Through elementary, middle and high school, we've all been asked to sit in a circle at some point and come up with an interesting fact about ourselves.
This can be a daunting task as it forces us to think about how we differ from the general population. You want to be different enough to be interesting but not different enough to be weird.
I've been lucky in this regard because I have a built in fun fact: I'm completely deaf in my right ear and I probably have been since birth.
Typically when I tell people this, I'm met with an interested expression and a skeptical, "Really?" After I say yes, then follows the testing phase.
Some people whisper in my ear. Some people snap. Some people nod disinterestedly and walk away. The testing methods vary, but there is always the same confirmation that I am, in fact, deaf in my right ear.
And I don't think this is a bad thing. My slight disability is not really a disability at all, but more of a constant, unique problem-solving exercise.
For example, I've never lived in a world where sounds are easy to find. One condition of my hearing is that I cannot localize sound. If someone yells "follow my voice," I just stand for a minute, contemplating wandering around aimlessly or having them come to me.
Marco Polo was never a fun game for me, but when I did play I learned how to never get caught (hint: it's cheating and getting out of the pool). That's problem-solving at its finest.
The biggest problem I tend to run into is when someone speaks to me on the wrong side. I'm sure I have offended more than a few people because they thought I was ignoring them. I didn't mean to disregard your hilarious joke, I just didn't hear it.
At restaurants I accidentally ignore the server on a regular basis. A nudge on the arm from a friend and some embarrassment on my part is how that situation usually ends. Planning where I sit so I can be involved in the conversation and still hear the waiter is an art form.
Sometimes, however, there is nothing to be done. Even if I'm in the perfect location and there is minimal background noise, I still can't hear some people. They are either extremely soft-spoken or perhaps they mumble a lot. Usually, I end up asking these people to repeat themselves too much, laughing with false understanding as I hope they told a joke.
There are some situations where my hearing impairment is not a problem to be fixed, but rather a blessing in half-hidden disguise. One half of a set of headphones being broken is not an issue. I only use one side anyway so if I notice a problem, I trade them out and go about my jam session.
Songs that are split between headphones with vocals on one side and accompaniment on the other can be a bit problematic, but once I learn the words to a song I get to practice my karaoke with the other side.
Getting to sleep on this campus can be a challenge, but it's much easier to drown out the nightly sirens and drunken screeches when my good ear is pressed into my pillow. I have to keep the volume on my alarm all the way up, but it's a fair trade-off.
Hearing out of both ears is an experience that I probably won't ever have, and for that I am grateful. There are a lot of horrible things to be heard, and being able to ignore at least some of them is something most people don't get the chance to do.
I guess having a disability is all about attitude. If you were to disagree with me, chances are I wouldn't hear you anyway.
Katrina Roberts is a sophomore in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.