“People will stare. Make it worth their while.”
– Harry Winston
Welcome to Day #3 in A Year of Positivity! Today’s post will discuss the following quote by Harry Winston, “People will stare. Make it worth their while.” I think this quote is pretty awesome because it’s so very true! We are naturally curious creatures, so it’s human nature to stare at others for a variety of reasons.
A couple of the most common reasons why someone might stare at you is because you stand out from them, maybe because there’s something about you that they don’t like, or there’s something about you they do like, and they want it. Perhaps they may be staring at you, because they admire you for one reason or other. In any case, oftentimes people will stare at you, and sometimes they’ll talk about you behind your back. I’m a prime example of this.
As you may already know (or have already read elsewhere on this site), I lost most of my hearing by the time I had reached the age of 4, and it wasn’t officially diagnosed until I flunked first grade at Lehigh Parkway Elementary School when I lived in the Allentown School District. Once I was diagnosed with Bilateral Conductive Hearing Loss by an audiologist, they fitted me for BTE (behind-the-ear) hearing aids, and they recommended enrollment into as many speech classes as was necessary for my education.
I was also provided an FM system where I wore a receiver hooked up to a little box (sometimes it was a necklace hooked up to the box, sometimes it was an added extension to my hearing aids, depending on the school year), and each of my teachers would wear a microphone hooked up to their own little box, and both the microphone and receiver boxes were connected on a wireless frequency. It was beneficial to me for most of my mainstream education until I made a personal request to not wear one in my senior year of high school. If you’re wondering why I’ve used the word ‘mainstream’ for my education, or if you’ve never heard this term and you’re confused by it, I’ll further explain.
In the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, the term ‘mainstream education’ is referred to enrolling a Deaf or Hard of Hearing child/adolescent into an elementary, middle, or high school where a majority of the students come from the hearing world. However, ‘mainstream education’ is also a diverse enough term to mean enrolling any other special needs student into regular classrooms where a majority of the students don’t have any special needs.
Growing up, I was enrolled into 7 different mainstream elementary schools in several school districts before settling into an 8th elementary school in a school district from which I graduated. Every time we moved, reactions to my hearing loss and my FM system were different. Some classmates were stunned, and some thought it was cool and liked to ‘whisper’ into the microphone when the teacher wasn’t using it, to see if I could hear what they were saying when no one else could (FYI: The answer is yes, I could, lol). Even some students stayed far away from me, because they were afraid they’d catch my hearing loss, or they were uncomfortable being around me, because they didn’t know how to interact with me.
I hated moving when I was young, because it meant I’d have to be introduced to a whole new class of students, and I never knew if they would accept me or not. For my entire childhood and adolescence, I was surrounded by people who didn’t have issues with hearing, and it made me feel like I was living on the outside, and looking in. It felt as if “normal” was to hear, and I wasn’t “normal.” As I got older, I felt like I was a burden, and I felt so alone. My freshman and sophomore years of high school were the worst because I struggled with something that happened to me during the summer before freshman year started. It felt like many people pretended to be my friend, and let me sit at their table at lunch only because they felt sorry for me.
It got to a point where I became quiet during my junior and senior years while trying to get as many library passes as possible for lunch and study hall. There was even one time I clearly remember spending an entire lunch period in a private stall in the bathroom, because the library was full, and they weren’t letting anyone else in, which tells you how much I hated being in the cafeteria. I didn’t care about making friendships anymore, or trying to get people to like me. The library was my safe zone, the place where I didn’t feel like people stared at me, and judged me for my lack of hearing or otherwise.
I developed a chip on my shoulder, and didn’t take my education seriously. I couldn’t wait to finish high school and get away from everyone who made me feel like I was the odd one out, like I wasn’t “normal.” I couldn’t shake that feeling until I moved across the country to San Diego, California to follow my heart. People stared at me there, too, but not for the same reasons as the students I went to primary school with.
I had an elderly woman stare at me upon her exit from a Ralph’s grocery store once as I was entering. I tried to do the nice thing and stand aside for her to pass through the doors, but then she said something that made me smile that day. She said, “Okay, I’ll move out of your way if I can have your beautiful red hair.” (FYI: My hair doesn’t look so red in this picture below, because of the lighting and being indoors; you can see it better in pictures located under the Bucket-Listed Travels section of this site.) I was having a rough morning that day, but she really made my entire day after that. She was so cute!
My first boss out in San Diego, she was shocked when she found out that I had profound bilateral hearing loss. She couldn’t stop staring at me during my first meeting with her, because she said I sounded normal with my speech during the pre-interview (a phone interview). I guess all those speech classes, along with the additional acting classes I took outside of my primary education paid off, lol. (Joking aside, I take this kind of compliment seriously, because I work really hard on my speech, especially since I’m learning Italian and a couple of other foreign languages.) My boss thought I was pretty cool, and she herself was a very positive, upbeat personality. She’d kind of rubbed off on me a little, lol.
I learned a lot of valuable life lessons in my 20s and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world because these life lessons, including the stuff gone awry, shaped me into the person that I am today. I’ve come into my own, and I’ve accepted my lack of being able to hear in the way that “normal” hearing people can. If I knew back in high school what I knew now, I would have hunkered down with my face in the books. I’d have taken my education a lot more seriously.
Now, I don’t care if people like me or not. I would rather have someone hate me for who I am than have someone love me for who I’m not. I wear my hair up now and I don’t care who sees my hearing aids. When a little kid stares at my ears, I smile or make a funny face. Sometimes they ask me what’s in my ears, and I give them a nice little chat about my hearing aids and what they do for me.
Call me weird? Hey, I’ll be the first one to say, “Good! I’d rather be weird than normal, because being normal is boring!” Besides, normal is relative anyway.
I say this, because life’s a lot easier if you just focus on being kind to others, and never stop living, loving, and laughing. Never forget to follow your heart and be silly and weird. Just be true to yourself and let your authenticity shine. We only have this one life. Make the most of it.
So, don’t be afraid to let everyone else stare.
Do dare to make it worth their while.
Be you, your BEST you, because you’re the only you.