Finding My Way…

I am unsure about any of you but I remember a time when I could tell you exactly what I wanted to do with my life as far as an occupation is concerned. I enjoyed career days in elementary school; at my small, Midwest, rural United States school from the time we were in preschool until we were in 6th grade we would dress up in costumes representing the careers we aspired to. So from the time I was at least 4 years old until I was approximately 12 years, I participated in career days!

I was always ready for those days, during some of the earlier career days, I, like many other youngsters simply wanted to be whatever the latest craze was on the biggest cartoons….but I often ended up being whatever costume my parents found at the local department store! I did not care because we were having a party for career day for most of those earlier days. It also never occurred to me that career day in preschool through third grade often occurred during Halloween!

I was a child and I did not realize my first few “career days” were simply excuses for Halloween parties! Plus I did not know that my small, lovable town had a few religious groups who were absolutely opposed to the celebration of Halloween, but not career day!

But once we made it to 4th grade, career days became real! I recall distinctly that this was a time when those of us who were labeled high achieving were separated from our peers and told about the importance of careers.

For all three years I wanted to be an Attorney.

Not just any attorney, I wanted to specialize in child advocacy and juvenile rights. I did not know if such a thing existed but I knew that this was my career choice!

To convey the message to everyone that I wanted to be an attorney, I would wear a suit! Without fail, every year during those three years, I wore a “power suit” that was usually some shade of gray.

I felt that gray was the color that any good attorney would wear! I am certain that I got that idea from Andy Griffith’s Matlock! My young mind felt that Matlock always wore a gray suit, and he was the closest I’d ever been to an attorney.

My desire to be an attorney felt like a dream conceived in my wild imagination that was impossible because of my humble beginnings!

Let me explain, I am Black from a small town in the United States of America and at that time, the majority of my extended family thought of college as something that wealthy people did. This is not a bad thing, it simply highlights the issues with access to higher education…so when I suggest that become an attorney felt like a wild dream, I am serious.

Well once I finished high school, I no longer wanted to be an attorney; however, I continued to tell people who I was interested in attending law school. I did not know how to tell individuals that I was not interested in a legal career anymore (side-note: my perception of what was meant by a legal career was drastically limited at the time so it probably would have worked if I knew more) so even once I graduated from my undergraduate institution – I continued to tell people that I wanted to become a child advocate attorney.

It sounded much better than – I want to help underrepresented groups attend and graduate from post-secondary institutions! Yes, telling someone who I wanted to be a child advocate attorney sounded much better….because I had an actual name for that position and it was readily familiar to most people.

I am still actively looking for a job in the real world, but when I think back to the young me who was always ready for career day – I am thankful for the opportunity to even begin thinking about a career. I may no longer want to be an attorney, but I am still in the market to becoming an advocate – young me would be proud!

I am presently finding my way to my future through an exploration of my past. Keep watching!

My Peace is Threatened

If I could simply be frustrated with the job search, I’d be much more comforted. Even job searches come to an end!

I cannot pinpoint what’s off in my world because nothing is truly wrong; however, so much has changed.

I spent the majority of my life thus far in pursuit of a dream; once I realized that dream…the dream qualities were missing!

How is it that I’m immensely proud of my personal and professional accomplishments; yet, I feel like there’s another story underlying everything which contains the key to what’s right and wrong in my life right now?

I’ve always been that person who ignored my feelings in the name of sanity. I learned early on that the exploration of feelings and emotions spell danger.

I know this is a far out there idea for many of you, but I’ll take this time to remind you that feelings and emotions rarely make sense on paper!

I’m an adult and there are steps I have to take to feel that way internally. I’ve financially supported myself for years so that’s no issue…granted employment would make this part of life much easier!!!

My train of thought departed 🚂

Typos…

The awkward moment I read my posts and find typos I missed when both times I proofread!

I proofread TWICE and there’s still typos!

Pop Culture References…eh?

Ok so here’s the deal, I don’t watch a lot of television or movies…and what I do watch caters to a niche market.

So I fail to understand A LOT of pop culture references.

This has been one of my problems since my elementary school days when the other children wanted to talk about the latest, greatest cartoon character and I would have to ask who?

They would talk about the superheroes of the small screen and I’ll be like “umm I watched some guys fishing early one morning and they were throwing the fish back”

Yep! You can imagine how well that conversation went!!!

