I was born deaf. I don’t know the sound of a guitar, a ringing phone or even my mother’s voice. Despite this fact of my life I happen to be a Latin dance instructor for a living- I am teaching something many people thought I wouldn’t be even able to learn. Strange, isn’t it?
I was born and raised in Bratislava, the capital city of post-communist Slovakia. There were few advantages in school for deaf students and I was schooled with hearing children despite my handicap.
I understand that many deaf people don’t percieve their deafness as handicap, but I see it differently. Understanding my handicap, grasping it and turning it into what I wanted it to be, made me who I am today. I am a strong personality, a fighter, a dancer.
I remember being at school for the first time and writing in my notebook to my mother, “Write down everthing the teacher says.“ I wanted to know everything.
My Mother always motivated me to live and act like I was a hearing person. This didn’t mean denying who I am, but meant understanding the world we live in as I was.
She taught me to speak using numerous home-made tools. Thanks to her, I can lip-read with little to no problems. Since day one she’s been encouraging me to “Say anything, anyhow, just keep talking“ and eventually I learned to form words the right way. I was able to read before I went to elementary school and my mother was integral in forming my attitudes towards learning and the world. I live my life finding a way to do things, not finding an excuse not to.
Suprisingly I‘ve loved music since before I can remember. When my mother and I played together when I was a kid she would turn up the music, put my hand on the speaker and I started to dance. I even wanted to sing! Could you guess her reaction? First she looked horrified, and then she said to me, “Ok, let’s try it!“ She wrote the lyrics to the song on a piece of paper, put earphones over my head, maxed out the volume and showed me the pitch with her hands.
As you can imagine, it didn’t go quite as well as I thought it would back then! My mother was very sweet about it. She carefully explained to me that even many hearing people don’t have the ability to sing. But I think it was a very important lesson for me; knowing how to face failure with grace is a priceless life skill.
My love of music only grew stronger. I loved watching dancing shows on TV and I couldn’t get enough of all the dancers and singers and their moves. I got hooked on Music and it never let me go!
A turning point came during a vacation in the Dominican Republic. There was a lot of Latin style dancing all the time, and for an eleven-year-old, I was awestruck by this new world. If I had enjoyed music up till then, what was this new thrill running through me? Music indeed flew through my veins. The universe smiled on me and shortly after I returned from the Dominican Republic, a lecturer named Jimmy visited my school and inspired me to start learning to dance professionally.
I was learning and training harder than anyone else, and I had to work hard for every achievement. Few things came easy, as you can imagine! For me the hardest part was to catch the rhythm of a song, but choreography and technique came naturally.
Today I am 28 years old and it is my time to give back and teach others. I give personal lectures and my plan is to start a Latin dance school.
Many of my students are surprised with the fact that I am deaf.. Well, most of them, anyways! 🙂 When people see me dance there is no indication that I’m not like everyone else.
My students and I have discussions about my handicap, but anyone observing or participating can see that it doesn’t affect how we dance at all.
To help meet my goals for the future I have an entrepreneurial mentor. She is helping me set and achieve my goals for various projects and helps me stay motivated when things don’t go as planned! I am aware of my advantages and disadvantages but always consider myself successful in terms of personal and entrepreneurial freedom. I live my life the way I want, regardless of my deafness.
As my mother taught me- find a way to do it, not an excuse not to.