Whoosh.. Whoosh.. Vehicles zoom by on the busy road half a football field away; the cold winter air blows so strong that I can hear it whispering in my ears. A lone emergency vehicle siren pierces the air, louder than the other sounds that surround it. Click. I get into my car, and drive home as jazz music filters through the space, and the heater fan rattles. I arrive home, and the sounds of the door hinges greet me at the same time my mom does. Later that night, a laugh track responds to a joke as I watch television. I talk to my young niece on the telephone, and she reads me a story she has been practicing at school.
My days are filled with sound, just like maybe yours are. The click-clack of my keyboard at work, the tick-tick-tick of the clock in the living room. Eventually, many of the sounds we hear blend into the background, and we don’t really notice them, even as we hear them.
Night. The last thing I do before curling into my pillow is remove my hearing aids and tuck them into their protective box while I sleep. Like the light on my bedside table, the sounds turn off the minute these little pieces of plastic, wires, and metal leave my ears. If I am close to the source, I can hear loud sounds and the faint burble of water, but without hearing aids, my world goes mostly silent.
This is me.
When I walked into the nurse’s office for my annual hearing check when I was ten years old, I didn’t sense the foreboding of a life about to change. But sitting in that plastic chair this time around, I didn’t quite hear everything I should have. A phone call was made. The nurse told my mom that she was going to test me again, just to make sure. Another test, same chair. Again, my ears didn’t quite catch the sounds they should have. The following weeks were spent visiting an ear, nose and throat doctor for the first time, and meeting with the audiologist we had been referred to. I would come to know Julia, my then audiologist, well over the next decade. I was fitted for a pair of hearing aids. It was a new road, one not chosen, but that must be traveled by none-the-less.
The road may not have been chosen, but the response to the terrain was all our own. Lucky for me, I have a fierce warrior of a mother, and letting the situation get the best of me wasn’t considered. Sure, there are days where I wish that I didn’t struggle to hear: that I could watch a television show without captions or carry a tune that my tone-deaf ears can’t manage. But I have always chosen to look for the silver lining in any situation, and in so many ways, having a hearing impairment has been a blessing. It has helped shape me into who I am: a keen problem solver, focused and, I like to think, a more compassionate human being. I wanted to pursue a higher education and, after graduating high school with honors, I attended an esteemed university. After that, I earned my Master of Arts degree and graduated with a cumulative 3.7 GPA.
While I was working on my Master’s degree, the Achieve Ability program at Old National was brought to my attention. The acknowledgement and equality of individuals with disabilities in the workplace is a topic that is important to me, and I knew immediately that I wanted to become involved. After meeting with Disability Outreach Specialist Ben Trockman, I was paired with Old National's chief marketing officer, which was the perfect fit for me. Inching closer to graduation, I was able to glean insights to apply to the real world, as I prepared to become a young professional entering the workforce. The positive influence of the mentorship, and the sense of community from interacting with Achieve Ability participants during my time in the program, has stayed with me and is still at work in my life - which includes working at Old National today.
Life sometimes requires taking a detour when there is a roadblock, but my approach has never been, “I can’t do this.” Rather, with a bit of gumption and a solid support system, I instead proclaim, “Watch me figure out the way.”
Bring Achieve Ability to your organization
Old National shares the Achieve Ability program with communities and employers that have a goal of being more inclusive in the states we serve. Visit our Achieve Ability page to request more information or schedule a presentation.
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