Let’s fast forward to my college years. I was one of those students who thought spring break was a great time to volunteer! Don’t laugh, I still think that any free time is an excellent time to volunteer, give back.

Several weeks before the kick off for spring break I signed up for alternative spring break. Specifically, I signed up for the alternative spring break New York City trip with my closest college friend at the time.

We met all the requirements and we really thought it would be a great experience. We had a wonderful time btw!

So this was my first trip by vehicle to NYC. Pause! It was an incredibly long road trip, we were coming from a Midwest state in USA!

I only really knew my friend. I have an unhealthy distrust over people’s driving (although I don’t drive myself) and I’m too curious to sleep on the road so I was excitedly exhausted once we arrived.

Remember I was in college – first generation in my family – so a road trip with friends, however loosely that is defined was definitely on my things to do while in college list! Spoiler alert: I really enjoyed the trip, overall experience, but so far I’ve yet to take another road trip with friends….being in a vehicle so long is really not my thing!

I digress…

We arrived to NYC safely, I don’t remember where we stayed but I know it was a religious oriented space. We checked in with the host organization and participated in volunteer training.

After our volunteer shifts we had free time daily and one full free day during our weeklong stay. There was a lot to do but this was fun!

My friend and I saw two shows off broadway and as a group we explored shopping centers and other tourist’s hot spots.

As I mentioned me and popular culture have never been particular close! I’m often oblivious when it is mentioned.

This trip included one of the most glaring accounts of my popular culture cluelessness!!!

After volunteering one day, we walked around the city, cackling and chatting like undergraduates encouraged by their small contribution of kindness.

Suddenly, everyone in the group (sans me) start pointing and laughing. I freak out think that perhaps this helpful group needs to take one of those courses about diversity because they’ve collectively lost their minds!

One of my peers even said “oh man that was good”, another was like “too funny”! Even my friend was laughing like there was no tomorrow.

Smoke was likely escaping my nostrils I was so heated by this exchange… but I knew my friend and she would never laugh at someone’s misfortune so I put the brakes on my anger and decided to use my words!

I quietly asked my friend, Why are you laughing at a soup kitchen?

For those of you who are more in tune with popular culture than I am, you already know about the famous soup kitchen in NYC…but I didn’t!

My friend knew me as well as I knew her so she wasn’t shocked that the reference to popular culture was lost on me. She politely replied Oh they are not making fun of a soup kitchen, they are referring to the Soup Nazi episode from Seinfeld

Thanks to my aunt’s viewership of Seinfeld, I knew that was a television show but just moments before my friend cleared things up for me,

I thought I’d traveled ALL they way from the Midwest USA to NYC with a heartless bunch of people who laughed at a Soup Kitchen…

Over a decade later, I’ve still never watched the popular Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld; however once we returned to the place we stayed in NYC my friend provided evidence for me that it was indeed from the series.

This is one memory that makes me laugh; especially since I’m still nearly as clueless about popular culture today…but because my friend didn’t ridicule my ignorance…I am more likely to ask questions when a reference is lost on me before the smoke starts blowing from my misplaced judgment.

Hobbies, Anyone?

A hobby is something you engage in regularly for sheer entertainment.

We are often asked what our hobbies are; especially, when we are first getting to know someone.

I’ve struggled to answer this question every time it was asked.

Not because I dislike fun, entertainment. But because many of the things I do enjoy are ingrained into my lifestyle….therefore it is difficult to identify these things as hobbies.

Part of my problem is my construction of hobby! I think of hobby and I think of an activity that’s far more entertaining than anything I actually enjoy. Plus I seem to believe that one must have numerous hobbies in order for it to count!

This is a terrible misconception, although it’s one I choose to continue to believe. At least I know my logic is flawed…that stands for something right?

I don’t enjoy the “big” hobbies like the ones that incorporate physical activity or those that involves instruments or tools. I didn’t name any particular hobby, yet you envisioned some by my hollow descriptions, right?

Even before you begin to read this post…the title invoked imagery of hobbies! The mind is interesting like that.

I enjoy reading and that’s the only thing I identify as a hobby of mine! Sure there are other things I like to do; but, leisure reading is the only thing I regularly do for entertainment.

I’ve tried expanding my hobbies without much success.

Hello dear reader, my name is Amber and my only hobby is reading! How about you?

Single-sided Deafness and Me

First, I live with single-sided deafness which is known by other names; however, I use the term single-sided deafness to convey the significance.

