“Life is My University”

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888 )

“Life is my university, and I hope to graduate

from it with some distinction.”

I have always loved quotes.  I write them down, meditate on them, journal about them, and have learned the power of words.  Although many quotes have taken hold of my very soul… forcing me to make changes and “grow up”… I am very conscious of the fact that I am neither profound nor eloquent.  My own children will remember a couple of quotes all right!  My son will remember how fond I was of saying, “If you’d put it up when you’re done with it, I would not have to interrupt what YOU think is important to do it now!”  My daughter will remember, “You’re being to hard on yourself!”

I don’t “live”, to be “quoted”, and yet still recognize the impact “quotes” have made in my own life.  I am currently reading a book by Drs. Parrott and Warren entitled:  Love the Life You Live.  In the introduction, the authors chose to begin the book with a quote by Louisa May Alcott, “Life is a university, and I hope to graduate from it with some distinction”.  Sometimes quotes seem to leap off the page for me!  It is as if a hand reaches through the pages of the book laying in my lap, to touch my heart with the power of truths wrapped in the guise of words to forever change who I am.  I sat there re-reading, and then contemplating this quote for at least twenty minutes.  (Yes, I know!  It can take me awhile to read a book!)

“Stress 201:  MWF 8-9:30 AM.  Professor:  TBA

I’ve had a tough year if I’m to gauge it with the type of things that measure stress and anxiety.  If I’ve been “taking classes” in this “university of life”, I’ve not been able to pull a “C” and will likely need to repeat the classes if I’ve any hope of graduating!  The sobering facts about my “school year”, are that outside forces and circumstances did not cause the stress and anxiety.  These “classes” were manufactured by internal insecurities, “righteous indignation”, and the wails of a childish response screaming, “that’s not FAIR”!  I hate these kinds of classes.  The kind of classes where the professor is YOU, and you can’t believe that bad luck in ending up with yourself as the teacher!

When my husband was encouraged to resign his position as Executive Director of a national non-profit last year because his “skill set” was no longer needed, and the organization wanted to hire a younger, experienced fund-raiser that would represent the “new face” of the population, he was disappointed for all of one day.  He has the unnerving, yet enviable ability to see the positive in everything.  He is now in a completely different environment where he is making a difference in a larger population of “others”, than he ever hoped to touch at his previous job.  He is thriving, growing, and more importantly content and excited about the future.

I chose not to look at it as an opportunity to get out of a stagnate, negative environment.  Instead, I was angry that he was not given the opportunity to expose the truth, that he was not given the chance to present what was really going on behind “closed doors”.  However, I quickly went from “righteous indignation” to “praying God’s wrath” on their heads!  Yes.  Hubby and I registered for different “classes”.  His completed coursework complemented his work at life’s university.  My classes are the kind that if you looked at my “transcript”, you’d wonder why I ever chose to invest myself in things that had nothing to do with my “major”.  I may as well have registered for “Underwater Basket Weaving”.

A lady I’ve come to know who lives CLEAR across the country in California, recognized early on the poor choices I’d made in my “class schedule”.  Raegene recommended a good book about the type of forgiveness that is extended only after tough upper level courses in “life’s university”.  From there I found my attitude changing.  Quotes from my own mother came back to me as I read the book.  Quotes like, “You’re right.  LIFE ISN’T FAIR.  Shake it off!” Other quotes she has written on my heart and mind seemed to be intertwined with the words I read.  “You are not responsible for other’s actions.  You are only responsible for how you react to them.”  As a person of faith, I realized that God was hammering it “home” for me that I was not doing well when I received my “mid-terms”.  It’s not that I had even signed up for the wrong classes.  I was simply studying poorly, and failing to take “good notes” in class.

A Forced “Minor” in Hearing Loss

Sometimes we are forced to take “classes” that we have no interest in, yet need in order to graduate.  We can go belly-ache to the “Dean” if we want to, but in the end these courses are needed to complete our degree.  No one chooses to “minor” in hearing loss.  I think this avenue of “study” especially takes those by surprise who find themselves in the classes later in life.  Whether the hearing loss is sudden, or progressive… one never deliberately signs up for classes where the extra class fees include hearing aids, cochlear implants, Dry ‘n Store devices, and batteries by the truckload!

When I found myself in “hearing loss classes”, I immediately looked for tutors.  All tutors are not created equal.

The first day of class your professor may discuss “why” for about 10 minutes.  It’s all the time they have for this topic, as there is very little information to support it.  Yet students “talk it to death”.  When the professor would like to proceed with the lecture series, many students choose to dissect, discuss, and write term papers about “why”.  Some are lucky to have mentors who force them to move on to the next important chapters in the text.  These students have tenured professors who realize the important task of “moving on” and learning “life skills” instead of allowing stagnate thinking.  Others who aren’t so lucky, end up spending the majority of their classroom time arguing and trying to defend and debate a topic that doesn’t matter.  The professor may be apathetic as they will “get paid anyway”.  I long to tell people new to hearing loss to drop the class as quickly as possible.  Enroll in a class that moves on from the “why” to more important topics by the 2nd day of lecture.

Hearing loss, like most acquired disabilities, is not a chosen study.  Yet sometimes a person ends up with enough credit hours that they discover they have inadvertently minored in it!  The wonderful thing about this minor, is that all students can become substitute teachers if they choose too.  When I stopped looking at my course load, and instead sought ways to teach others what I have learned, my attitude about my “minor” began to change.  If I can help tutor ONE person with hearing loss, it will be worth the late nights I’ve spent cramming for exams, and tuition dollars I’ve thrown at “Hearing Loss”.  Because I had a series of good tutors myself, I quickly went on from the “why” to chapter two… “What now?”

I’ve met some people in the seventeen years I’ve lived with hearing loss, who have made a “major” out of hearing loss.  It was never meant to be a “major”. Life is much more than “hearing loss”.  However, I have met some people who have a Ph.D. in hearing loss.  Don’t get me wrong!  Hearing loss can shape who we are, teach us life skills, develop attitudes and mold our character.  It can have a profound effect on our studies in “life”.  But I am not defined by my hearing loss.  Hearing loss has simply brought out unique characteristics that would have never been developed had I not experienced it.  Life is never about a disability.  Life is about our ABILITIES.  I can’t hear well, but you should see what I CAN do!  And I can only do it because I’ve learned to live with the uniqueness of my own personal hearing loss history.

What about you?  Have there been unique trials and triumphs that have steered your coursework towards a special kind of “you”? Are you searching for “teachable moments” in your “studies”?  Are you “teaching” with your own life? I don’t know about you, but I want to graduate with distinction!

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

4 thoughts on ““Life is My University”

  1. This is such a “profound” post, Denise. I loved it, especially since I take the same “classes” and often have to re-enroll in an effort to “pass”.

    I get blown away by certain quotes, too. Some of my favorites are from missionary Jim Elliott and writer Amy Carmichael. Here’s one from GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER that gives me pause:

    “How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life, you will have been all of these.”

  2. Denise,

    I loved this post and you caused me to do some thinking about my “majors” and “minors.” Yes, we are all traveling on this journey called “life.” It’s the path(s) we take that make us the persons we are.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, “professor!”


  3. Great post, Denise… though I’m “late to the party” here. I love your wisdom about moving on past “why?” It’s okay to ask… and who wouldn’t?… but doesn’t really get you anywhere.

    You have a lot of wisdom :0)

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