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Identity: How do I identify myself?

January 17th, 2015 by | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

In my junior year of high school, my English class and I studied The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This book was my class’s least favorite book to read because of Hawthorne’s writing style and the difficult vocabulary it contained. One of the most important themes in The Scarlet Letter is identity. One of the biggest questions I have always asked myself is how do I identify myself because I don’t completely identify myself as deaf, but I am not hearing either. While I am part of both worlds, deaf and hearing, neither of those words suits my identity.

The book takes place in Boston during the 1600s when the Puritans arrived in the New World. Hester Prynne, the protagonist, committed adultery, which was considered a sin to the Puritans. As part of her punishment, Prynne was forced to wear an embroidered “A” on her chest, so the townspeople could identify her as an adulteress. For the rest of her life, Hester Prynne was remembered as the one who committed adultery.

As part of a writing assignment, our teacher asked us this question, “If you were to wear any letter, what would it be and why?” At the time, I chose the letter “U” because I was frustrated with my disease, Usher Syndrome. I wrote about the fact that I felt my disease was pulling me down because I couldn’t drive, and I was losing my vision. Most importantly, there was no cure for it yet. As I looked back on this journal entry, I began to realize that my disease does not define me, and it never did. However, it took me a long time to realize that my deafness and Usher Syndrome did not define me because I was so much more than that.

Back in my senior year of high school, I was having a discussion with my teacher. She said to me, “Are you really deaf? I don’t see you as deaf, I just see you as one of my students.” In that moment, I realized that no one saw me as just deaf, it was only myself. I was letting my deafness stop me because I felt different from other people. Technically everyone is unique and different in their own way. While this sounds like a cliche, it is true regardless.

Throughout my entire life, my parents always told me to, “Never let my disability define me.” I will not lie and say that it has been easy saying that my disability does not get in my way. There have been many occasions when I just want to give up because I feel tired. However, I have to keep moving forward because I need to realize that people with disabilities are the strongest because they encounter more challenges than anyone else.

About eight years ago, my dad took me to see Meet the Robinsons, which eventually became my all-time-favorite Disney movie. The movie is about a boy who dreams of being an inventor, and every time he tries to create something, it just explodes! Eventually, he succeeds, and the movie ends with one of my favorite quotes, “Keep Moving Forward!” This quote is inspiring to me because it tells us to never give up no matter how difficult things get.

About a year ago, I was creating a presentation on cochlear implants for my school’s Deaf Culture Day. To conclude my presentation, I wanted to use an inspiring quote, a quote that I could look up to, and I found this…

Jessica doing a presentation on cochlear implants.

Jessica doing a presentation on cochlear implants.

We all have limitations that tend to get to the best of us because they make us feel frustrated and angry at times, but they do not define us because we are so much more than that. I can never get rid of my deafness. It is always going to be there. It will always go on a medical form, but I do not identify myself as deaf. I am a student who loves math, English, chemistry, biology, doing ceramics, reading, watching television, and many other things. My deafness does not define who I am because I am more than just deaf.


Kay Kershman

January 17, 2015 at 5:54 pm

I always knew our granddaughter was a strong young woman. You so clarified your thoughts as you progressed through the process of finding out who you really are. Well done.


Corinne Popp

January 19, 2015 at 12:03 pm

What a beautiful piece, thoughtful and so well-written. I like your connection to The Scarlet Letter, and also how you share the ways in which your understanding has changed–for the better and stronger– over the years! Now I’ll have to watch Meet the Robinsons for sure :)