When I’ve told people that I have unilateral hearing loss, they believe that my non-functioning ear works with amplification

This usually results in people yelling at me or purposely making what I assume to be loud noises in my affected ear.

I rarely even say that I live with single-sided deafness, most often I choose to say that I am deaf on my right side. This often confuses people but I don’t have to endure their “battery of tests” – having my ear yelled into and people clapping their hands near my affected ear.

I was not born with single-sided deafness, but for most of my life I’ve had ear related issues. From early life until now, I have many ear infections. I had a speech impediment as a child and my hearing was a part of the issue. I had balance issues and my ears were the suspected culprit.

No one really knew what was going on at that time and I didn’t have a preferred health insurance plan —- here in the USA, your health insurance plays a significant role in the type of care you have access to.

Eventually, I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease and placed on a salt free diet for over a year. This was right before I graduated high school so the specialist I saw was located in the town that became my home during undergraduate.

I had a few specialized procedures and follow up appointments with the specialist.

Oh it’s important to note that my hearing was still in normal ranges at this time – in both ears. I had followed the salt free diet so well that when my time was up to eat this way – I basically stuck with it.

The main difference is that my parents didn’t have to trouble with preparing me a separate salt free meal.

During undergrad my sodium levels dropped too low and the specialist suggested I go to a popular restaurant, order their famous fries and ask for extra salt! Yeah, I never did that but I did eat more pickles and a few other salty foods. It took awhile but my sodium levels returned to normal ranges.

Two specialists warned me that I’ll likely lose my hearing – based on the available clinical information – as a result of many factors including Meniere’s Disease. I didn’t think much of this prognosis since no one could tell me when or if it would certainly happen.

Years passed and I started having issues with balance and it felt like my right ear was filled with water. I went to a primary care physician who treated the ear infection that I seemed to always have!

My ears felt better and I ignored the fact that I would put the television on mute because it sounded distorted; or how I would look in the wrong direction when someone called my name; or how when I wore headphones it felt as if my right ear was stopped up.

The balance issues worsened. I was seeing a neurologist already so tests were run to determine if the problem was neurological. I could not afford to see another specialist at the time.

I waited until my migraines (the reason I was seeing neurologist) were under control and more of my deductible was paid before I made my way to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor.

By this time I was in my late 20s. My insurance was slightly better than it was when I was a child – but I had the income of a full time graduate student…it was low!

My income and insurance were significant players in my decision to seek care for my ailing ear.

My first appointment with the ENT was devastating. I recall the audiologist asking me how was I making it in my classes? I looked at this individual like huh? I didn’t do that bad on your little annoying tests!

I even asked this person why they didn’t play the noises so I could beep in. Still, in denial! I honestly thought that there was a long stretch of silence during the tests.

Even after a sound processor band was placed on my head and suddenly the stretch of silence ended – I preferred to believe that there was a purposeful long stretch of silence in the hearing test.

This belief was much better than the fact that I really couldn’t hear well.

The ENT discussed the audiologist’s findings with me and ordered more tests.

I was on auto pilot because I refused to believe that anything was truly wrong with my ears – other than the all too frequent ear infections!

That was in 2015. Once I left the doctor’s office and called/text my friends and family to inform them that “my right ear was simply decorative” – this was my description!

I cried and wondered if things would’ve been different if I had better insurance as a child or even if I went to doctor at the first sign of a problem. Then I questioned whether the ear problem was overlooked by the physicians I did see because of the much larger issues at the forefront.

Eventually I went back to the audiologist and chose the specialty hearing aid system to improve my quality of life. The hearing aid system was the least affordable option; however, it was the most convenient at that time in my life.

I’ve had the tubing changed several times since my introduction to the world of hearing aids. I’m long overdue for new tubes now.

But once again my income and insurance influences the medical care I even attempt to obtain. As I’ve shared I recently graduated and I’m on the job market with no income…this means no health insurance either.

I’m no longer in denial about my single-sided deafness; but even after all of these years the hearing aid system that was once convenient doesn’t work well for my changing lifestyle.

But most importantly the hearing aid system’s tubes are long overdue for replacement…which means I’m not using them!

Single-sided deafness has been interesting for me. It’s one of the most difficult diagnoses I’ve ever received and I’ve received many.

Plus I’m tired of individuals checking to see if I can hear anything in my right ear. Those tests are just horrible.