I’m saddened for the Class of 2020 and all the kids who’ll miss out on the rest of the school year. I know how they’ll feel when they have to skip the big events to which they’d been looking forward. I get it. In my own way, I’ve been through it, just like they’re going through it now. At the same time, here’s why I still have a whole lot of hope for them.
When I was 17 years old and in my senior year of high school (or at the end of secondary school, as it’s known in many countries), I woke up one day completely deaf in my right ear. I was no stranger to hearing loss; some hearing had been gone from my other ear (my left one) since I was a child. My right ear, however – the one that spontaneously stopped working this time – had been the one upon which I’d relied since then. Suddenly, though, I could hear virtually nothing at all.
I didn’t have hearing aids. I certainly didn’t know sign language. I could read lips a bit just out of habit, but not nearly well enough to make it work socially or as a student.
My mom, of course, rushed me to the doctor. The doctor couldn’t say for sure why it happened. She said perhaps it was viral; perhaps it was some genetic cause for which the switch just happened to flip that day. The nurse came in to draw blood, and likely from all of the “excitement,” I passed out cold. When I came to (with the help of smelling salts), the doctor welcomed me back to consciousness by saying, “I don’t know exactly why you lost your hearing, but just in case, you should probably prepare to lose the rest of your remaining hearing in your other ear, too.”
That is not what an otherwise healthy 17-year-old child needs to hear.
Fortunately, I also heard something else. I also heard a quiet voice inside my heart respond to her – although I didn’t say it out loud – “No, that’s not what’s going to happen. My hearing is going to come back.”
Was it denial? I don’t think so; my sense of peace was too strong for that. Rather, I think it was trust. I think it was intuition. Above all, it felt like God was whispering to my heart, “I have other plans for you. Trust Me. You can’t hear right now, but it’s time for you to listen.”
And so I did. For the next few months, I stayed home from school, almost completely isolated, aside from spending time with my mom. I missed the class picture and many of the final, happy milestones that mark the end of the year — ones I’d never again have the opportunity to enjoy. Of course, my friends would’ve seen me outside of school, but how could I have interacted with them? Besides, they still had homework and sports and activities. All the things I simply couldn’t do right then.
Every day, I picked up our old-fashioned telephone and listened to check whether I could hear its dial tone. That was my litmus test for whether there was any sound making it to my brain. For a long time, I heard nothing. I did nothing but trust that it was temporary.
I couldn’t hear, but I was listening.
After a few months passed, one day I picked up the phone, put it to my ear, and heard something. It wasn’t loud; in fact, it was barely audible and notably metallic sounding. My heart leaped with joy and hope! It also heard the message, “THIS is why it’s important to keep trusting.” Never had I been more grateful that I didn’t buy into what the doctor suggested my prognosis would be.
My hearing eventually came back to the point that I could return to school for the very short time that remained of it, see my friends, and have a reasonable semblance of a normal teenager’s life. It never returned fully, but that’s a minor detail in the grand scheme of things. Truth be told, by the time I finally went back to school, my return felt anticlimactic. Everyone was already moving onto discussing and finalizing their plans for the following year. It was time to move on.
Why does this matter now?
It matters now for the same reason it mattered then. We need to keep moving forward and trusting, even when it’s scary. Even when we’re isolated indefinitely. Even when it feels like this is going to last forever.
How can any of us possibly know what the REAL plan is? How this is all going to play out? We can’t.
So yes, listen to the experts. Right now, they’re telling us to stay home. We all need to do that. This is no time to naively think we’re bigger than this pandemic or that “we can handle it.” If you think you’ll be fine, you very well might be fine. A positive outlook is an incredible gift and we should accept it as such! But please stay home for those who might not be as hopeful, or as strong, or as healthy as you are. I was healthy, too, and I see how quickly something I relied on simply changed overnight.
We know we can’t change the school closures or the plans we’d made. We know we can’t attend the activities to which we’d been looking forward. It’s perfectly natural and healthy to grieve those things. I certainly did and I “get” it completely.
Trust me when I say this, though — we can recover from the loss of the plans we thought we had. We’re on a path that’s different now, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less meaningful than what we’d envisioned. We’ve been given a new map to follow; a new way to find the peace and encouragement that are still very much alive.
Be still for awhile. Just be still. Now is our time to hear, but even more than that, it’s our time to listen. There’s hope here.
Related post: The Most Grounding Advice I Ever Received
Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.