soon, helping imaginary children no longer satisfied me. I was already volunteering at a local hospital, but I wanted to help other students now, in high school, with something I have been doing consistently, something I excel at.

So I dragged my dreamy self down from the clouds and hurled her into my physical body sitting in the theatre auditorium.

The director gave us glossy scripts to memorize lines. I did have my part memorized, but I could not acknowledge what the other characters were saying. I had not felt any inconveniences in the classrooms with the hearing of a seventy-year-old, but sound waves must travel differently in an echoing four-hundred-seat auditorium. It felt as if I plunged right into the Mariana Trench: I could detect fragments of vowels bubbling out from others’ parting lips, but they did not resemble any lines. My cast mates glared at me in frustration as I blankly stared back.

Not being invincible was something new to my dreamy self. I would know exactly what the other characters were saying if I learn their lines. That meant mastering three other sets of lines, so would the extra devotion be worthwhile when no audience would know what I have invested? I knew that “Integrity is doing the right thing when you don’t have to—when no one else is looking or will ever know”. I sighed, for I would overcome this barrier for the sake of the team and for the sake of proving to myself that an impediment will not hinder the strive for perfection.

I leapt back to my haven.

First, I did a thorough background investigation of my character. Why would she talk a certain way? How would she interact? I built a brand-new friend sitting across from me, a peppy nun fresh out of postulancy. Then, I would read the other characters’ lines and she would respond with her own. Slowly, the two of us could get through an entire scene with blocking and movement. By the third week of rehearsal, I have jotted notes on every one of the 300 pages in the script. Even though I still had trouble hearing the other actresses, I already knew their lines by heart. Once, another actress forgot her line. She glanced at me and I mouthed her first two words without breaking character. Intentionally studying and familiarizing the entire script have not only benefitted myself, but also helped my cast mates as they had someone confident to practice with.

I must have had triple the amount of rehearsal time the other girls got, but my final presentation was the same as the rest of them. I, with my defect, am special; my path to success is muddier and longer to slosh through. As long I can reach my destination, however, every step is worth the struggle. I know I can tear down the barriers in front of me because by believing I can pass it, I am already half way through. I might not hear the friendly chatter or the charming melody, but I can savor the world in my own way. I am thankful for the opportunities I have, and I will fight to achieve my goal to help those who are less fortunate. I have a tough road to run on, and I will take each leap with pride as I get closer to the shining light.

Do you hear what I hear? Probably not, but I will meet you there at the end.

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