Anytime we do something for the first time, we inevitably feel a sort of fear within ourselves. It can develop into a real anxiety that can keep us from experiencing the great things life has to offer.
My parents moved to a new neighborhood when I was five years old. It is the earliest memory I have of being afraid to do something for the first time. I remember vividly, my mother pushing me out the front door and telling me to go play with the neighborhood girls, who were jumping rope, across the street. For a five-year old and probably for my mom, it was a “now or never” situation. At that moment, my five-year old mind told me I didn’t have a choice. I did what my mom told me to do. I thank her for that because it was my first experience to tell myself “you can do this.” I made my first friend in the new neighborhood and she is still my friend forty-seven years later. However, my new friend did not attend the same grade school as me and I was once again left to experience another first, alone.
Kindergarten can be a scary experience for children and I was no different. I remember the classroom with its three very long tables and the chairs that sat neatly along the six sides. It was after I examined these tables and thinking where am I going to sit, that I saw it. She called it the “dunce” chair and it frightened me. The dunce chair was for those kids that misbehaved. I vowed right then that I would never sit in that chair. I never did. I made it through another first, paving the way to more and more successful firsts in my life.
If we let fear keep us from doing things, we would live life in a box, never to experience what the world has to offer us. I get through most of life’s first by telling myself what my mom indirectly taught me that fateful day she pushed me out the door, “you can do this!”
There are many times I’m not confident, but I know in my heart that if I don’t jump in with two feet, I am going to miss out on something big. You see, anytime you let go of the fear, you end up with something bigger than you could imagine. You gain an experience that is gratifying and possibly life-changing. It will also boost your confidence to overcome that fear and give you the determination to go for it.
Losing my hearing wasn’t something I had any control over. I couldn’t tell myself “you can do this, in the sense that I had a choice. On the contrary, I told myself “you got this.” I could have felt sorry for myself and asked myself “why me?” Instead, I grabbed life with everything I had and forged ahead. Looking back at what I had was not an option for me. I couldn’t change that I had lost my hearing and I had faith that a cochlear implant would give me back what I lost. I am fortunate that it did. I continued to enjoy a whole new set of life’s firsts.
The hardest first after losing my hearing, involved social settings. There were many times I would volunteer for things that involved the ability to hear and understand what others were saying. I would eagerly volunteer forgetting that I was actually a deaf person with a cochlear implants and I would struggle to hear. After making these commitments, it would dawn on me and I would think “what have you gotten yourself into.” Again, I found myself repeating what I learned at five years old, “you can do this.”
Recently, I agreed to play in the charity event, Durham Warriors Survival Challenge. It is a competition where contestants from around the country compete in an array of challenges, both physical and mental, survive in the Maine woods, hold tribal councils, and vote for one winner, much like the TV reality show Survivor, that I competed on a year ago. I felt so honored to be asked, that when I agreed, I forgot how hard the game was for me, in respect to my hearing. I forgot that my tribe on the TV show ostracized me for being deaf and how I struggled to hear. On the flight to Maine, I started to doubt myself. But when I commit to something, I will not quit and I will give 110% of myself.
I discovered that playing in the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge was the best decision I had ever made. It gave me the confidence to never doubt my decision to take part in activities, that requires a keen sense of hearing. It put faith in me that there are good people in the world. I learned that these fearful first encounters we have can teach us so much about ourselves and what we are truly capable of. But most of all it taught me that yes “I can do this!”