When I was 6 years old I had a long ponytail that flowed in one continuous curl to my waist. I always received so many compliments on it as a child that I grew up believing I could never wear my hair any way but long. About four years ago my hairdresser suggested I cut my hair very short. When I asked if he thought it would look better, he simply replied that it would look different. He proceeded to explain that there is beauty in just trying something different. After he cut my hair it looked exactly as he said it would — different. It did not look better or worse, just different.
His philosophy that there is beauty in things being different than the way they were before has stayed with me always. When I first became deaf, I felt that my life was going downhill and I was much worse off. When I finally quieted down and listened with my soul instead of my ears, I found beauty in my life as a deafened person. I see the beauty in how expressive I am in sign language, in the strong bond I have with new friends, the resourcefulness I have tapped into, and the confidence I have acquired from taking a good look at who I am.
Whenever I start to use comparative words like better or worse, I try to catch myself and simply say that it is different. It can be over something simple like wondering if a recipe turned out better or worse than the time I made it before to something more complex like life itself. Life is constantly changing and I have found that I place too much pressure on myself when I believe that the changes must be for the better. I would rather accept the changes as just being different and look for the beauty in that.
Life is different now that I am deaf. I don’t qualify it with the word better or worse, just different.
(A reprint of an article I wrote 20 years ago, when I was the founding President of ALDA-Suncoast of Florida, a support group for people who have become deaf. The article appeared in the newsletter, ALDA-Sun. At the time, I was going back to school to change professions from being a foreign language teacher to becoming a mental health counselor.)