Thanksgiving just went by in the United States, and Christmas is arriving exactly 28 days after. With the arrival of a season revolving around thankfulness and generosity, I have thought a lot about how people show their gratitude. A common method promoted by inspiration sites and figureheads like Oprah is the “Grateful Journal.” One is expected to write a list, ranging from three to ten items, of things for which they are thankful and explain why. Grateful journals are often suggested to individuals going through difficult transitions to maintain a positive outlook on life.
Repeatedly this year, I have tried keeping a grateful journal to raise my spirits as I go through my post-college transition. With the job market in the United States being unstable for millennials and a desire to move to California, a grateful journal sounded like an excellent idea.
Each time, however, I violated the same rule: “Mix it up. Don’t put the same thing in every day.” While I have many things for which to be grateful, none of them can outshine the gratitude I feel for being able to hear. Though I understand changing the list prevents the journal from becoming a half-hearted series of motions, it is hard to think about much else because hearing is such a critical part of one’s life. Until the day one has been without their hearing, it is almost impossible to fathom why hearing is so important.
None of my friendships or my current relationship would be possible because I would be speaking ASL instead of English. I would have been forced into an introverted lifestyle, in spite of my extroverted personality, simply because my social circle would have been limited. My educational opportunities would have been minimal to nothing because classrooms in the United States are based upon oral learning.
Had I lost my hearing to ear infections, I would not have been able to find seasonal employment or sing with music playing on the radio. Most importantly, I would not be able to pursue my passions for singing and songwriting, both of which I have developed since I was a teenager. Without my hearing, I would have lost many fundamental parts of my identity along with my ability.
In a grateful journal, I can change the content and structure of my list each day. I can note items my family provided for me and the beauty of my environment. Items such as those, however, are meaningless if I do not acknowledge the role my hearing plays in them. At home, my father has been able to provide excellent foundations, but they can only go so far in a society dependent on hearing. Nature becomes a limited experience when you cannot hear the trees rustling in the breeze, a creek dancing over rocks, or birds singing in their mating rituals. Even things beyond my control would be less significant if I did not acknowledge how they are influenced by hearing. Like it or not, hearing is a fundamental part of life, and not acknowledging it each day would be undermining the gratitude I feel for what hearing I have.
Is it fair that we are a society so dependent on hearing? Not in the slightest. Is it ableist that those who have any degree of hearing loss are denied opportunities? Undeniably yes! Perhaps, in noting that last question, it is ableist of me to feel gratitude for my hearing or to have an identity that’s hearing dependent.
Regardless, I cannot deny the impact hearing (and the threat of losing it) has had on my life and ability to feel gratitude. After fighting for it over the course of 10 surgeries and being told at the age of 10, “You are going to be deaf at age 15 or 16”, I cannot deny how thankful I am to hear at all. The gratitude I have for my hearing is endless, and will remain that way until the day I die. Any journal that keeps me from listing my hearing each day will never comprehend my depth of gratitude and the struggles of that come with hearing loss.