What does that word even mean? It’s such a powerful word. Resilience has been my life mantra. That 10 letter word has been said to me over and over again. I feel like I’m almost sick of hearing it. But, it’s there for a reason. It means something.
Resilience is officially defined as the ability to bounce back from difficulty. In my words, resilience is defined as the inner power you have to come back from adversity with grace. It can be in a powerhouse way, fueled by the grace of God.
I’m going to tell you two stories about resilience, and hopefully, it explains the word a bit better.
The first story is about a powerful woman in the bible, and someone who is a constant role model for me. Her name is Queen Esther. Esther, in the book of the Bible named after herself, was the Jewish wife of King Xerxes I, and queen of Persia. Esther was chosen for her beauty and outward looks, instead of her inward heart. When Esther’s cousin/guardian, Mordecai offends Xerxes’s advisor, named Haman, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Xerxes grants Haman permission to kill all the Jews in the land. Esther’s inner power leads her to stop Haman, and Xerxes allows the Jews to kill their enemies instead. The Jewish holiday, Purim, celebrates Esther’s resilience and bravery. Esther continues to be a role model for women today. My favorite line from the Bible is Esther 4:14, “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.”
The second one I want to tell you is a story from my own life. Or rather, my whole life. Does that count? Here’s my journey of resilience.
I began to lose my hearing progressively beginning at the age of 8. Or so the records say. My mom wonders/thinks I may have had hearing loss from birth on just one side, it just went undetected.
Focusing solely on my hearing loss aspect of education, I’ve had a rocky few years. Teachers were unsupportive, wouldn’t provide me accessibility, I would get frustrated, my parents would step in, the school would hate us, and so the cycle continued.
Let me repeat: The cycle continued each and every year.
I was ecstatic to graduate 8th grade and move onto high school. A fresh new start, a new set of friends, new teachers, new beginnings. I was right. Freshman year was great. I loved all my classes, made some good friends, got good grades, you know. Sophomore year hit, and I was already feeling the slump starting. I noticed that something wasn’t right. I developed anxiety I never knew I had before, and I knew that my hearing wasn’t where it used to be. To cut to the chase, I went through the same thing – an unsupportive school in regards to accommodations and accessibility. This time, I needed them more than ever.
I was missing 70% of my day because of how much my hearing had dropped. I finally decided to go through with my cochlear implant surgery. The stress of scheduling it and having it three weeks later, plus midterms, a less than supportive school, and so much more made it worse. I felt within me just anxiety and heartache. I decided to stay home for the rest of the year and school online. It was so fun, it was just what I needed to heal, recuperate, and train my brain to hear in a new way. Time in a safe, stable place — a soft place to land — time learning while at HOME.
Summer came and went, and to give the short story, another school I thought I was going to attend said the same thing, “There are no guaranteed accommodations.” I never even started there because I was so mad about that. So, it was a month before my junior year began and I was left without a plan.
God likes to do that to me. I am an Enneagram Type 3, Type A personality. I like to plan. God laughs at me each time.
So I say, “Thanks God, love you too.” Back to the story.
Actually, why don’t I back up a few weeks to add this God-wink moment in here? In July, I went to the most life-changing experience. I attended AG Bell LOFT, a conference for deaf and hard of hearing kids from all over the country. After speaking to the counselors, we all agreed I knew what I needed to do in regards to school, but I still prayed. I prayed the whole 16 hours down to Florida for our family trip to Disney. I prayed for God to send me a sign.
On one of our last nights there, we went to Epcot World Showcase. There was a particular pin I wanted, which was a royal blue pin with a picture of a dove in the middle. I didn’t have a pin to trade for it, so I left it and went on my merry way. We are getting out of the car to go back to our hotel, and at that moment I was praying for a sign for the school – finding my Next Right Thing (thanks Emily Freeman!). I kid you not, that same exact pin that had the dove on it, literally fell from the sky. My mom and I both heard it clink on the ground. There’s no other explanation other than God dropped it and told me what to do – let the Holy Spirit guide me.
My mom got a call (on our house phone that we never answer, but this time she did) from a small, classical school not too far from my house. This school was deeply rooted in its faith, a sign that God knew what He was doing by leading us there. They wanted me to come to visit their new campus. It was weird, I’m not going to lie. But I fell in love. The curriculum excited me, the thought of a small environment was ideal. Everything just seemed right. And boy, it was. I had the best year of my life. Sure, I complained about the occasional pop quiz or got annoyed with my teacher, but I felt comfortable, I felt safe, I felt happy.
Most importantly, I felt loved.
At the end of junior year, I quickly decided to have my second implant surgery on my right side. I bounced back fast. A week later, I returned to school, presented my junior thesis paper, and did so well.
I was already looking forward to my senior year. I was so happy and excited – it was going to be a great year. Well, two days after my implant surgery, my grandfather had a heart attack. He was back and forth in the hospital for roughly three months. I watched him decline and fade away. My grandfather passed away on July 17, 2018, and my family took it hard. I did too. We also still have to care for my grandmother, who is unable to be on her own with her MS and emerging dementia.
Senior year started on a melancholy note. I was devastated by the passing of my grandfather, and so much had changed in the three months we were away from school. My head kept telling me to try my hardest to stay on the upbeat and live in the moment. That same feeling from sophomore year returned, just very monotonously moving through the days. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but as I said, a lot had changed.
It wasn’t the same school I loved.
I felt like I barely knew where I was and had a hard time moving through each day. Christmas came and went, and suddenly we were in a new year, a new semester.
Since I still can’t bring myself to put my story out to the world, let’s just say that trauma is real. This time, it had nothing to do with hearing loss. In four months of pure h-e-double hockey sticks, my senior year was stolen from me. This got scary, chaotic, and every word you can think of. I prayed for the year to be over. I never took the time to heal following this, I just went straight into preparing for college and summer break. Bad mistake on my part. (Facepalm).
I began my freshman year of college, and one week later I was standing in the registrar’s office handing in my letter of withdrawal because of a lack of accommodations and safety concerns. I came home and found myself in the worst state of anxiety. I’m standing at a crossroads, trying to decide which path to take.
I was burnt out.
I am burnt out.
A trusted friend and counselor is telling me that is okay. I never dealt with the healing I needed to do following that trauma, and I was dealing with the repercussions of it now. While I’m not taking the world by storm, I’m building myself back up to write my story of resilience. I’m taking my time to write, podcast, pray, talk, and heal.
Resilience is something that is in all of us. Take it from me. We are all capable of bouncing back, even if you feel like you are in the darkest of times. Reach your hands up to God and let Him lead the way. He loves you so much.