TCNJ Magazine: Spring 18

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13 SPRING 2018 LILY SNOWDEN-FINE EN H. ADAMS confident with respect to my academics. TO MY SURPRISE, TCNJ had accepted me without question. I was Luke, a brown-eyed, dark- haired civil engineering major who just so happened to wear hearing aids. While I didn't meet other students with my impairment, I met many students with other disabilities. It was easy to feel at home when I saw so many other students face similar struggles and succeed despite them. Now a rising junior, I have realized a few things that could have made my transition to college seamless: • Trust in your parents' wisdom. These are the people who ripped apart garbage bags to find your retainer. The same people who searched on their knees in a dirty, dark dugout for your hearing aids — only to realize later that you never wore them to the game. They want the best for you. • Give people the benefit of the doubt when you meet them; they might not be focusing on the one trait you think they are. • We are all dealt a hand in life. Sometimes it is a royal flush and other times a bust. You can't control everything sent your way, but you can find a sense of gratitude in all situations. • Most importantly, if you use hearing aids, wear them: They do no good at the bottom of your bookbag. ■ hearing loss in both of my ears. Immediately after my diagnosis, my parents took me to the best specialist and bought me state-of-the-art hearing aids. They made sure that I was in speech therapy year-round. (When my peers were frolicking at the beach during summer break, I was in a speech therapist's office learning the correct pronunciation of the vocalic "r" found in words like car or ear.) Their mantra was that I could do anything that others could do, perhaps in a different manner. But I didn't always feel that way, especially when I had to practice an oral report 10 times longer than my siblings. When my peers were frolicking at the beach during summer break, I was learning the correct pronunciation of the vocalic "r" found in words like car or ear. Throughout high school, my own diffidence was my greatest limita- tion. When it came to those speeches, I never looked at the result — successfully delivering a clear speech without error in front of my peers. Rather, I focused on the struggles I endured to get to that point. While my first hearing aids blended into my hair, I was sure they were all people saw when they looked at me. I feared people would equate a speech impediment with a deficit in intelligence. I DID MY BEST to pretend I didn't need the aids and, ultimately, stopped wearing them altogether. In school, I was pretty good at reading lips and observing body language to figure out what I didn't hear clearly. If I misunder- stood one of my friends, I just spun it into a funny response so he or she would not realize I had not heard them. This is how I hoped to approach my years at TCNJ. I would fake it without hearing aids so people's first impression of me wouldn't be "hearing-aid boy." My transition to college was pretty smooth. The college had placed my sister on the same floor so I always had a familiar face around. The small class sizes enabled me to always find a seat in the front of the class. The professors were attentive and made sure that students understood the material. But then I started getting horrible, almost daily headaches. The more technical the class was, the more my head pounded by the end of the lecture. This continued for weeks, and I would just take a Motrin to deal with it. Finally, I called home and told my mother what was happening. Big shocker — the pink, polka-dot monster asked if I was wearing my hearing aids. As soon as I started to wear them again, the headaches disappeared, and I was hearing my professors clearly. By the end of my freshman year, I felt significantly more

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