As someone who is hearing-impaired and has been since the second grade, I have often felt isolated and out of place.
Actress-author Marlee Matlin (left) listens as MTSU senior Kristy Hardin asks a question during a book-signing session March 22 in Tucker Theatre. Matlin presented the National Women’s History Month keynote address for the university. Photo by A. Heidt
When “fully hearing” people ask me to describe what it’s like for me to hear without hearing aids, I give them this analogy: “It’s as if I’m underwater in a pool, and someone is standing on the edge trying to talk to me. I can tell there’s someone there, and I can hear them talking. I can even make out a few words and phrases here and there. The sound, though, is muffled and distorted, and I can’t always unscramble it properly.”
Not being able to hear normally has often been a source of pain and frustration for me and something I felt no one could understand.
Most of the people in my life have little to no difficulty hearing, and while they may be sympathetic to my situation, I often feel they just don’t “get it.”
I wasn’t sure I’d ever meet someone who understood until I got the opportunity to meet Marlee Matlin.
Matlin lost most of her hearing when she was 18 months old and has faced many of the same challenges I have. Throughout her life and career, Matlin has been made to feel “lesser,” told that she wouldn’t make it and belittled for her lack of full hearing.
Matlin hasn’t been completely surrounded by naysayers, though.
She has a very loving and supportive foundation in her parents, just as I have with my dad. She was raised to believe she could do and be anything she wanted – that only she and her fears had the power to hold her back.
During Matlin’s March 22 speech at MTSU’s Tucker Theatre, I was brought to tears. Here was someone who “got it,” and in a very big way.
Several statements Matlin made resonated very deeply with me. They renewed my strength and courage.
One that Matlin clearly wanted to emphasize was, “If you will it, it is not a dream.” As a college senior in my final semester, worrying about who I am and what I’m doing with my life, this was something I desperately needed to hear.
I feel that everyone, regardless of their abilities, needs to be reminded of what seemed to be the theme for Matlin’s speech: “Courage plus dreams equals success.”
This sentiment is so important to Matlin – personally and to impart on others – that she insisted everyone in the audience learn to sign it and encouraged us to make it our personal motto.
Matlin is someone I have long respected and admired for her perseverance in the face of adversity. I often wondered how I could be as successful in my own life, and I thank Matlin for reminding me.
Success indeed comes from giving yourself permission to dream and having the courage and determination to make dreams into reality. Courage plus dreams equals success.