In one corner of my fishing tackle arsenal, a plastic box holds some of my very first attempts at homemade lures. I began making lures when I was 12 because I could never find the right color or sizes in stores. Whenever I see the uneven, misshaped lumps of rubber, feathers and yarn, I recall the endless snide comments from my fishing buddies when I first showed them my new creations.
They went to great lengths to label my lures with every synonym related to ugly and worthless. I sometimes wonder if those lures took it personally because they never caught a darn thing. Their comments fueled my desire to hone my skills as a lure maker and fisherman.
Months later, I caught my first fish with a crude attempt at a woolly bugger jig. It was a brute of a trout that was probably more hungry than intelligent. I caught two other trout that day and, much to my competitive delight, my buddies got skunked.
Today, I still make the occasional lumpy or lopsided lure, but through diligence I’ve managed to refine my technique and steadily increase my catch rate with homemade tackle. In the aforementioned plastic box, I still have that original jig and it has been the model for all the future generations created.
Sometimes I’ll pull it out of its compartment and reflect on the importance of diligence. What if I had given up? What if I caved into my buddies’ remarks that I’d never make anything that would catch a fish?
Reflecting on these questions, I pondered how those experiences and others helped prepare me for becoming deaf. It hasn’t been the easiest experience, and like millions of others, my daily approach to managing my deafness has been refined through trial and error. It is a grueling but necessary process that requires great diligence from the individual.
Since this is my final opportunity to share my thoughts, I wanted to discuss the virtues of faith and diligence and their application to those who are refining their approach to hearing loss.
One definition of faith is an unwavering hope for a better tomorrow. Diligence can be defined as the stubborn persistence to make that tomorrow happen. Combined, they’re two inseparable keys to successfully unlock the barriers of disability. Although technology can help improve chances for success, it always begins with an individual’s faith and diligence.
Technology’s success has nurtured a false assumption that most hearing loss can be fixed. Although potential accommodations continue to expand, it’s unlikely that hearing aid or cochlear implant recipients will return to their original hearing levels.
It takes an enormous amount of faith and diligence for anyone to move forward, accommodate hearing loss and accept that his or her hearing might never come back. However, each positive experience builds faith and encourages diligence to the principles that build a stronger self-esteem. Faith and hope become the anchors for the soul.
Unfortunately, society will always have vain and unrealistic expectations for perfection. This creates pressure to hide or cure any potential blemish, especially disability. The fundamental virtues of faith and diligence are trampled under the feet of society’s demand for conformity and instant gratification. However, through faith and diligence, it’s possible for individuals to move forward, accept hearing loss, and using personal talents to improve self and the world around us.
I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to discuss about hearing loss in my columns and hope they’re beneficial to all. I wish everyone the best as we move forward as a community, or as us fishing folks say: Tight lines!
Stephen Roldan, a member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, is statewide coordinator of deaf services for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation within the state Department of Social and Health Services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.