An Open Letter to My Biggest Supporters

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Mom & Dad,

My hope is that you and others may understand what your love and support has meant to me. I can only hope that others who have a hearing loss or disability know the support and love they are worthy of or that those who have loved ones with a hearing loss or disability know how to be there for their special humans. 

Given that there is essentially no history of hearing loss in our family, I know the news of my diagnosis hit you guys hard. As your firstborn, I know this is not something you expected or were anywhere prepared for, granted as a first time parent, who ever really knows what to expect. Nevertheless, even though I know some tears were shed, you took it in stride. Of course, little me didn't know anything was wrong, but you guys started your fight for me right from the get-go, and that's something I will be forever appreciative of. 

Thank you for taking the initiative to get me fitted for hearing aids. As many insurance companies do not cover the cost of hearing aids or if they do, it's a very small portion, I am grateful you made the financial investment for me. I know that's never easy. The cost of devices is something many people struggle with, so the fact that you guys made that sacrifice alone is more than I could've asked for. As I travel and am exposed to other deaf and hard of hearing people, this is something I realized I took for granted - having the option to hear at all. 

Thank you for mainstreaming me. While I sometimes feel that I've missed out on the deaf culture by going to a hearing school, I know this was the best decision for you and for me. Having the opportunity to be pushed and challenged right alongside my hearing classmates was the best lesson I never knew I needed. It taught me to not use my hearing loss as an excuse for weakness but as an excuse to work harder and to be better. 

Thank you for never pushing any additional assistive devices on me, but thank you for encouraging me to at least give them a shot. Despite my constant pleas to not have microphones in class or sound-field systems or anything of the likes, you always made a deal with me to give them a trial, and one system ended up being of use. Thank you for allowing me to make that decision by knowing when I needed a push or when to hold back.

Thank you for never treating me any differently than my sister or my friends. Thank you for acknowledging that I had a hearing loss but never allowing that to be an excuse for bad or rude behavior. And thank you for never using my hearing loss as an excuse for me to not participate in sports or other extracurriculars. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue those extracurriculars and signing me up for every one of them until I found the one that best suited me. Yes, even piano, which it pains me to say this, but I regret having given up on that one so quick. 

And once I chose soccer as my priority, thank you for driving me to every tryout, every practice, and every game. Thank you for being my biggest cheerleaders on the sideline but also not being afraid to tell me if I had an off game. Thank you for holding my hearing aids when I was too afraid to put them in my bag during a (rain) downpour. And during those downpours, thank you for helping get my attention if my teammates or coach were trying to speak to me.

Thank you for never pushing me to get certain grades in school, and instead letting me be my own worst critic. Thank you for letting me choose the college that I felt best suited me, and thank you for supporting me when I chose to write many of my admissions essays about being a hard of hearing kid in a hearing world.

Thank you for encouraging me to seize every opportunity in college that I could. Allowing me to study abroad, participate in internships, and work while in school are all tools that helped better prepare me for the gnarly real world that was to come. 

Thank you for finding the Esteem technology and flying me out to California to meet with the original surgeon to discuss if it was a suitable option for me. And once concluded that it was, thank you for paying for the astronomical fee to have it done. Thank you for being there for me when, at first, I hated it and was terrified I'd made a mistake. Thank you for reassuring me that all the new noises I was hearing were completely normal and not judging me for thinking some of these noises were weird. 

Thank you for supporting me when I told you I would be moving to Los Angeles upon graduation. Yes, all the way to the other side of the country, and without a job. Thank you for supporting me in my endeavors to pursue a career many do not consider an actual job. Thank you for listening to my many rants about failure and confusion about the real world. Thank you for laughing at me simply because you knew what I was going through. Thank you for not babying me and allowing to navigate this world on my own but reminding me that you're just a phone call away. 

Thank you for moving to Los Angeles when we lost Shelby so that we could be together and I could still pursue my dreams. And thank you for supporting me when I soon after broke the news that I didn't know if these were my dreams anymore and telling me it was okay to not know what I wanted to do. 

Thank you for encouraging me and supporting me to pursue my love of travel. I know it's not easy having let me go across the world to take on the unknown. One thing's for sure, though, this travel experience has made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to have you as my parents because what I'm doing is not normal. Many people don't know how to deal with abnormal, and given that your life paths have been so different than mine, it's so nice to know that you're okay with me forging my own route. 

And lastly, I leave you with this... Thank you for being you. Thank you for being sensitive but not too sensitive. You managed to find a balance that not many have. Thank you for not sheltering me but providing me with the tools to explore this crazy world on my own. 

Love forever and for always,

Ashley

P.S. One last thank you... thank you for always taking my friends in and treating them as if they were your own kids.