But now, a decade later, I can’t help but reflect on how many of those questions and fears have drifted away—I finished college and went back. Disability in one area doesn’t mean you don’t have strong abilities in others. We are each more than a single label or diagnosis.
If I could go back, I would tell my twenty-year-old-self—I know you can’t see past this now. It seems to mar your life, to irrevocably screw up your plans, your dreams. It seems to shatter every truth you knew about who you are and what you’re capable of. Later that afternoon, as you sit on the beach, pen in hand, pages rippling in the forceful wind—you will make a pivotal choice—to turn to, not away from Jesus in this day of pain and fear. You chose not to get bitter, cynical, or self-pittying—and by His grace you live that out. Sure, you have moments of agony and deep fear—but your roots are strong—to him be the glory.
Ten years from now you will be thankful for this day—you won’t wish it away, dread waking up and putting your aids in, live in constant fear of losing the rest of your hearing or not having batteries for your aids. You won’t hide your aids under your hair—you’ll again experience the freedom of wearing your hair up—exposing those ears, knowing that the people who can’t see past them don’t deserve your energy anyway. Ten years out, you will be so grateful for loss—for you have gained so much-perspective, empathy, compassion for the hurting—that far outweighs any loss of your physical hearing. You’ll smile to think how this was made for you—chosen in love to strengthen, EQUIP—not hinder, the life you live. Your eyes will glimmer as your mind fills with pictures of how this loss is gain—from relating to many scared parents with a fresh Autism diagnosis, to the way your niece gently pulls back your hair and in awe and joy exclaims “you got my ears too!”
Ten years from now you will read scriptures like “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126) and your heart will smile with an understanding and joy—fulfilling this verse and knowing its truth. Ten years from now, the once overwhelmingly painful anniversary will have faded to one of bittersweet gratitude—for now you have those sheaves—the harvest of suffering that reminds you pain in this life is birth pains. Trembling 20-year-old-self—this diagnosis you think is ending your life—is actually the greatest beginning.